Q&A with Jerome Osentowski, Author of The Forest Garden Greenhouse

By Shelley Pierce | May 28, 2017
Image by Callie Maron
by Shelley Pierce
May 28, 2017

A forager and permaculturist with roots in rural Nebraska, Jerome Osentowski lives in a passive solar home he built at 7200 feet above Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. Director and founder of Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute and a permaculture designer for thirty years, he has built five greenhouses for himself and scores of others for private clients and public schools in the Rockies and beyond. He makes his living from an intensively cultivated one acre of indoor and outdoor forest garden and plant nursery, which he uses as a backdrop for intensive permaculture and greenhouse design courses.  In The Forest Garden Greenhouse, he shows how bringing the forest garden indoors is not only possible, but doable on unlikely terrain and in cold climates, using near-net-zero technology. Read on to find out more about this book and enter below to win a copy from Chelsea Green Publishing!


How did you get started on the path to greenhouse exploration?


: I built my first greenhouse, Pele, in 1987. At that time, to do any market farming in my climate region (Zone 3-5), it was necessary to have a greenhouse in addition to season extenders in order to run a salad greens and herbs operation commercially for year-round production. The rest is history.


Q: You have a tropical greenhouse year-round way up in the mountains that has near-net-zero energy inputs.  How is that possible?


Below is a mindmap outlining how functions, such as heating, are served by multiple elements in the greenhouse, and how single elements serve multiple functions. Many ways of heating the greenhouse (climate battery, circulation, sauna, pellet stove, gabion walls) all work together to regulate the temperature. I invite you to read the book to learn more.

Q: How does your book differ from other books on greenhouse design and management?


It spans 30 years of trial and error, and includes the story of my work improving prototypes. Working with Michael Thompson, my architect partner in Eco Systems Design, we have upgraded systems which were originally small-scale here at Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI) to bring them up to a commercial level. In the book, we feature different case studies of greenhouse design””some for “the 1%” and some for “the 99%.” Most of the greenhouses here at CRMPI are built using primarily salvaged materials, showing readers that greenhouse projects are attainable on a shoestring if need be, and presenting the range of options available to them.


Q: What features in the book will readers find most useful?


The chapter “A Tour of the Ark,” and the many case studies.


Q: What tips or advice do you have for those wanting to emulate your greenhouse designs?


They should read the book, find what fits their budget and space, and just build it! If they need extra guidance they can hire my company, Eco Systems Design, as a consultant (http://www.ecosystems-design.com). They can also take a tour or attend a workshop at CRMPI, and watch videos on CRMPI’s website (http://crmpi.org/media/videos).



What is next on the horizon for you in terms of greenhouse design and management?


We want to experiment with a wider variety of tropical fruits. We plan to phase out some of the initial plantings in our tropical greenhouse, Phoenix, in order to increase diversity. For example, I just brought back five new tropical woody plants from Exotica Rare Fruit Nursery in Vista, CA: lychee, cherimoya, Surinam cherry, strawberry guava, and Rio Grande cherry.

WIN A COPY OF “The Forest Garden Greenhouse“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, June 4, 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What would you grow in an indoor tropical greenhouse?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)






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  • suraj patidar
    Comment added December 22, 2017Reply

    Thanks for sharing this kind of information that improves the knowledge about greenhouse nursery.
    Papaya(Papita) plant

  • Lin
    Comment added July 7, 2017Reply

    Thanks so much - I can't wait to receive my book!

  • Landon Vaughn
    Comment added May 30, 2017Reply

    With living in Iowa, I would grow avocados, lemons, limes, and experiment with growing other type of tropical fruits and vegetables.

  • Ann Marie Mones
    Comment added May 29, 2017Reply

    Wow! I am so glad you shared this post and giveaway. You have inspired so many ideas floating around in my head. I already extend my growing season in New England, all the way into January with make shift protective tunnels built from plastic sheeting, narrow pvc pipe, and duct tape. I plan on retiring in the not too distant future, and head further north. I already plan to have a sauna, and the idea of using some of that heat to keep my green house warm never occurred to me. I like the idea of repurposing things, and I really would love to be able to grow year round and include some tropicals!

  • Marija RumiÅ¡ek
    Comment added May 29, 2017Reply

    Here in Croatia (at my region) is impossible to keep lemons, and other citrus plants outside most of the year so there is a struggle every summer with dragging it out. And I would transfer pineapples and avocado from my house to greenhouse. :)

    Comment added May 28, 2017Reply

    I would love to grow tropical fruit especially pineapples

  • Lin
    Comment added May 28, 2017Reply

    I moved to Texas from Florida, and I really miss some of the tropical fruit that I grew there. I would grow surinam cherry and quince, as well as some tropical ornamentals.

  • Joanna
    Comment added May 28, 2017Reply

    It sounds interesting to me. I would grow all my tropical plants and maybe some new ones that I do not have room for now.

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