North Tahoe Demonstration Garden

North Tahoe Demo Garden


     Donated by Sierra Nevada College (SNC), the North Lake Tahoe Demonstration Garden opened in May 1994 in Incline Village, Nevada. It featured a solar powered drip irrigation system and pathways that loop around indigenous, drought-resistant plants and trees. The garden was originally built as a “hands-on” learning tool for the public, ultimately teaching ways to practice conservation in their personal garden to the benefit of the entire Lake Tahoe ecosystem.

     In June 2019, the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) teamed up with Sierra Nevada College (SNC) and Incline Village General Improvement District (IVGID) to manage the garden—now known as the North Tahoe Education Garden—in a collaborative effort to sustain this garden and incorporate more education programs.


Commercial soils comparison

This current project funded by Tourism Cares compares two commercial soils local Full Circle Compost to the well-known Miracle Gro soil as growing medium for fruits and vegetables. Additionally, this comparison uses native soils in-ground as a control comparison. Soils will be assessed on physical, chemical, and biological parameters as well as the overall production of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, raised beds filled with commercial soils will look at the utility of biochar. Four raised beds will be set-up and labeled accordingly: two with Miracle Gro and two with Full Circle. Each bed will have soil to be amended identically with coco coir and perlite for moisture retention and soil structure. Additionally, each commercial soils will include one bed has an addition of biochar. This aspect is to look at the role that wildfire has in our soil and the potential benefits of prescribed burns on the productivity of soils. The in-ground native soils are also amended with coco coir and perlite and will have four beds; one that is amended with biochar, one that is amended with compost, one that contains both biochar and compost, and one that has no additive. 

Xeriscape experiment

With funding provided from Tourism Cares, three raised beds with no existing irrigation have been set with xeriscape demonstrations. Each bed includes similar ground cover, succulent selections, and showcases different shrub examples. All plants have been selected based on their hardiness zone rating (<5b), their drought tolerance, and the maximum growth (<4ft height) of the plant. These parameters were set to accommodate the lack of existing irrigation and potential cold winter temperatures and snow load common to Tahoe winters. Each bed was amended with full circle boosted compost before planting and has been covered by a thick layer of mulch to prevent the growth of weeds and to minimize evaporation from the soil. These beds will be hand watered regularly by local student groups for the next two years to allow the plants to establish before weaning the plants to a zero water strategy. These beds serve as a potential demonstration to xeriscaping in the Tahoe Basin with a list of plants with proven success for those gardeners in the basin that wish to reduce water use and have a low-maintenance yet manicured garden.


TERC has two different phenology projects that have been on-going for the last 8-10 years. The general phenology monitors manzanita in NTDG and strawberry, aspen, ponderosa pine, and lupine at the TCDG. The long-term goal of this study is to see how plants are responding to warming temperatures resulting from climate change. In partnership with the Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners and Slow Food Lake Tahoe, there are raised beds at NTDG that are dedicated to the study of varietal phenology, looking at the success of specific crops and varieties amongst those crops. The goals for this project are not only to know what crops grow well in Tahoe, but also to engage the community in understanding watershed friendly gardening practices, create a resource for the gardening community of the Tahoe-Truckee area, and also create better food security in our area. 

General Phenology looks at the timing of growth and development of plant as a result of weather and climate
Varietal Comparative Phenology (VCP) compares the growth and development among several plant varieties as a result of weather and climate


Best Management Practices

Best Management Practices are ways for property owners to protect Lake Tahoe’s health and clarity. BMPs include installing trenches to capture runoff, storing runoff to allow it to soak back into the soil, or installing terraces and vegetation to prevent eroded soil from flowing downhill. They add practical details that protect the lake while increasing property value. As you walk around the garden, look for the BMP examples that would work best in your garden.

Native Plants

Gardening can be a challenge in Tahoe; however, choosing native plants increases a greater chance for success. Native plants are well-adapted to the climate and soil conditions in their specific region. They also efficiently cycle nutrients, minimize and prevent erosion, and conserve important resources. Check out the examples of native plants available in the garden: These only display a small number of plants from the vast selection that would fit the unique Tahoe climate.

The objectives of the North Tahoe demonstration garden are to:

  • Provide a lush green space for visitors, students, and faculty to relax in
  • Factors of a healthy forest/forest ecology and how forests impact the lake
  • Forest health and forest management as it relates to wildfire
  • The impacts of wildfire and how to utilize defensible space practices
  • The importance of gardens and gardening
  • Showcase native plant species to the basin and explain why to choose native plants
  • Appreciation for Indigenous land, uses of native species, and acknowledgement of their culture 
  • Provide resources for pollinators throughout the growing season 
  • Display different types of BMPs and explain their important

Original Mission

The North Lake Tahoe Demonstration Garden's mission is to provide an educational resource to the Tahoe/Truckee Meadows community by creating demonstrations of lake-friendly landscaping using native and adaptive plants, water conservation, soil stabilization techniques, defensible space from wildfires, and Best Management Practices for storm water infiltration. The Garden collaborates with residents, community agencies, and private companies to teach building and landscaping practices which work in harmony with Tahoe's naturally beautiful but often fragile environment.