Written by Doug Crouch

The humid cool to cold climates offer a unique context that they are relatively lowly populated in terms of density and hold much of the worlds wealth.  Their characteristic

Four seasons of Temperate zones- Treasure Lake, Kentucky, USA

four seasons and regularly distributed rainfall make it a much more forgiving and non-brittle scale rating in the context of the complementary land and social movement called Holistic Management.  regions that display this context would be southern South America, much of the regions of Canada and the U.S.A, Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Korea and parts of New Zealand.  Classically prairies and meadows were interspersed with man made Savannas and large tracts of primeval forests.  These were most likely shaped by their indigenous peoples habits as 60% of all trees in the eastern half of the United States were the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata).  The prairies were shaped again by these indigenous people but also herbivores, fire, and predators.  This interaction built soils deeply which is one of the main characteristics of temperate climates.  They can build considerable amounts of humus under permanent forest or prairie.

Abundant Mushrooms in a temperate forest, Steirmark, Austria

While the tropical zones seem so abundant in plant diversity, our temperate zones offer a wonderful array that might not compete in numbers but surely in beauty.  We can draw from a huge pallet of plants that will grow in these zones like classic favorites such as

Jerusalem Artichoke, sunchoke, or topinambour (Helianthus tuberosus) harvest at Parkwalk permaculture Ohio, USA- zone 6 showing the abundance of one tuber multiplying into a feast and lots of biomass to recycle in compost piles

raspberries and plums but offers emerging fruits such as Paw Paw’s (Asimina triloba) and Hardy Kiwi’s (Actinida arguta).  It is our ability to arrange these plants in beneficial relationships that stack in space and time that propels our food and fuel sustainability.  We also have a smaller perennial vegetable choice to draw from but classics such as asparagus and sorrel should be complimented with Jerusalem Artichoke and stinging nettles.  We also can rely on forest products such as mushrooms and herbs and where wildlife abounds like in the eastern half of the U.S., ethical hunting methods can be employed to harvest the bounty of the wilds.

Additionally in our design of these systems we must carefully plan micro-climate and select species that can fill those niches.  For example using south, southwest facing walls to extend garden seasons or planting stone fruit on a northeast slope to delay flowering.  These fruits and their flowers are affected by late frosts and planting them in this specific micro-climate can delay flowering.  Furthermore, using season extending glasshouses is a common feature of this climatic zone.

Our building choices must reflect the dramatic swings in temperature that define this zone.  For example in Ohio, the authors home region for many years, temps n the summer can exceed 40 C plus humidity while the winter air is chilly and dry with lows at extremes of -20 C.This requires the usage of appropriate building materials and the balance between insulation and thermal mass.  A building in this zone without a focus on insulation is bound to consume energy and should always be designed in.

strawbale studio- strawbale natural building Michigan, USA. Use of high insulation in this building

Finally we must pay particular focus on building local food systems in this climate zone because of the four season affect.  We have to learn to preserve food and rely on products that can be stored or harvested in the winter such as fermented foods or meat and dairy.  Although our affluence allows us to eat as vegetarians or even vegans currently, we should be striving to stimulate local farmers who are doing it right so we can eat all winter locally.  Furthermore, the local foods movement should always include ferment foods as it is a great preservation technique that Bill Mollison advocated strongly and wrote an in depth look at the topic as well.  Preserving cabbage and chile’s into a gringo kimchi is a great alternative to Florida oranges when you live 1000 Km away in Ohio and need winter Vitamin C.  A great example is the Fab Ferments company in the temperate zone of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Fab Ferments Hot Kimchi- fermented food delight adding tremendous bargaining power to the local foods movement of Cincinnati, Ohio USA by providing another outlet for farmers to sell their produce

Written by Doug Crouch

Header Art by Karsten Hinrichs


  1. There is ample information out there for permaculture in warmer regions but much less in the colder climates. Permaculture has taken off more on the former and I am guessing because of the larger variety of items that can be grown but it seems more taboo in the later.

  2. There is definitely debate within my circle in a temperate climate about whether it is possible to be vegan and be able to care adequately for the Earth. It might be doable but the diet would certainly be quite restricted – fava beans, fava beans and more fava beans.

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