Mulches and Fire Danger

Tanbark or mulch in front of a San Jose home

Tanbark wood mulch separated by a dry creek bed, cement path, & brick retaining wall in a low-water San Jose yard.

May Day is a celebration of spring, but “April showers” were few and far between and it’s already starting to feel like summer! With another record-breaking hot year and the Bay Area in severe to extreme drought conditions homeowners concerned about water use and fire prevention are turning to gardening and landscaping for the solution. But a word of warning! Since updating my surprisingly popular post on mulch vs tanbark and the risk of termite infestation, I came across another reason to be cautious when applying it to your perimeter: fire.

Organic Mulches and Fire Hazard

Mulch can work wonders in a garden – it helps soil retain moisture, protects roots, reduces weeds, insulates the ground, can add nutrients and enrich the earth, adds visual appeal, and it’s affordable. It’s on every guide for landscaping water conservation (including Valley Water’s recommendations and San Jose Water’s tips)! Do a search and you’ll find it comes in a broad variety of materials. These can be divided into two groups: organic and inorganic. And organic matter can burn.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has published their (easy to read) findings from a study comparing the combustibility of various organic landscape mulches. I recommend reading the booklet, but here are some of the key points I found most interesting: (more…)

How to be a “bad neighbor” and lower neighborhood home values at the same time

Almost every neighborhood has a “bad neighbor” or two.  Nearby residents, and especially home owners, roll their eyes, mutter quietly and often say nothing to the offender so as to avoid a blowout with the “problem neighbor”.

If you’re buying a home, or moving into a new neighborhood, you may not know about these bad apples and their nuisances.  But sometimes there are clues – things right out in front that are hard to miss.  Even where there aren’t any hints of trouble, you can always knock on doors and ask about the area.  Problems can be visual, auditory, olfactory or other. Ask – people will talk! A list of things which annoy the neighbors and possibly lower home & property values follows below.

A list of “bad neighbor” behaviors: bad sounds, bad sights, bad smells top the list (more…)