The Lake Tahoe Basin planting season has arrived, but whether it sticks around through May is all part of the spring “roller coaster” gardeners face when it comes to backyard farming at elevation.
While the weather forecast looks ideal for producing herbs and vegetables, experienced basin gardeners know an unexpected spring cold snap could always dash their hopes of homegrown food.
“We have a roller coaster in the spring that’s crazy,” Aspen Hollow Nursery owner John Fellows said Thursday. “That’s our problem up here. We don’t know when we’re out of dormancy,” Fellows added.
The annual gamble is on for bartender and vegetable gardener Jorge Landeros, who plans to do his planting this weekend. Potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, green beans and onions are among the produce Landeros has been able to pull out of his modest backyard plot.
“It all depends on the weather,” Landeros said Thursday.
Establishing plants indoors as winter recedes, so they have a jump-start on the short growing season, was a recommendation that came from several people. Being able to move or cover plants, to protect them from freezing temperatures and limb-snapping snow, was also a common sentiment.
The high Alpine environment rewards people who pay close attention to the weather and their plants, said Dianne Morrill, an arborist and employee at Aspen Hollow.
“You have to pay attention, you have to be an educated, responsible gardener if you want fruit,” Morrill said.
“It’s really about commitment,” she added.
Landeros and Morrill will be among those attending a free Saturday discussion of growing herbs and vegetables at Lake Tahoe.
“I am going to basically cover what herbs and vegetables need to survive — the basic stuff,” Morrill said. After going over the basics of Lake Tahoe gardening like utlitizing space, garden location, necessary soil amendments and plant needs, said she was then looking forward to talking with attendees about what has and has not worked for them.
The South Shore has so many different zones — what works in Christmas Valley might not work in the Tahoe Keys, Fellows said.
Landeros seems to have found what works in his backyard. He said his garden netted about 200 ears of corn last year. They weren’t record breakers in size, but they came through where it counts.
“It tastes so good,” Landeros said with a grin.