Canadian Renegade

Renegade: an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior

Category: Permaculture (page 1 of 3)

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.


Mail Order Trees Part 3 and Blog Update

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long sabbatical from this blog, my life has been crazy to say the least. Dealing with a full time job, and twins has definitely kept mt hands full. I have also been blogging on a platform called Steemit which you may want to check out to see what else I have been up to.

This video was taken in August and it was scorching hot outside. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my camera was overheating until after I shot the video and I didn’t have time to retake it that day. Hopefully the video distortions aren’t too distracting.

How I started Elm Trees from seed for Free!

In this video, I re-pot Elm trees that I started from seed last year. During the process I talk about what I did to start them which was really easy and, now that I think about it, everything I used to start them was free! Seeds from gutters, reused pots and regular garden soil were all the supplies I used for this project.

Planting Test Trees on the Homestead

In this video, I plant a variety of trees on our new homestead. Unfortunately, I don’t really have much time to spare this year for messing around with trees, instead I am more focused the yard site, my brothers wedding and our impending twins. Still, I wanted to get a wide variety of trees into the ground to see which do well.

Unpacking Mail Order Trees

In a previous video, I reviewed a few nurseries I was interested in buying trees from online. With all the other things going on this year, I only ordered from two of them. The trees finally arrived and when I unpacked them I noticed differences in how the nurseries packed their trees. In this video, I discuss what I thought of the packing and shipping of the two companies and get started on planting.

Mike’s Fence Project

With the arrival of the babies getting closer, we have been extremely busy. So much so that we spent the prior weekend vehicle shopping and finally purchased a mini van but at the expense of not having the time or energy to get our usual Tuesday video out. This last weekend, I spent an afternoon helping my brother mark a fence line and clear brush and I figured that would be a great opportunity to quickly film an interesting video. Things were going great until I checked my footage at the end of recording and discovered the mic had been off the entire time. Still, it was a fun day hanging out with friends and having a few beers. I managed to salvage the video with a voice over but it would have been more entertaining had the audio been captured.

PVWatts Tutorial

Here is a quick tutorial of the online solar planning tool PVWatts. This tool will help you gain a better understanding of the actual solar power that can be generated on your site and it’s FREE!

PVWatts Calculator

We Visit the Homestead to Pick a Yard Site


Matthew records the stream flow after the spring thaw. 2017

This past weekend we decided to take another look at the property during the spring thaw. We wanted to get a better idea of where water was flowing and pooling on the property so we could not only determine future potential pond locations but also design our driveway and yard site to be free of water issues. Hastily made driveways and yards often end up having water issues that are not seen until well after the work is done which can make rectifying the problem can be expensive and time consuming. We want to avoid this error.

We have a plan to keep our driveway as close to on contour as possible to avoid creating mud holes or areas that are susceptible to erosion during extreme weather events. Not having a steep grade also means less chances of getting stuck while getting into or out of the property during the winter months; steep driveways can be almost impossible to traverse when icy. As we walked along what will most likely be the driveway path, we identified one area where water appears to accumulate. Having the driveway cross this area will probably prevent  proper drainage, so we will have to take this into consideration when planning our final design.

The yard site itself will be up on one of the hills on the property next to established trees. Normally, building up on a hill can be problematic because you are exposing your house to the wind. While you may end up with a great view, the wind can be really annoying when you want to be active outside and makes miserable winter days feel so much colder. Additionally, leaving a house open to the wind can create unnecessary heat loss. Luckily, this location already has quite a few trees for shelter. If we clear out a small pocket within the existing trees we should be sheltered from almost all directions especially the prevailing north and northwest winds. With the tree coverage and driveway length this area offers sufficient privacy from the road.

After noting our building site observations, we checked out some of the valley lines we had identified from the topographic maps we created of the property. These valleys, while not showing visible signs of erosion, funnel a large amount of water and would be prime areas to build dams and create ponds in the future.


How To Create a Printable Topographic Map in ArcGIS Pro

In this video I demonstrate how to create a combination, aerial and topographic, map in ArcGIS Pro quickly and easily. I then go through the steps needed to create a printable layout for the map in any size you like.

My First Topo Map Tutorial

How to make a FREE Topographic Map for Permaculture Design

A while back I heard that you could use topographic maps in the design process of a permaculture farm which sounded to me like a great idea! Since we bought our homestead back in October, I have been looking for quality topographic maps of the land with little success. One place I looked into was While they allow you to purchase topographic maps in print or as a digital file at a reasonable price, unfortunately, they didn’t offer the type of detail on their maps that I needed for planning our farm.

After spending a significant amount of time searching for detailed topographic maps, I came across one by ESRI which is very detailed and useful but what I really wanted was a map with satellite imagery overlapping the topographic lines so I could also see where existing trees and structures were.

Eventually, I came across a mapping program called ArcGIS that had the functionality to overlay these two types of maps. They have a free 60 day trial which means you can probably get maps of your property for free! When I set out, my intention wasn’t to get to get free maps but it sure is nice. If you plan on getting into permaculture design consulting ArcGIS looks like an invaluable mapping tool that is worth paying for. I played around with the program for 3-4 hours and barely scratched the surface of its capabilities!

Here is a brief tutorial on how to make topographic maps of your property using ArcGIS Pro. These maps can be used to get a better understanding of the water and energy flows on a property and give a different perspective than you get from the ground. Permaculture designs can be applied directly to the maps by hand or potentially designed right in ArcGIS although I haven’t learned all the features needed to do this yet.

**Update** I have a better tutorial for making a map here. You may still want to watch this video as there is a bit of information not covered in the second video.

**Update** In the video I mention that 1:6000 is the best detail on the topographic maps but 1:2000 actually provides better detail (1 meter elevation lines!) so even more detail than I originally thought which means it will be useful for even smaller properties!

This is the level of detail available. 1m contour lines.

Having maps like this will allow you to understand your land better and think about where roads, swales, trees, structures and ponds would be best located during the planning stage of your permaculture design. Of course, when the actual work is to be done a ground survey will be necessary.


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