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Erosion Control and Reclamation After a Wildfire

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You’ve probably noticed some of the biggest news stories these past few weeks have been focused on the wildfires scorching much of the American west. Acres upon acres have been consumed in an abnormally severe year for fires. Drought, a mild La Nina winter, and record-setting temperatures have all played a part this season in creating a “tinderbox” effect for much of the country. While the images on television are powerful and dramatic, unfortunately for many homeowners they’re also a reality. Wildfires have already destroyed more than 700 homes in Colorado and reduced tens of thousands of acres throughout the west into blackened wastelands. And it’s only the first week of July! Here at Nature’s Finest Seed, the impact of wildfire hit close to home as 5,500 acres was charred within view from our headquarters here in Utah. Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes as firefighters, helicopters, and airplanes worked together to save as many structures as possible. It was a sobering sight, and for all those impacted by wildfires this year we offer our condolences. 

Potential Post-Wildfire Damage

We all know the destructive capabilities of wildfires, although what follows once the fire has been quenched is largely underestimated. Severe soil erosion, landslides, and major flooding are all consequences of a fire-ravaged land void of vegetation. The roots of grasses, shrubs, and trees act as an anchor to hold soils in place and “knit” them together. Vegetation also helps to slow the movement of water across the soil surface and gives the water time to percolate into the soil. Remove these anchor plants, such as during a wildfire, and you remove any anchoring effects and increase the possibilities of major flooding and landslides. Intense heat from fire can also lead to a soil condition known as hydrophobicity. Soils with this condition actually repel water instead of allowing it to soak in. Hydrophobicity is caused by the condensation of gases that were released during the fire. landslideOnce these gases cool, they form a waxy layer on top of the soil surface. While hydrophobicity doesn’t always form during wildfires, if present it will need to be broken up in order to reseed the burnt area. 

Reseeding After a Wildfire

The first step after a wildfire is to assess the affected land. Burnt trees are potentially hazardous and need to be identified and removed. While fire damaged areas will eventually recover by their selves, they present an erosion risk until the vegetation has been restored. Speed up the process by seeding the severely burnt areas with grass seed blends. Grass seed blends should be certified weed free and tested for quality to prevent the spread of invasive and noxious weeds. Here at Nature’s Finest Seed, we specialize in erosion control and soil reclamation and have been providing high quality seed blends for over 20 years. Look for our pasture-type grass seed blends that have been designed specifically for your region. Dryland type grasses work best in areas that are normally not irrigated. 

UPDATE: View our new Wildfire Resistant seed blends.

For additional information and help determining what type of grass seed to plant, there are several excellent resources available. Our experts here at Nature's Finest Seed would be happy to recommend the appropriate grass species for your region and climate. Other services such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, theBureau of Land Management,and your local Cooperative Extension Service all have localized branches that are regionally specific and provide customized information for your particular area, climate, and soil type. 

How to Reseed After a Wildfire

To begin the reseeding process, roughen the soil surface by using a steel rake in small areas or a tractor drawn harrow in larger areas. This will also help break down any hydrophobic soil conditions that may have formed. Follow the recommended seeding rate and spread the seed with a broadcaster, such as a shoulder strap seed spreader. These types of seed spreaders are ideal for rough or steep terrain that might be inaccessible for tractor or ATV powered spreaders. After spreading the seed, rake or harrow it into the soil at a depth of about ¼ inch. To aid in germination, spread certified weed-free straw over the seeded area at a depth of two to three inches. If possible, cover the straw with plastic netting or spray with a tacking agent. This will help the area resist erosion while the seed is germinating. 

Erosion Control Methods and Devices

silt fenceTo further assist in preventing soil erosion, log terraces can be built to slow down the flow of rainwater runoff. By alternating the log terraces, runoff is forced to meander around the logs instead of in a straight path downhill. Log terraces are ideal in situations where trees have fallen down or purposely felled due to the wildfire. Why not put them to good use? If logs are not readily available, straw wattles and silt fences can be used in the same way. Straw wattles are long tubes of straw that are placed in areas of potential erosion, while silt fences are fastened to wood posts and help to control sediment-laden runoff. Silt fences are more suitable for broad flat areas, while straw wattles can be used on steeper slopes and can bend to the contour of the slope. These types of erosion control devices are all available from Nature’s Finest Seed upon request. 

25% Discount For Those Affected By Wildfires

As unfortunate as wildfires are to landowners, the aftermath can sometimes be just as devastating. To assist in the restoration process, Nature’s Finest Seed is taking 25% off the price of our pasture grass seed blends for landowners who have been affected by the wildfires this season. To qualify for this discount, please contact us directly and tell us your wildfire story. And to those of us yet to experience the humbling effect of a wildfire, please be careful when working, playing, or passing through areas of high wildfire potential.

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