“Nature, in all the splendour and power of a luxuriant vegetation, of flowers carpeting the green grass with their many colours, of trees laden with fruits, speaks to us of life and health. The countryside is joyous with the song of birds, joyous with the delicious breeze bringing the wanderer in the fields the sweet scent of all these manifestations of goodliness and beauty.”
–Edmond Szekely, “Cosmos, Man and Society,” 1936
Rancho La Puerta and its surrounding landscape are located in a biodiversity hotspot, meaning it is a region that is both rich in biodiversity and is in significant danger of destruction. The preciousness of this natural landscape is reflected in the beauty and quality of the gardening at Rancho La Puerta. Guests feel as though they are visiting a natural oasis where native live oaks line walking paths and wildflower fields blend into the surrounding chaparral. Mt. Kuchumaa is "the exalted high place" of the Kumeyaay tribe. In their eyes, Kuchumaa was the womb of the world, the place from which creation sprang. Only shamans were allowed on the summit. Our efforts to protect this landscape include:
- Working through Rancho La Puerta's nonprofit partner Fundacion La Puerta, the resort and its president Sarah Livia Brightwood established the first cross-border conservation easement on approximately 2,000 acres of undeveloped land around the Ranch.
- As detailed elsewhere, water conservation plays a huge role in our garden and landscaping policies.
- Rancho La Puerta employs 22 full time gardeners.
- Gardens are fertilized using composted organic matter from garden trimmings and solid waste from the waste treatment facility and the composting toilets. Minimum commercial nitrogen fertilizers are used for lawn care.
- A large on-site nursery provides most of the plants used for landscaping. Professional botanists run the nursery and are skilled at specialized seed germination and crossbreeding techniques.
- There is minimal to no use of chemicals to maintain Rancho La Puerta grounds; when absolutely necessary some low-impact products are used for pest control.
- The majority of landscape maintenance is done using hand tools, with the exception of lawn mowers, tillers and some saws.
- Vertebrate pests such as snakes and raccoons are controlled using live-traps. Once caught they are moved to another property outside of the Rancho La Puerta grounds.
- Palm tree fronds are not trimmed, instead they are left on the trees to provide habitat for bats and other vertebrates.
- Migrating birds depend on the lush habitat at Rancho La Puerta as a stopover point where they can "refuel" during migration.
- There are approximately 200 different plant species on the grounds. These include flowers, trees, cacti, shrubs, herbs, water plants (in fountains), and grasses.
- Two local invasive species, eucalyptus and Carrizo are harvested, removed and then used again to create garden structures, furniture and building interiors.
- Our botanists developed a unique variety of foxglove that thrives in the soil and climate conditions found at the ranch. The plant was cultivated over several growing cycles and is now a hardy variety used in landscaping at the Ranch.
- Our staff worked with an environmental consulting firm to design a vegetative stream embankment for the creek that flows through Tres Estrellas organic garden. By avoiding concrete channelization they preserved the natural ambiance of the creek bed and helped maintain a healthier riparian system.
- At the end of the Christmas season, Rancho La Puerta brings their wood chipper into the town of Tecate to chip the Christmas trees from which they make mulch for the grounds. Community members that bring their trees are offered either a bag of mulch made from trees or a certificate to participate in a landscaping tour and instruction on eco-friendly gardening and landscaping at Rancho La Puerta.
- Rancho La Puerta bird-watcher and fitness instructor, Joe Sweeney, offers several bird watching outings for guests. Joe created the Ranch's "Guide to Birding at Rancho La Puerta" and his walks have become one of the more popular activities at the fitness resort.
- We use natural alternatives to standard insecticides. If we need to take on aphids or other “leaf munchers,” we opt for insecticidal soap sprays that suffocate the bugs. “Safer” is a widely used brand available at most garden centers, or you can make your own recipe--just use soap, not detergent.
- We use alternatives to herbicides by keeping undesirable plants out of areas using mulches or via hand weeding.
- We leave much of our landscape, even around our facilities, relatively undisturbed (no major raking or clean-up of stems, leaf litter, dried stalks, etc.) over the dormant seasons. This gives beneficial insects a safe place to overwinter, as well as a healthy quail population.
- Flowering plants and fruit trees attract bats, birds and beneficial insects that provide natural pest management.