When it comes to sustainability, preserving your property is priority number one.

At Habitat Potential we recognize it is in the best interest of both the property owner and the environment to address property maintenance issues before they become an issue. Letting your property rot means replacing materials, hiring specialized labor, and is expensive to you and the environment.

For other articles on preventative maintenance, check out:

  1. Preventing Rot

  2. Pruning Near Your Home

  3. Using Mulch

  4. Reducing Erosion

  5. Fuel Reduction and Fire Prevention

Preventative Maintenance:

Preventing Rot

1. Preventing Rot

Keep the perimeter of your property free of debris and dirt build-up. Dirt, downed leaves, and organic debris hold and promote moisture. These materials accelerate decomposition when they build up at the base of structures and fences.

This house had years worth of leaf build-up that had gone unnoticed.

Note the fence’s foundation is getting covered in soil. Even pressure-treated wood and redwood will rot over time when it makes contact with moisture in the built up soil.

After some clean up, note the exposed perimeter. This allows drying and prevents future rot. 

2. Pruning Near Your Home

Pruning is important for more reasons than you'd expect.

This Monterey Cypress was planted far too close to the house.​ By the time we got there, branches were pushing up against the window and structure. The homeowner had come to realize it was a fire risk.

The consequences of this are many:

  1. Roots will destroy buried wires and plumbing infrastructure.

  2. A tree this close produces lots of leaf litter up against the base of your house. This causes problems as shown in examples of rot.

  3. Once the tree gets tall, it can begin to drop leaf litter onto the roof, and clog rain gutters and drains.

  4. A tree too close to the house is a fire hazard. Vegetation can be a fuel source and bridge for the fire to reach the house. In this case, this Monterey Cypress tree is a “pyrophytic” or fire loving species, making it especially flammable.

  5. When too close to a house, branches provide a pathway for rats, squirrels, and other animals to become pests. From here, they can access the roof, utilities, and windows that are otherwise inaccessible. It also can hide entryways.

  6. Trees can get tangled up in utilities lines, power poles, and piping. It happens gradually over time, but it can later become a major fire hazard, and a costly interruption to your power.

In all we removed roughly 70 small to mid-size trees from the perimeter of the building.

The foliage and twigs were separated from the large woody material. The smaller material was strategically stacked to break down on site. The woody material was processed into straight poles for use in the landscape. 

Felled Trees 3.jpg

While a chipper could've been used on this job, we avoided using one due to their disruption, expense, and safety concerns. By cutting up the trees and sorting the materials we were able to compost the materials on site.

The lesson here is, if trees are in the immediate vicinity of your home, don't wait. Time is money when it comes to tree work. The longer you wait, the more likely it is to cost you. Vegetation should always be 18 inches away from a house, and a tree trunk should be no closer than 5 feet from the away. Any trunk closer is probably going to cause problems.

3. Using Mulch

“Not all mulch is considered equal.” 

Without the use of toxic herbicide, you can manage and reset

an environment of weeds with sheet mulching

Here you can see a large section of landscaping cloth covering a patch of yard. On top of the landscape fabric or weed cloth is decomposed granite, commonly known as DG. This dense sand-like material is ideal for smothering the existing vegetation. Over time, it creates a clean canvas of earth with which to begin again.

Here we see Red Wood Bark that surrounds patches of DG that highlight the wanted native plants in this landscape. Red Wood Bark is a locally sourced red wood lumber industry byproduct and is absolutely ideal for covering unwanted vegetation. This mulch does not break down like other types of bark mulch. Red Wood Bark Mulch is also known for it's fire retardant qualities. The Decomposed Granite is being used in this picture to highlight native features that will be used to accent the landscape design. 

4. Reducing Erosion

Preventing erosion on steep slopes is important, especially during planting season. Here are 5 steps to help.

After extensive broom removal to create a fuel break last year, It’s time for native plantings at this Marin County property in Larspur.

Step 1. First, weed out everything on the slope. In this case, Erharta. A bold move during the rainy season that requires moving fast and being prepared to cover it up quickly.

Step 2. Here we lay down some organic debris from the area. This is in order to buffer the bare dirt from rainfall, reduce weeds, cover bare mud, and minimize compaction while planting.

Step 3. Here we roll out jute netting fabric on the grade. Remember to overlap the edges and fold over the ends to prevent a ragged edge. We use landscape staples about every 5 feet, and each corner.

Step 4. Now we lay out plants. We put the largest plants in the flattest places. Planting through the holes in the jute netting is a little tricky; you will want a small shovel or trowel.

Step 5. We use the smallest plants (for us fescue grasses in leech tubes) on the steepest slopes. We used a digging bar to punch holes to reduce soil disturbance rather than digging.

Plants from our nursery included Idaho fescue, Red fescue, California fescue, Douglas iris, horkelia, California aster and western vervain among others. These plants perform various functions, including reducing erosion, minimizing fuel load, and providing food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife.