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Native Plants

Native Plant Gardening |Tahoe Friendly Native and Adapted PlantsWater Harvesting  | Container GardeningXeriscaping | Master Gardener Programs

Native Plant Gardening
Tahoe native plants provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, most common horticultural plants do not provide energetic rewards for their visitors and often require supplemental irrigation and pest control to survive.
Native plants are also advantageous, because:

  • Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer toxins than lawns.
  • Native plants require less water than lawns.
  • Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.
  • Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
  • Native plants are beautiful and increase scenic values.

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Tahoe Friendly Native and Adapted Plants
All plants require irrigation while getting established, however, native plants, once established can be weaned off of irrigation.  Group plants by their sunlight and moisture requirements.  The Tahoe Friendly Native and Adapted Plant List  catalogues plants by their general light requirements.  Your local Conservation District may assist you in identifying the different microclimates on your property and even provide you with a planting plan for free.  Be sure to visit the North Lake Tahoe Demonstration Garden in Incline Village and the South Lake Tahoe Demonstration Garden in South Lake Tahoe for more information.

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Water Harvesting
Water harvesting is capturing and using rainwater for landscape or gardening irrigation.  Harvesting rain for landscaping needs in Tahoe makes a lot of sense.  Rain is a high-quality, free source of water that can easily be used for irrigation with minimal effort.
Consider capturing rain water in a barrel or cistern, or diverting your gutter downspouts into landscaped areas or onto your lawn. Before you go outside and stick a plastic garbage can under a downspout, there are a few things to consider. Linking two or more barrels together, or placing a barrel at each downspout from your roof, allows you to capture more rainwater. It’s important to always have an overflow pipe to allow excess water to safely vent.  Remember to winterize your rain barrels, so they won’t freeze over the winter. 
Benefits of Water Harvesting

  • Save money by using “free” water.
  • Reduce the use of treated drinking water for landscape irrigation.
  • Keep stormwater out of the municipal storm drain system.
  • Decrease stormwater runoff pollution and protect Lake Tahoe.

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Container Gardening
If you have little or no space for a traditional garden, then container gardening is your best bet.  Container gardens can also be a charming way to embellish your patio, entryway or deck.  Container gardens are also a great solution if you are considering an herb garden as they can be placed conveniently near the kitchen door or in a kitchen window box.  Although container gardens generally require more watering and feeding, they are quite easy to maintain and care for.
Your container must have drainage holes.  The container must also hold up to freezing temperatures.  Soil expands when it freezes, so it’s best to choose a forgiving material, such as wood.  If planting a tree or shrub, make sure that the container is heavy enough so that it won’t blow over from being top heavy.
It's a good idea to cover the topsoil with mulch to help keep the soil from drying out.  During hot weather, it’s best to water early in the morning or in the late evening to minimize evaporation.  You will also need to make sure that you provide your plants compost or organic fertilizer.  If you provide the necessary ingredients to keep your plants happy, containers can be a keystone in the small space or urban garden.

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Xeriscaping refers to the conservation of water through creative landscaping. Xeriscaping generally requires less water, fertilizer, maintenance, and pest control than traditional landscaping.  Because pesticides and fertilizers can inadvertently harm beneficial organisms, as well as impact air and water quality, reducing their use is a good idea.  And, of course, using less of these materials saves money. 

Xeriscapes do not have a single look—almost any landscaping style can be achieved.  While native plants are accustomed to Tahoe’s climate and therefore good choices for water and waste efficient landscapes, xeriscaping may include Tahoe-adapted species as well.  Consult the Tahoe Friendly Native and Adapted Plant List or Chapter 7 of the Home Landscaping Guide for Tahoe and Vicinity for a list of suitable plants for xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping Benefits:

  • Conserves water.  For most of North America, over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns.  Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 50 - 75%.
  • Provides wildlife habitat.  Use of native plants, shrubs and trees offer a familiar and varied habitat for local wildlife.
  • No fertilizers or pesticides.  Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements.  Sufficient nutrients are provided by healthy organic soil.
  • Less maintenance.  Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal.  Watering requirements are low, and can be met with simple irrigation systems.
  • Increases property value.  Xeriscape can raise property values which may offset the cost of installation.  

Fundamentals of xeriscape:

  • Planning and design
  • Create practical turf areas - manageable sizes and shapes of the right grass species.
  • Select low water requiring plants - select native or adaptive plants and group plants of similar water needs together.
  • Use soil amendments - like compost, manure, leaf mold, etc.
  • Use mulches according to Defensible Space guidelines - to reduce evaporation & to keep the soil cool.
  • Irrigate efficiently - with properly designed sprinkler systems.
  • Maintain the landscape properly

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Master Gardener Programs 
The Master Gardener Program grew out of a need to meet an enormous increase in requests from home gardeners for horticultural information.  Around the country, Master Gardeners have become a vital part of University Cooperative Extension's ability to provide consumers with up-to-date, reliable information.  Master Gardening has also become a fun and useful volunteer activity, which has given its participants a sense of community spirit, accomplishment and intellectual stimulation.
Master Gardeners provide free, research-based horticulture information to Tahoe residents.  They are volunteers who learn advanced plant science skills from at least 50 hours of classroom instruction by professionals.  After training, Master Gardeners volunteer a minimum of at least 50 hours a year to pass along their newly acquired knowledge through the media, talks and workshops.  They answer phone calls, send out informational materials and develop community gardens.

Master Gardeners provide a valuable service to the community by helping Cooperative Extension meet this demand for information.  For more information about becoming a Master Gardener in Nevada, please call (775) 784-4848.  For info on California Master Gardener Programs call (530) 621-5512. 


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Tahoe Friendly Native and

Adapted Plant List

Home Landscaping Guide

Placer-Nevada Counties
Cooperative Extension
Placer County
11477 E Ave.,
DeWitt Center
Auburn, CA 95603
(530) 889-7385

El Dorado County
Cooperative Extension
El Dorado County
311 Fair Lane
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 621-5502

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Washoe County/
Incline Village

P.O. Box 8208
865 Tahoe Blvd.,
Suite 110
Incline Village,
NV 89452
(775) 832-4150

Douglas County
P.O. Box 338
Minden, NV 89423-0338
1329 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville, NV
(775) 782-9960
Nevada Tahoe
Conservation District

PO Box 4605
297 Kingsbury Grade,
Ste J
Stateline, NV
(775) 586-1610 (ext. 28)

Tahoe Resource
Conservation District

870 Emerald Bay Rd.,
Ste 108
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 543-1501
(ext. 113)

California Native
Plant Society

2707 K Street, Suite 1
Sacramento, CA
(916) 447-2677

Nevada Native
Plant Society

P.O. Box 8965
Reno, NV 89507-8965

North Lake Tahoe
Demonstration Garden

Sierra Nevada College Campus
291 Country Club Dr.
PO Box 5387
Incline Village, NV 89450

South Lake Tahoe
Demonstration Garden

Lake Tahoe
Community College
1 College Drive
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Phone: (530) 541-4660