I was first introduced to the idea of permaculture shorty after I started gardening for Mountain Roots. Wanting to learn more about our own organic gardening practices, I began studying as much as I could about sustainable horticulture in general. This is when I stumbled upon permaculture, a philosophy and methodology that embodies the concept of sustainability. The word “permaculture” can be broken down to mean either “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”. The ideas behind this word take a whole systems approach that involves not just the garden but also the home and the community – for example, the regulation of hot and cold air through planting certain trees close to one’s home is an idea I have come across again and again.
When it comes to the garden, permaculture emphasizes diversity while also advocating for the use of plants appropriate to the land. Each property is dealt with individually, with the climate, soil, sun exposure, and any other relevant factor taken into account. Here in the High Rockies, greenhouses that elongate the short growing season are particularly relevant. Designing a greenhouse in a way so that is maximizes the heat of the sun and insulates itself without added warmth is also an example of permaculture design at play. One way this can be done is by creating a roof that holds the massive amounts of snow we receive so that the snow itself insulates the greenhouse and makes it easier to grow all year round. Planting shade trees is another design idea relevant to our area. These trees protect plants from the brutal sun and keep the soil moist, thereby reducing water usage as well as time spent working in the garden.
Another of the main tenets of the permaculture garden is a preoccupation with edible plants. At Mountain Roots we already incorporate some tasty vegetation into our design – you may have spotted thyme in your groundcover, and the flowers from pansies make a great addition to a salad! This coming winter I hope to get my Permaculture Design Certificate. Until then I will continue to study and learn so that we can offer gardens that are both sustainable and well-adapted to the extreme environment in which we live.