The priority here is to ensure enough moisture and warmth.

Getting moisture into the plants and keeping them from losing it requires watchfulness and strategy. Soil life is likely to be limited by both cold and drought. Inoculating wih beneficial fungi and bacteria will help, but you must give them food (compost, mulch) and water to create a soil community that is diverse and productive. Compost tea contains it all. The life in the soil will feed your plants.


Earthen walls and swales—or even little furrows, bands of mulch, or wood buried in the ground—can harvest water and create warmer microclimates to transform a dry barren spot. See resources.


Most cold and dry places are in the mountains, and have short growing seasons. Plant shelters and protection like coldframes, hoophouses, and row covers really come into their own here. Short-season varieties are key, also. Mulch can retain heat at the end of a warm spell, but if the soil hasn’t warmed up, mulch can shade it too much.


Shelter from wind is critical. Hedges, walls, buildings, and temporary barriers (even cardboard) will prevent wind chill for your plants just as they do for you. Create sun traps that are open to the sun in the south but enclosed to trap heat. Rock (or water barrels)can be a gardeners best friend in this climate, storing heat during the day to radiate it at night. Terraces and walls can create a microclimate that is like moving to another climate zone. Make walls (rock/wood/soil) that wiggle, and plant in the niches created by the curves.

Resources:
Sepp Holtzer’s Permaculture by Sepp Holtzer
Rainwater Harvesting by Brad Lancaster
Four-season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
Desert or Paradise by Sepp Holtzer
Sepp Holtzer’s Permaculture by Sepp Holtzer
Rainwater Harvesting by Brad Lancaster
Four-season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
Desert or Paradise by Sepp Holtzer

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