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.
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:
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.
Tahoe Friendly Plant Examples Ideal for Zone 2
- Sierra Currant “Mountain Pink,” Ribes nevadense
- Wood’s Rose, Rosa woodsii
- Stonecrop, Sedum spp.
- Creeping Snowberry, Symphoricarpos mollis
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
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:
- Tahoe Friendly Gardening for Fire Defensible Space brochure
- Tahoe Friendly Plants - a visual guide to native & adapted plants
- UC ANR Landscaping Tips to Help Defend Your Home From Wildfire http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/docs/CeMasterGardener8322.pdf
- UC ANR Publication Landscaping Tips to Help Defend Your Home from Wildfire https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8322.pdf
- Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada’s High Fire Hazard Areas https://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2007/eb0701.pdf
- Backyard Native Plants: Identification and Treatment of Shrubs and Ground Covers for Fire-Safe Landscaping at Lake Tahoe http://tahoercd.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Backyard-Natice-Plants-Booklet_High-Quality.pdf
- Home Landscaping Guide for Lake Tahoe and Vicinity https://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2006/eb0601.pdf
- Common Ground: Learn about easy treatments you can apply around your home to prevent erosion while minimizing fire risk
- Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness https://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2011/sp1101.pdf
- The Combustibility of Landscape Mulches
Agencies to Contact:
- CAL FIRE, Fire safe landscaping. http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Fire-Safe-Landscaping/
- Tahoe Resource Conservation District. https://tahoercd.org/fireadaptedcommunities/
- Living with Fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Guides, resources, and other materials for Tahoe residents.