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Tahoe Friendly Garden: Wildfire Safety Resources

Get prepared! Garden for your Tahoe Defensible Space Zones!
Deciding which plants to place in your home garden and landscape can have a significant impact on the overall fire vulnerability of your landscape. A Tahoe Friendly Garden minimizes the risk of wildfire by reducing the amount of flammable vegetative materials while utilizing native plants. 


Know your defensible space - gardening zone poster

Gardening for fire defensible space serves to limit the threat of wildfire spreading to or from a structure. It includes the selection and maintenance of plants and mulch for low fire risk. Sustainable fire-wise landscaping should be easy to care for with minimal irrigation. Keeping bare soil covered with vegetation and mulch is a Best Management Practice in Lake Tahoe. Employing a mosaic of non-combustible plants and mulch in the landscape helps to lower fire risk.

Defensible space is the area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation should be managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. Within the defensible space area, the homeowner should remove dead shrubs and trees, prune ladder fuels (low branches and shrubs under trees), create separation between dense vegetation, and plant and maintain less flammable vegetation.

Tips for Gardening for Fire Defensible Space:

ZONE 1- Non-Combustible Zone (0-5 ft) is the area directly adjacent to your home and/or other structures (including sheds, garages, wooden decks, and fences).

It is the 0-5 foot area from your home. It is the most restrictive of all the landscape zones. Fire districts, insurance companies, and county ordinances prefer no vegetation in this area. If you do plant in this area it is wise to only choose herbaceous groundcovers with rock mulch or maintained lawn. Groundcovers are low growing, spreading plants usually less than 6 inches in height. If planting, only choose native and adapted groundcovers with drip irrigation. This is not a location for woody plants, shrubs, or trees.


           Zone 2 Lean, Clean, and Green Zone (5-30 ft) the area in your yard where you can be most creative! This area allows for landscape plants, shrubs, trees, groundcovers, maintained lawn, mulches, and edible gardens. We advocate for the use of native/adapted Tahoe plants. For a list of Tahoe friendly plant options visit ucanr.edu/tfg. For Tahoe gardens, it is important to break up plant continuity thereby breaking up combustible areas. Create a mosaic landscape (a patchwork of plants and other hard/soft materials). Utilize a mixture of plant sizes (shrubs, perennials, groundcovers) and hard materials (stones, pavers, flagstone) to create a defensible and beautiful landscape. In this area, you can also use a mixture of tilled wood mulch, rock, and or green mulch (groundcovers). Group plants according to their water and sun needs for maximum success.

Tahoe Friendly Plant Examples Ideal for Zone 2  

Zone 3- Wildland Fuel Reduction Zone - Most of your Zone 3 is probably on your neighbor's property!

Garden how you would want your neighbor to garden to keep your home safe! If planting use only native & adapted plants. After native plants have been established (over 2 years) they will require less irrigation. Continue the mosaic design pattern described for Zone 2. Maintain your coniferous and deciduous tree limbs from your neighbor's fences and yards.  Ensure separation between conifers, prune limbs, and/or bushes to minimize ladder fuels. Keep pine needle debris to a 2" maximum.




Gardening for Fire Defensible Space Resources:

Agencies to Contact: