Demo veggie garden being cultivated in SLT


Publisher’s note: This is one in a random series of stories about gardening in Lake Tahoe.

By Kathryn Reed

Getting one’s hands dirty is not only a physical workout it is a mental recharger.

“There is a biological link between soil and people. We have lost that because we are no longer an agrarian society,” De-Anne Hooper told Lake Tahoe News.

Hooper runs the South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center and is the driving force behind a demonstration garden at the site that will break ground June 2.

The dirt to the right of the Family Resource Center will become a garden. Photo/LTN

The dirt to the right of the Family Resource Center will become a garden. Photo/LTN

Providing prevention and early intervention when it comes to mental health issues are two of the center’s core objectives. The garden will be a component to help people cope.

“Not many people have the opportunity to get their hands dirty in South Lake Tahoe, especially kids. We thought this would be a perfect match,” Hooper said.

She is working in cooperation with Brian Hirdman, who teaches gardening classes through Lake Tahoe Community College’s Connect Community Education. He has been trying to start a community garden for the last three years. And while this 30-foot-by-50-foot plot isn’t big enough to feed a community, it will act as a way to show people what can grow in the basin and how to grow it.

Right now the growing area is raw dirt between the center and chain link fence for the ball field. First to be built is the fence that will enclose the growing area. This will be a joint project by the FRC and Lake Tahoe Unified School District, which owns the property.

Hirdman has some logs, boulders and planter boxes that will be used. The center has boxes already planted on the other side of the parking area that have herbs growing.

“This isn’t a farm, so we are not going to have a super high volume of food, especially the first year. It will provide an opportunity for people to dig in the dirt and there is scientific evidence that it helps mental illness and that is the biggest part for me,” Hooper said.

The goal is to have a summer program for the kids so they can be tending to the garden.

Hirdman will be teaching a four-part class through Connect Ed where the practical aspect is working at the demo garden. FRC students and their parents are expected to be the long-term caretakers.

The classes may be taken individually. The first one – Creating Healthy Soil – is May 31. July 12 is about which plants grow well here. It will include creating a hoop house to create a microclimate. July 19 focuses on advanced growing techniques. Permaculture and biodynamic growing principles are part of this class. The July 26 class is about xeriscape, which is about being smart about water use.

“This summer I will have workshops with kids. I will teach them how to plant trees, plant vegetables and get in the dirt,” Hirdman told Lake Tahoe News. “My goal is to train a group of volunteer leaders who can go about and train kids.”

Hirdman would like to plant fruit trees that have been grafted to stand up to Tahoe’s climate. These could include apple, cherry, plum, apricot and pear.

Large shrubs like elderberries and smaller ones like raspberry, blueberries and currants grow well here.

Another lesson will be learning what annuals work in Tahoe versus perennials.

Hirdman envisions a salsa garden where tomatoes, peppers and cilantro are grown. He also wants to show how squash and corn can be cultivated in Tahoe.

“It will be just like your standard garden … nothing too exotic,” Hirdman said.



• Information about the Connect Ed classes as well as how to register is online.

• Brian Hirdman may be reached at

• De-Anne Hooper is available at 530.542.0740.




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Comments (10)
  1. Irish Wahini says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    What a wonderful project! I hope the garden updates will be published – maybe available in our library with some recipes for using the vegetables from the LTCC culinary program.

  2. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    This Demo garden is a great idea! I’m really glad to see more people growing fruits and vegetables here in Tahoe. As De-Anne Hooper put it, “there is a biological link between soil and people”. Yes there is, and there are alot of other benefits other than getting fresh food that you grew yourself. It does take some work…but it’s good work. Diggin’ in the dirt helps you in many ways, physicaly, mentally and spiritually. Challenging in tahoe? You bet! Just look outside, its May 20th, and typical Tahoe weather, it’s snowing hard in Sierra Tract at 6:30 a.m.
    I still have a lot of seeds to plant in my gardens but what’s in the ground will be safe as nothing has sprouted yet. A few things from last year came back so I’m hoping they can hang in there during this little snow storm. Start a garden, you’ll be glad you did ! OLS (with dirt under my fingernails)…

  3. LTTeacher says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    Are you kidding…you know nothing about the area. The over/under is 3 1/2 weeks once it’s in the ground that it will be vandalized. What a joke!! You should pave the area for MUCH needed parking for parents/staff.
    Wake up. Look at the wooden barriers in the lot…already knocked down and put up and knocked down and put up and knocked down and put up…

  4. Arod says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    LTTeacher, I certainly hope you are not currently teaching. Your attitude sucks. This garden has value on so many levels and your advice is to pave it over so you can park closer to the door. Ridiculous!

  5. Scott Blumenthal says - Posted: May 20, 2014


  6. Christine says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    I agree with Arod.

  7. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    I wrote a response to LLTeaecher earlier, regarding the demo garden next to my old alma mater, Bijou Elementary! That was apparently lost or accidentely deleted.
    What I said was, this idea to plant a small garden next to the Family Resource Center and to show the community, YES, YOU CAN GROW FOOD HERE!!! And not pave it over for a few parking spots.
    LLTeacher? You should grow a garden! Start your OWN garden!. You would be surprized what you can grow in Tahoe.
    I know plenty about the area as I been around here for awhile, so I and can help to get you started in gardening in Tahoe.
    I can help you on finding your “sunny spot” in your yard, amending the soil, and picking the right seeds. Work? Yes! Worthwhile ? 100 percent, my friend, 100 percent!
    My hope is we have MORE community gardens around town.
    Which would you rather have in So. Shore?
    More open space with scatterd views of the mountains, Lake Tahoe and a beautiful clear sierra sky from our old neighborhoods and hwy 50, or one of a few of the alternatives?
    A beautiful Sierra landscape filled with native plants, locally grown fruits and vegetables? Or would you prefer another line of retail stores and a strip mall selling t-shirts and corn dogs?
    Think about it, wont you? OLS


  8. LTTeacher says - Posted: May 20, 2014

    AROD…and CHRISTINE…. Just telling it like it really is…take your dreamy way it should be thoughts and plant them in the fertilizer in your brain. I guarantee it will not last…it will be vandalized. Once again wake up and smell reality!!

  9. ! says - Posted: May 21, 2014

    We know who will be doing the vandalizing…

  10. Ryan Payne says - Posted: May 25, 2014

    LTTeacher- why don’t you just say “Bah, humbug”? Then your argument would have more merit than the reasons you just stated…

    “Don’t it always seem to be, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…? Pave paradise and put up a parking lot… Ooh lala lala!”