Mulches can be a significant fire hazard if used and managed incorrectly
Mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil, meaning there is more water available for plants, keeping them green and heathy. In hot dry weather, it is important to retain as much moisture in the soil as possible to sustain plant life and reduce their flammability potential. Remember that dead plants are bushfire fuel. Non-combustible mulches, such as pebbles, shells, and gravel, are your best option. These mulches will not burn, and many are heavy enough that they won’t be scattered by the strong winds that are common during a bushfire.
- If possible, use non-combustible materials (such as pebbles, shells, or gravel) as a mulch alternative.
- If you are using a combustible mulch, try to reduce the overall size of the mulched area – separate areas with non-combustible elements, such as pathways and open spaces. These features will create a small fire break.
- During a bushfire, keep all mulched areas wet until after the fire front has passed.
- Remember that your garden should be designed to be used all year-round, so make sure your choice of mulch suits your overall garden design. A garden that suits the needs of residents is more likely to be used and maintained.
- Avoid very fine or light mulches (such as shredded pine bark, pine needles, or poplar woodchips). Mulch finer than about half a centimetre in diameter should be avoided – these mulches are highly flammable and provide a ready source of fuel for fire to travel along the ground.
- Do not store combustible mulches against the house or near to other combustible structures (especially under or around windows, doors, and subfloor structures).
- Do not use combustible timber edging around mulched garden beds – use non-combustible alternatives such as stone or concrete. See Garden edging for more information.
Pebbles are suitable for mulching garden beds in bushfire prone areas (source: Beekeepx/Shutterstock)