The Slide Ranch organic garden covers more than an acre of southward facing land overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Slide Ranch’s micro-climate is strongly influenced by the ocean, and is characterized by cool wet winters and cool, foggy summers, with frequent wind and almost no frost. The steep slope of Mt. Tamalpais to the north creates our own watershed and fog packet, with plenty of water in the winter and fog in the summer. The mild temperatures mean that we can grow many crops, such as salad greens, year-round.
The garden’s design was influenced by the Chadwick garden at U.C. Santa Cruz, with bio-intensive-style beds oriented north-south for maximum sun exposure. The main principles of the bio-intensive gardening method focus on soil health and plant diversity. Soil is treated as a complex ecosystem that is the foundation of a healthy garden. By using ecological gardening practices, the garden has never had chemical fertilizers or pesticides applied during its 40-year existence. Organic nutrients are fed to the soil through compost, mulches and cover crops, thus producing rich and fertile soil. Permanent beds are worked with hand tools, and have never been compacted by foot traffic or machinery. The diversity of cultivated plants creates a healthy ecosystem that helps control pest problems. When pest problems arise, natural methods are implemented. The garden grows over 100 species and varieties of plants each year. Most of our plants are started in a greenhouse to allow for more efficient use of a limited garden space.
Marin Organic Certified Agriculture (MOCA), a local organic certification agency has reviewed the garden and determined that it meets organic standards. The garden goes beyond those standards to demonstrate a model of sustainable food production.
Educational features of the garden include: a medicinal herb area, an urban-style container garden and three-sisters. We also have a compost area where we have a worm box, hot piles and composting bin to convert our food scrapes, garden waste and animal manure into healthy soil. In addition, each teacher-in-residence has their own garden bed.