Issue: June 10, 2000

Plants to reduce fire hazard


What can I plant to reduce fire hazards in my landscape? With all theforest fires this year, I want to reduce the risk of fire to my house and heardthat the landscape can cause problems.


There are things you can plant to help protect your home from the spreadof fire in the surrounding environment. Forest and range fires are a problemthat is common in New Mexico. Our landscapes can create a buffer between thefire and our homes or they can help bring the fire right to our houses.

Succulent plants such as iceplant are good to use near the house inhigh risk locations. Succulent plants contain a lot of water and are very difficult to ignite. Many common ground covers and many of our common annual flowering plants are also good plants for resisting fire because, when they are properly irrigated, they resist fire.

Some, but not all, of our native desert shrubs should be avoided inbeds close to our homes. One of the mechanisms used by these plants to survive our dry environment is the accumulation of flammable resins in these plants. Some of our native plants burn easily and should be avoided as foundation plantings, though they may be used in the landscape farther from the house if other elements of the landscape create a buffer between them and the house.

One such element that makes a good buffer is a mowed lawn. Because thelawn is mowed, it provides very little flammable material to carry the fire tothe house. If the lawn is well watered, then it is even more likely to provide a good buffer zone between fire and the house.

Vegetables may even be used in the landscape to help shield the homefrom fire. A well-irrigated vegetable garden is difficult to ignite and should sustain very little fire. Some plants such as corn are more flammable than others like tomatoes or squash. Keep the more flammable plants at a greaterdistance from the house.

As important as what is planted is what is removed. In forest areas,don't leave a lot of highly flammable conifer trees near the house. Coniferssuch as junipers, arborvitae, pines, and spruce contain resins that burneasily. These should be kept at a distance from the house. Many of thedeciduous shade trees are more desirable near the house because their leavesare more resistant to ignition. However, since even these can burn, theyshould not be planted so that they can carry the fire up to the house. Keepsome distance between them and the house.

This years events have shown us the importance of a landscape ineither protecting our homes or increasing the hazard to our homes. Now, let's be wise about our landscapes and design them to be beautiful and protective.

Tall skinny tomato plants


When I bought tomato and chile plants for my garden, the only ones left in the nursery were tall. Are these plants okay? Can I plant them deep?


Tomatoes are capable of producing new roots along their stems, so tall, leggy plants may be planted deeply and allowed to form roots along the stem. Because of this characteristic of the tomato plant, this is often done by New Mexico gardeners to help the plants develop a more extensive root system and to develop a deep root system that helps the plants avoid drought.

Tall tomato plants are okay to plant and can indeed be planted deeply. Other plants, such a chiles and peppers, donít have the same ability to root along the stems and donít accept this type of planting as readily. They may be planted somewhat deep but not as deeply as the tomatoes.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!