Designing a Permaculture Greenhouse

These ecological greenhouses are uniquely designed to fit various lifestyles, ranging from backyard cultivation to commercial production.

| August 2017

  • In addition to annual crops, edible flowers can bring flavor to the kitchen while adding attractive color to the plot.
    Photo by Getty Images/Knape
  • While creating a permaculture greenhouse, the produce options can be limitless.
    Photo by Getty Images/Maximili
  • A garden greenhouse offers an ideal environment for experimenting with different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
    Photo by Getty Images/jordachelr
  • Permaculture gardens emphasize growing useful produce in a natural, low impact environment.
    Photo by Getty Images/SolStock
  • Learn how to transform any home and garden greenhouse into a cultivation haven with techniques and advice from permaculture designer Jerome Osentowski in "The Forest Garden Greenhouse."
    Cover courtesy Chelsea Green Publishing

Establishing and maintaining a diverse annual garden can seem like an overwhelming task. Jerome Osentowski offers a surplus of solutions and techniques with The Forest Garden Greenhouse (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015), on designs which will help keep the garden greenhouse full and healthy all year round. This excerpt from “Off-Site Case Studies” provides examples of real life solutions to everyday greenhouse issues.

You can purchase this book from our Capper's Farmer store: The Forest Garden Greenhouse.

Red Butte Ranch

This ranch is a private, family-owned operation located just outside of Aspen, Colorado, at an elevation of 7,800 feet. EcoSystems Design was asked to help create a greenhouse and fenced garden to serve their home kitchen year-round. This greenhouse is a four-season, solar-heated and -cooled facility and grows annuals and perennials for diversity and production to feed a household.

At first we sent long menus of vegetables and fruits they could grow in a four-season greenhouse and outdoor raised-bed garden, asking for them to select their favorite foods to serve from their kitchen. There was little response to this because the idea of growing their own food in a cold climate is what enticed them at first, and they had not really thought through the details. It may also be true that they were wiser than we were, not wanting to limit themselves by making any selection at all! We decided to create a diverse indoor garden for the greenhouse, with summer and winter planting calendars and garden bed layouts and rotations of annuals for the outdoor raised beds, each of which was fitted with hoops and row covers.



Greenhouse Construction and Upkeep

The greenhouse sits on a 1,850-square-foot plot of land, and the greenhouse structure size is 24 × 36 feet, or 864 square feet. It is surrounded by an outdoor garden. The greenhouse seems small at first but produces very well for a small family and guests. The property is located at 7,800 feet just outside Aspen, Colorado. Depending on the year it’s either in climate zone 3 or 4.

At this point they don’t employ any full-time staff for the greenhouse and only one part-time overseer. Seasonally, spring and fall, they have two paid positions for twenty hours. They receive a couple of hours of nonpaid volunteer help monthly.






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