Here are some photos depicting fire rehab for a landowner protecting their property near Keswick this week. See the last blogs, but the purpose was to establish CA native grasses to kick start natural succession (healing) the way nature intended! To get CA native grasses instead of star thistle, noxious annual grasses and ultimately the fire-prone Knobcone Pine (climax species ??) we need to add the symbiotic mychorrizae fungi, a slow release biotic fertilizer (BioSol and Sustane are examples), AND the proper selections of native grass species.
Even two of my favorite species, Elymus glaucus and Nassella pulchra, that grow in the same area but one (NP) likes hot dry, south-facing slopes and EG proliferates on slopes with a little shade occasionally.
For this property (fortunately the house was spared) I developed two different mixes, one for south-facing and one for north-facing slope.
Measure, weigh, and calibrate – especially if you seed by hand. I like seeding by hand because I have more control. See the prior videos.
Straw Mulching can be difficult, the bales weigh 60-80lbs
we also had a mini excavator on hand, helping “toss” some bales down the slope!
Drainage drainage drainage. Now is the time to treat old skid roads or ? that can turn into gullies. After a fire, these historically benign drainage features can become big problems.
I used a small excavator to “remove” and re-contour, thus correcting the drainage anomaly.
The Straw Blower, FINN
We learned from previous blogs that seeding with CA Native Grasses will be beneficial for erosion control and long-term soil stabilization (the roots are extremely fiberous and long), and native grasses will help ” set the stage” for a more natural succession of native species and vegetation that will become less “fire prone” in the future.
The information here will describe some seed mixes and seeding rates, specific for the areas in western Shasta County.
Here are some seed mixes developed by myself and Pacific Coast Seed, Livermore, CA – my “go to” seed specialists and materials provided.
Here is the seed mixes developed by CalTrans for the 299W Highway corridor
You will notice that the total rates are different. My seed recommendation is about 30#/ac and the Caltrans rates are about 50#/ac. The reason is two-fold. My rates are going to be applied by hand-broadcasting, similar to the video. The CT rates will be applied with a hydroseeding/hydromulching machine. A general rule is that adding/applying seed with a hydromulcher requires more seed – just a general rule, many other factors come into play, e.g. the ability to protect the seed from bird predation by mulch and if the seed can be applied with close contact with the soils (sometimes Hydromulch is applied in two stages, the first with seed and little hydromulch to ensure good soil contact followed by the rest of the specified mulch for Erosion Control cover).
I will present more on Hydroseeding and Hydromulching (really one in the same thing) in the near future.
But note that once the seed in down it really must be covered with MULCH. The seed mix above that I am using for hand application will be followed by Straw Mulching.
The straw mulch I have chosen is rice straw (see previous Straw Talk video) and we will apply is at about 1.5 T /ac which relates to about 1 bale per 1000sf.Straw bales generally weigh between 70-90#/bale. Therefore a burned area of 6000sf would require approximately 6 bales. The straw shall be spread uniformly over the ‘disturbed soil areas’ such that 70%-90% of the soil is covered with an average of 1″-2″ thick straw. For small area rehabilitation on up to 2:1 steep slopes I seldom apply tackifier – the first rains will “lay the straw down” and prevent it from blowing away – general rule!
The Clip below was excerpted from Dirt Time videos made during a hands-on training workshop up in the Canadian Rockies back in 2006.
This workshop was sponsored by the Alberta Transportaion who wanted to “get the word out” about NCHRP Report 544 – Environmentally-Sensitive Channel and Bank Protection Methods , aka, Alternatives to Riprap.
We (Dirt Time) ended up implementing and filming several more workshops (projects) throughout the Provence. See Hinton and Willow Creek
Many more of these Dirt Time Bioengineering and BMP video clips (5-10 minute long) will be available for you to watch, take a test, and get Continieing Edcation Units (CEUs).
See www.dirttime.tv for similar courses in near future. The video clips are also avaiable at the Watch Your Dirt Store.com in the “Dirt Time BMP and BIOENGINEERING Complete Works” for $299
Also see Forester University for Dirt Time Courses – https://www.foresteruniversity.com/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=2065
The devastation from the Carr Fire in west Redding was severe, especially in the areas around Old Shasta, Keswick and Rock Creek Road. The severity of the fire can be correlated with the amount and type of fuel, e.g., species and density of trees and brush. The area that burned the hottest were often dominated by Knobcone Pine and Manzanita sp.
Lets talk about Knobcone pine for a bit. This pine is a fire dependant species meaning the cones require fire to germinate, and when they get fire, well sprout they do. I recall studies done over 20 years ago, when we were working in Middle Creek Watershed on erosion control and fire prevention. The studies indicated that, historically, the natural wildfire fire intervals in the region was averaging about every 10-15 years. Because of development in the urban interface and modern fire suppression efforts the last big wildfire was over 30 years ago. Meaning the fire was severe because of fire suppression! Also meaning many of the dense stands of knobcone pines occur today because of a wildfire 20-40 years ago, which aided the germination of the cones, ergo the stands of Knobcone Pine that promoted the recent conflagaration were born in the last wildfire. Foresters know one can count the whorls of limbs on conifers to roughly determine the trees age, each whorl is one year.
Many ecologists believe that by planting properly selected (by mimicing the indiginous system) California native grasses (pioneering species) we can “set the stage” for establishing a more natural successional process – grasses succeded by shrubs, followed by oaks and conifers. The ‘do nothing approach’ will likely result in more of the same, Knobcone pines and manzanita. Wherby CA Native grasses, given a leg up (advantage) by adding mycorrhizae fungi and biotic fertilizers, is likely to result in a more natural and less fire prone landscape. Remember also that this landscape has not been “natural” for some time. Anthropogenic (human-caused) land uses, like the smelters at the turn of the century, severely altered the land and denuded the Ponderosa Pine forests that predominated the region historically. Maybe now, after the Carr Fire disaster, we can turn the tables and set the stage for natural succession. We will need to do erosion control anyway, especially in many locations where infrastructure and dwellings will be threatened by potentially severe erosion. So why not select and apply Best Management Practices (BMPs) that include Native Grasses, mycorrhizae fungi, and Slow-release, biotic fertilizers?
This is in fact what Caltrans is doing along the 299W highway corridor. I will be sharing the seed mixes and mulches and amendment specifications that are currently the best state-of-the-art. Coming soon!
There is so so much to know with regards to proper erosion control. It is so much more than “Common Sense”. A practitioner friend often says, “ erosion control is not brain surgery or rocket science – it is much more difficult!