Lake Tahoe gardeners must deal with high altitude gardening, since the basin starts at 4,580 feet in elevation. The short growing season in this part of Nevada and California requires planning, but you can enjoy fresh vegetables during the summer with a little perseverance. If space remains a premium in your garden, raised beds or containers will help you grow your favorite vegetables.
Vegetables should be planted after the threat of spring frosts disappears. Lake Tahoe experiences late spring frosts, with the latest average frost date in mid-June. In fall, gardeners can expect frost as early as mid-September. In between these frost dates, gardeners can count on a 90-day growing season.
Herbs and cool-season vegetables, including spinach, lettuces and Swiss chard, grow well from seed in the Lake Tahoe area. Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers all benefit from starting the seeds indoors in a sunny window or greenhouse. Area nurseries also offer plants ready for transplanting into the garden. When danger of spring frost passes, the plants can be transferred to the garden, where they can continue to grow and produce their crop.
Most vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight daily, although lettuce and some herbs can grow in shade. The location should contain soil that drains well but can hold moisture during hot days. Well-rotted compost added to the soil can help it feed your new vegetable plants. Drying winds in the basin area mean you'll need to water your plants often, sometimes daily. To keep birds and small mammals from eating your plants, place mesh screens on top of the growing area.
Tomatoes, lettuce and herbs all thrive in containers. Growing vegetables in containers means you can move them around to take full advantage of sunny days or to protect the plants from drying winds. Almost any container works for growing vegetables, as long as it provides efficient drainage holes. Tomatoes require 5-gallon containers, while lettuce and herbs can grow in much smaller containers. Tomatoes require support trellises to keep the plants growing upright while they branch out to produce fruit.
Raised beds offer a way for Lake Tahoe gardeners to grow vegetables in good soil. The beds allow you to use good organic soil to grow your plants, instead of the rocky, sandy soil typical of the area. The growing season is also extended, since the soil warms more quickly in raised beds.