Landowner submitted photos before immediately after the Okanogan fire (left) and two years after seeding (right).

Recovering after a wild fire can be daunting. The memory of what our land looked like before the fire conflicts with the charred, barren moonscape that remains. We feel helpless against indiscriminate and unmerciful forces of nature that raze everything we have build. It is understandable that landowners are unsure of how to move forward. Feelings of helplessness and uncertainty remain long after the smoke has cleared.

We are here to help. Our hope is that we can offer wise consultation and quality, affordable seed in your efforts to recover your land after a fire. We will work to help you find solutions that aim to protect your property from the erosion and aftermath of fires. The guidelines below are general helps and are applicable in many post-fire situations in the western United States.

The purpose of this page is to help you:

  • understand when to plant
  • select the right seed species to recover the vegetation that was burned off
  • prevent erosion
  • mitigate or prevent future fires from having the same devastating effects

Seek advice from professionals with local knowledge:

Every geographic area in the country is served by a Natural Resources Conservation Service district (NRCS) or Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. They employ plant biologists, agronomists, soil scientists and a host of other trained professionals who can help you create a well rounded plan to reclaim your land after a fire. The USDA also has a Disaster Resource Center dedicated to preparing against and recovering from disasters, including fires.

The NRCS website has a webpage with offices broken down by state. We encourage you to reach out to them for boots-on-the-ground assistance. Once they help you formulate a plan and give seed recommendations give us a call. We can help you with the seed.

You can also call us directly for advise and assistance. We can make recommendations based on our experience and with help from our own experts.

When to Plant?

After a wildfire erosion control is a priority. Restoring ground cover and vegetation are the quickest and most effective long term solution for erosion control. Planting at the right time is crucial to plant establishment and soil stabilization. “Wildlands” or “range” seedings are usually most effective when sown in the fall or winter. Consider the natural life cycle of a plant: it blossoms in the spring or early summer, produces fruit (and seed) late summer and drops seed in the fall. The seeds either germinate and “crown out” then go dormant, or they lie dormant until spring when it germinates and grows into a new plant. The process repeats itself. Fall plantings most closely replicate that cycle. Fall plantings usually start in late september and run through october, but successful plantings can be sown as late as November and December.

While fall plantings are generally preferred, spring plantings work well also – don’t be discouraged or feel you can’t plant just because fall has passed. Try to get the seed on the ground as soon as possible so that it takes advantage of early spring moisture. Spring plantings are a good choice.

Most seeds can be planted any time of year assuming sufficient water is available to cary the plant through the germination cycle and early stages of growth.

What additional resources are available?

Fire Recovery by Geographic Areas and specific fires

In many cases, fires burned out long ago but the land recovery efforts continue. The information below are post-fire efforts that are ongoing in different parts of the country, and their web pages and resources are applicable in many fire situations.

Washington State Okanogan Conservation District help age

Incident Information:
Methow Valley News:
Wiki Page on Wahington State Wildfires:
Soil Erosion Control after Wildfire:  or  Download PDF

Seed Recommendations

Below are tables of recommended grasses, forbs (flowers) and shrubs that were previously recommended for wildfires in Washington State.

For the purposes of this fire help page, “irrigated” is any species that requires 16″ or more annual precipitation. If your area does not have at least 16″ then you should plan to irrigate or plant dryland or drought tolerant species. Many of Great Basin Seeds plant species are hand picked for their drought tolerance.  

Recommended Grass Species

Grass SpeciesH2O NeedsGeneral Comments
Snake River WheatgrassDrylandGreat dryland species (introduced)
Intermediate WheatgrassDrylandEstablishes well, good for pasture
Hycrest Crested WheatgrassDrylandGreat dryland species (introduced)
Bluebunch WheatgrassDrylandGreat dryland species (native)
Siberian WheatgrassDrylandGreat dryland species (introduced)
Indian RicegrassDrylandEstablishes and persists in sandy, dry soil
Thickspike WheatgrassDrylandExcellent sodformer for erosion control
Western WheatgrassDrylandGreat dryland species (native)
Russian WildryeDrylandGreat dryland species (introduced)
Basin WildryeDrylandGreat dryland species (native)
Sheep FescueDrylandExcellent for disturbed sites (introduced)
Sand DropseedDrylandGood for soil stabilization (native)
Smooth BromeDrylandExcellent for erosion control but can be weedy
Idaho FescueDrylandDeep root system for erosion control (native)
Bottlebrush SquirreltailDrylandExcellent dryland choice (native)
Slender WheatgrassDrylandGreat high elevation species
Tall FescueDrylandEstablishes easy, needs water (introduced)
Needle and Thread GrassDrylandExcellent erosion control but pesky needles!
Sandberg BluegrassIrrigatedEstablishes well, needs regular water (native)
Hard FescueDrylandRequires more water than Sheep Fescue
Prairie JunegrassDrylandAn excellent choice but cost prohibitive
OrchardgrassIrrigatedExcept for “Paiute” variety it needs irrigation
Perennial RyegrassIrrigatedNeeds irrigation to thrive
Tall WheatgrassDrylandEstablishes in saline areas, not good forage
Annual RyegrassIrrigatedFast establishing, short lived annual

Recommended Forbs and Flowers

Forbs & LegumesH2O NeedsNotes
Yellow SweetcloverDryland or IrrigatedFast establishing bi-annual, good erosion control
Lewis Blue FlaxDrylandShowy perennial, good erosion control
SainfoinDryland or Irrigated
Small BurnetDryland or Irrigated
Small Flower GlobemallowDryland
Munro’s GlobemallowDryland
Annual SunflowerDryland
Lander AlfalfaDryland or Irrigated
Palmer’s PenstemonDrylandThrives in disturbed soils, persistent after fire
California PoppyDryland or Irrigated
Strawberry CloverDryland or IrrigatedTolerates saline soils
Alsike CloverDryland or Irrigated
Red CloverDryland or Irrigated
Perennial GaillardiaDryland
Silvery LupineDryland
Showy GoldeneyeDryland
White Dutch CloverDryland or Irrigated
Ladino CloverDryland or Irrigated
Gooseberryleaf GlobemallowDryland
Firecracker PenstemonDryland
Rocky Mountain BeeplantDryland or Irrigated
White YarrowDryland or Irrigated

Recommended Shrub Species

ShrubsH2O NeedsNotes
Antelope BitterbrushDryland
Blue ElderberryDryland or Irrigated
Forage KochiaDryland
Curl Leaf MahoganyDryland
Birchleaf MahoganyDryland
Rubber RabbitbrushDryland
Woods RoseDryland or Irrigated
Basin Big SagebrushIrrigated
Mountain Big SagebrushDryland
Wyoming Big SagebrushDryland
Fourwing SaltbrushDryland
Shadscale SaltbrushIrrigated
Western WheatgrassDryland or Irrigated
Skunkbush SumacDryland or Irrigated