jump to navigation

Chronicle of a Mountain Permaculture Community Garden September 16, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

Growing food in the Rocky Mountains is challenging!  Not only do we face a short growing season and alpine climate, but we share our valley with abundant wildlife who also call these mountains home. The concept of this wildlife-safe, mountain community garden is to address the unique growing conditions of the Bow Valley as well as the unique character of the community in which it is located.  

Canmore does not boast a vibrant gardening culture in general, and food growing or vegetable gardening is scarce. Beyond foraging deer and curious bears, our town also hosts a prolific ferrel bunny population which has deterred many a gardener.  The demographic of our community is also relatively new with many recently arrived residents unfamiliar with gardening in this climate, and removed from the mothers and grandmothers to whom we usually look for advice on these matters. As our first season nears it’s end, I would like to think that we have demonstrated that not only can our community grow food for itself without negative impact on wildlife, but we can do so while improving soil quality, conserving water, educating ourselves, having fun and, of course, nourishing our minds and bodies!

After our first attempt to establish a community garden was kaibashed by wildlife-wary neighbours in the spring of 2010, we shifted our focus towards education and community building in order to establish the strong foundation necessary for any community project.  This is when we began to emphasize permaculture principles as the basis for our efforts, and momentum for a garden quickly grew – as it does! – in the inspiring wake of each permaculture workshop, seminar or PermaBlitz.  In June of this year we erected our 8′ wildlife fence, dug our swales, built our wicking beds and planted the inaugural seeds of the Canmore Community Garden.  The late start hasn’t prevented a fantastic harvest of greens, herbs, turnips, potatoes, edible flowers, kale and swiss chard.  The squash and beans are thriving under our hoop garden, and while our tomatoes and peppers have been frost bit ( Aug. 27th this year!), our frost hardy varieties are continuing to flourish into autumn.

Our garden is designed based on the principles of permaculture which mimic patterns in nature to most efficiently capture and store water, nutrients and sun in our landscape.  Our raised beds are designed with a reservoir at the bottom which allows the garden to essentially water itself from the bottom up, reducing water loss through evaporation, and time spent with a watering can, as well as encouraging deep root growth and healthy plants.  Our communal area is a network of level swales designed to retain water in the garden and allow it to slowly infiltrate the adjacent beds. The edges are planted with red clover, a nitrogen fixer, ground cover, chop n’ drop mulch, and medicinal herb.  Our soil is amended with well composted horse manure from a local stable, and our water held in elevated cisterns to allow gravity flow.

As we assess the successes and failures of our first season, we are donning our permaculture design caps once again to devise a sustainable water strategy for our site, the primary consideration for any further development of our garden.  Interest has grown in the community for gardening, and we receive new membership requests, offers of assistance and curious visitors regularly.  The unique lens of permaculture has helped us not only design a sustainable edible landscape, it helping us to grow a sustainable humanscape as well as we see the patterns of human nature emerge through the communal dynamics of the garden.  Applying permaculture principles to the organizational structure of our group and activities has helped us cultivate the  most successful yield of the garden : community!

Submitted by: Chrystel, Canmore Community Gardening Society.



1. Rene Michalak - September 17, 2011

This is excellent – bravo!

2. peirobertsoberts - September 17, 2011

Thanks so much Chrisyel. Look forward to you joining in on the GFSA call on the 20th to share your knowledge and ideas with others. I think merging the permacuture approach into community gardening is wonderful and has such potential because often community gardens run into water supply and soil issues. Thanks for taking the time to write the blog! Susan

3. Margarita - December 2, 2011

excellent, nice work, if the government is not going to take initiative then it is in our hands to secure our future!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: