Canadian Renegade

Renegade: an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior

Author: Aimee Kozun

Cold Climate Permaculture Plants: Sea Buckthorn


In the first edition of Permaculture Plants, I will be discussing one of the hardiest and most versatile shrubs that I know of, Sea Buckthorn! I have wanted to do a permaculture plants series for awhile but have been putting it off like a homework assignment for some unknown reason.

In this series, I will mainly be focusing on temperate permaculture plants, not only because I am already more familiar with them but because our property will be able to directly benefit from the additional research I will be conducting; many of the plants I will be highlighting will be utilized on our homestead.

Now, with the introduction out of the way, on to the plants!

Sea Buckthorn


Common Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), also known as Seaberry is an extremely versatile, large, nitrogen fixing shrub that is native to Europe and Asia. They have slender silvery green leaves, dense thorny branches and an equally dense root system, making them great for stabilizing loose soils. They are dioecious, which means there are both male and female plants.

Currently, Sea Buckthorn is most densely distributed in China, where there are large areas of both wild and cultivated plants. Because many of its many useful attributes, it is gaining a wider distribution in other countries like Canada. They will grow in a multitude of conditions, from sandy and dry to moist clay soils. In the wild, Sea Buckthorn can be found in coastal areas, along rivers and also in rocky mountainous areas and it is cold hardy from USDA zone 2b to 7.

Sea Buckthorn has a high saline and pollution tolerance making it ideal for repairing the most damaged soils. Historically, they have been used to help stabilize sand dunes on the eastern coasts of the United Kingdom and, in some areas, have continued to spread to the point of being considered invasive. Now, that is my type of plant!


This Sea Buckthorn thicket is located on a large median in Edmonton

I have noticed that they are often planted around Edmonton as ornamental shrubs near parking lots or in road medians where they would be exposed to saline, from the winter road salting, and plenty of exhaust pollution from all the heavy traffic. They seem to perform beautifully despite these harsh conditions.


The most obvious reason for growing Sea Buckthorn would be for the extremely abundant berries which, rightfully, can be considered a super food. These berries are absolutely packed with nutrition; containing extremely high concentrations of vitamin C as well as A, E, K and other nutrients. They also contain the full host of Omega fatty acids—3, 6, 7 and 9. There are named varieties of Sea Buckthorn that have been cultivated for significantly larger berries.


The berries can be a bit difficult to pick because they don’t easily detach from the branch and tend to be damaged in the process. Due to this, and the berries extremely tart flavor, they are often used in juices, jams and other preserves rather than for fresh eating. They are also a popular ingredient in natural cosmetics due to the high levels of omega fatty acids and anti-oxidants.

The leaves of the plant can also be used as a medicinal tea. They have a mild green tea like flavor and have been shown in a couple of studies to have anti-oxidant and liver protective qualities. The leaves also contain up to 24% protein making them a great livestock feed. In fact, the first part of Sea Buckthorns Latin name Hippophae loosely translates to “shining horse.” The ancient Greeks supposedly fed the leaves to their horses to impart a shiny coat.

Sea Buckthorn can grow anywhere from 10-20 feet tall and are considered a large to extra large shrub. They would fit into many permaculture designs in layer 2 (sub canopy) or layer 3 (shrub layer) and make a great companion plant or guild plant because they are nitrogen fixing and will enrich the surrounding soil. Caution needs to be taken that they aren’t shaded out too much because they do prefer full sun and may not perform well in heavy shade. Due to their thorny nature, they also make great perimeter or boundary plants if planted in tight rows.

Growing Conditions, Propagation, and Maintenance

As already mentioned, Sea Buckthorn can thrive in a variety of conditions. They prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. They can also tolerate both dry to wet soils as long as the soils are well drained, and can tolerate a wide range in soil pH, from 5.5 to 8.5.

Both male and female plants are needed for fruit production and the most efficient ratios of male/female plants are said to be 1/8-10. Pollination occurs by wind only so strategic placement of the male plants in relation to the females might lead to greater production. Fruiting occurs most on two year old branches so if you are interested in maximum production some pruning could be beneficial.

loaded seaberry bush

Look how these small plants are just loaded with berries!

Sea Buckthorn can be propagated in a variety of ways: by seed, soft or hard wood cuttings, layering, and also by transplanting suckers. If you decide to start from seed you may need to wait several years before the plants are large enough to be able to identify their sex. The seeds will yield approximately 50% male and female plants so if planted in the ground some of the males may need to be removed and replaced with females to maximize fruit production.


Living in a Tiny House: A Year in Review

Without a shadow of a doubt, there are some incredibly innovative and well designed tiny houses being built around the globe. We often find ourselves watching videos of these beautifully crafted and cozy tiny houses from our own humble abode.  We also find ourselves pausing from time to time to ponder is that really practical? Sometimes the answer is an obvious no, and other times the answer is it depends on your lifestyle, or how you’re using that tiny home. Some tiny houses appear to completely lack storage solutions, food prep areas, or basic necessities. But all of these choices could make sense if you’re on the move, you enjoy minimalist living, you live in an urban area where food is readily available, or other lifestyle factors. What these decisions really boil down to is what works for the home owner. This is also the most beautiful part of tiny living – the myriad of creative solutions waiting to be discovered!

Even so, when we see a tiny house that doesn’t make sense to us, we itch for that year-in-review episode to see if the design really was effective or if they would make changes. With that in mind, we decided to do our own year in review. We’ve been in our quaint mini mansion for a year now, and we’ve experienced it in all four Canadian seasons. We really wanted to be honest about what worked well and what didn’t. Would we make different decisions if we had to do it all over again? Probably. Do we regret building and living in a tiny house? Not at all! Take a look at what we discovered.

A Complete Review of the Splendide 2100XC – Washer/Dryer Combo
Fixing the Splendide 2100XC – Washer/Dryer Combo

A special thank you to Sustainable Me for granting us access to additional footage of our tiny house. See more about the Sustainable Me project here:

Skirting the Tiny House

Our original plan was to use spray foam under the trailer to seal up any remaining cracks where our foam insulation wasn’t able to reach. Unfortunately, winter crept up on us and before long we needed an alternate solution. As a temporary solution, we decided to skirt the house with UV protected foam insulation boards. Skirting the house would allow us to retain more heat  under the house by blocking drifting snow and cold air. Our water bladder for the house sits under our center floor, just above the trailer and we wanted to take precautionary measures to ensure the water lines, and the bladder itself, didn’t freeze as the temperatures dropped. We’ve since encountered two back to back weeks of frigid temperatures and can say, with a sign of relief, that our lines have remained open and our water bladder has remained liquid. The extreme cold snap did bring us a few other challenges, but you’ll have to stay tuned to read about those.


Paper Bag Flooring Tutorial

Choosing the flooring for the tiny house was another calculated decision. We had to think about sub-flooring, material weight, loss of head space and durability during transport. Luckily, my mom is a rather handy do-it-yourselfer who is always exploring practical and creative home improvement projects. She’d come across an article about paperbag flooring and the various techniques in which it could be applied. She had acquired a large roll of brown packing paper and had cut plank strips, then used a wood textured roller to stain each one. Using this method she was able to make her floor appear as though it was hardwood. We decided this light weight and cost effective method was one to be explored. We discovered a method of ripping and crumpling the paper which gave the floor a beautiful leather appearance and were sold on the idea. My mom did a few test boards for us to help us decide on how dark we wanted the floor, then she came over with her supplies and gave us a tutorial on the process. We spent a day together finishing the kitchen. Aimee’s mom came over another weekend and helped her tackle the removable floors pieces. Finally, Aimee took on the bathroom, stairs and remaining bits of floor. Each time I would come in and seal the floor with polyurethane. Overall we invested 25 – 30 hours into the floor, but we are happy with how it looks and how it’s held up in durability. Tune in to our tutorial for the step by step process.


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