In Methods of Design & Patterns, Permaculture Projects

This spring, Verge converged with Big Sky Permaculture and 7 apprentices (most of them past students) at the Invermere Community Greenhouse site, to do a design blitz. We had three days to produce a design for an eight thousand square foot garden.

In this garden, we were asked to include the following elements:

  • Site water management

  • Food forestry

  • Community garden plots

  • Community space, (classroom, kitchen, stage)

  • Chickens

  • Pond

  • Compost system

  • Experimental “Elliot Coleman”-style moveable greenhouse

  • Lots of food production

It was a lot to design in three days but we pulled it off. The group was split up to work in teams based on their skills/interest and assigned to an element or theme; water, chicken system, community space, etc. Each team was required to produce a design, material list, and construction drawings so that we could get together at the end to phase the installation of the garden.

My job was to design the water system that we would use as the main frame of the garden in which everything would fit around. Here is a video describing how the water system works, and how everything fits around it.

The water system was a ton of fun to design and will make this community garden completely unique in Western Canada.

Water Resources

  • Rainwater harvesting from the 8,000 sq ft of roof area from the adjacent school and the greenhouse roof catchment

  • Storm water from the storm water management swale

  • Snow melt

The garden harvests up to 8,000 sq ft of roof area from the adjacent school building and stores it in two 50,000 litre tanks underground. These tanks overflow on a regular basis in the spring and until now the water would just sit on the site. Now the excess rain water will be sent to a constructed wetland/pond which will overflow into two food forests, constructed in mulched basins to hold the water in the garden and reduce evaporation. Evaporation is a big concern in the east Kootenays and our design really focuses on that.

Below are the construction drawings that we had digitally rendered by Teresa Mclaren


The goal was to install the garden in a weekend through a community supported Permablitz (

Other highlights of the design:

Community Space – Shauna Tear, Jonathan Spranza

The community space is going to feature a cob oven, greywater system, stage for music and some edible seating. The building was designed using natural building materials and a living roof.

Food Forest – Adrian Buckley, Dustin Poole, Sarah Johnson, Steffen Bertelsten

Adrian Buckley of Big Sky Permaculture ( ) lead the apprentices in the design of the food forest. To say the least, the food forest crew did an outstanding job. The forest system is loaded with edibles, insectisary, medicinal and other useful plants.

Duckuzi/ Duck system – Andrew Gillese, Dale Wilker

Andrew and Dale (Groundswell member) designed the duck system which features a duckuzie (jacuzzi converted to a pond). This duckuzi will provide swimming habitat for the ducks as well as harvest their manured water to fertigate the site.

Chicken System, Mote and Underpass – Rob Avis, Adrian Buckley, Dustin Poole, Sarah Johnson, Steffen Bertelsten

The chickens were designed into the system in order to manage the southern portion of the food forest as well as keep weeds/grasses out of the food forest along the southern edge. Their coup is going to be placed on the west side of the greenhouse and they will gain access to the food forest via a moat. A chicken moat is basically a small enclosed highway that the chickens can run along to gain access to various areas of the food forest. The moat leads them to one of three or four pens where they will spend 1 week per pen to help manage the food forest.

Community Garden – Jordan Saunders, Shauna Teare

Jordan and Shauna did an outstanding job designing these gardens. They are close to the greenhouse (centre of energy) and water. The beds are built out of a local waste product (saw ends) and employ a combination of styles. Wicking beds, Hugle wicking beds (very experimental), and standard raised beds. There is also the option to install season extension (cold frames) and drip irrigation as needed.

Eliot Coleman greenhouse – Jonathan Spranza, Jordan Saunders

Jonathan Spanza led up the Eliot Coleman style moveable greenhouse which sits in the middle of the garden. This space can be used by high school students that are interested in getting into market gardening with an edge. The greenhouse is moveable so that the garden can be rotated as well as have its season extended. If you have not read Eliot Coleman’s books on gardening, I highly recommend it.

Design Blitz’s in the Future

Verge now offers design blitzes for people who want a lot of design done in a short period of time for a very reasonable price. If you are interested in getting your property designed using this process, contact us!

Finally I wanted to send my sincere thanks to our apprentices who did a fantastic job in design and to our hosts at Groundswell, and the town of Invermere.

Apprentices (link to their grad videos if they have them)

Shauna Teare

Jordan Saunders

Jonathan Spranza

Dustin Zane Poole

Sarah Johnson

Steffen Bertelsten

 Andrew Gillese

Lastly here is the most recent update on the project, in this video I talk about cover cropping, which varieties were used for the cover crop, how this technique is preparing the soil and more!

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