How To Grow Tropical Plants In Impossibly Cold Climates – Jerome Osentowski








Great Big Ideas & Takeaways:

  • Secrets for growing citrus, bananas, papaya, lychees, and more—in harsh climates!
  • How to keep a tropical climate in your greenhouse.
  • 5 ways to heat a greenhouse in winter.
  • An introduction to climate battery technology.
  • The excellent space-saving place to “hide” your worm farm!
  • The subterranean heating & cooling system: how it works.
  • Building your own heat-retaining rock walls.
  • Live demos of Jerome’s compost tea machines & aquaponics.

About The Speaker:

A forager and permaculturist with roots in rural Nebraska, Jerome Osentowski lives in a passive solar home he built at 7,200 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. Among his many accomplishments is hosting the longest-running Permaculture Design Course in the world, now at thirty years running.


QUESTION: Have you ever tried growing in a greenhouse? Are you thinking about adding a greenhouse to your property? Why or why not? Have you ever tried growing anything tropical? What worked and what didn’t? Leave your thoughts below.



  1. Jon

    I think I saw a bit of eden in that garden. One of the more impressive things I have seen in a long time. I thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Jo, YOu should go over to visit Jerome, it is an amazing place. Whew, and it take real nerves to drive the road up there… crazy, but fun. Not for those with vertigo.

  2. Marjory WIldcraft

    Just curious for everyone watching, do you have a greenhouse and live in a cold climate? How do you heat your greenhouse?

    1. Inge Leonora-den Ouden

      I don’t have a real greenhouse, but my living room (large window facing south-east) serves as my greenhouse. I live in the Netherlands, the climate here is not really cold, but difficult because of many clouded, rainy days throughout the year.

    2. lk

      live at 7000 ft in Wyoming two green houses 55 gallon drums filled with used paint act as heat sinks grow every thing as hanging pots or in horse troughs

      1. Kani

        We are also in WY at 7000 ft. Where are you?

    3. Jon

      I see some people not happy that may of purchased the pass. I can kind of see that.

      However, I have watched all the presentations today and I almost have hand cramps typing names, sites, uses, you name it.

      While these are not classes, I did not feel I would see one as this is a talk. For me, two different things.

      Long story short, my mind is happy in its spin from the days talks and I am certainly inspired by much of what I seen.

      Perspectives as well. For a knowledgeable person this is likely not that special for someone like myself. It is new and shiny and welcome.

    4. Andy Crossland

      Yes in Gettysburg. Out door wood stove and propane back up.

  3. Cecilia

    Thank you. That was very inspiring. It is a relief to see that we have people like yourself preserving essential food sources and with so much passion and knowledge.

    I’m so excited that you purchased a lemon plant from Lowes. I’ve been looking around here in southern Ontario, Canada.

  4. Celeste

    We live in the Rockies, and have greenhouses filled with tropical fruits, vegetables, and spices from around the world. At Shepherds Heart Farm we break the rules for cold weather growing 🙂 Ask the folks who visited on the local garden tour!

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Hi Celeste, wow, so you are doing this too? WHich part of the ROckies are you in? How do you heat your greenhouse?

      1. lk

        not sure there is a celeste or a Shepard’s heart farm. could be wrong

  5. Donna

    Great presentation! Thank you!

  6. linda

    what is the nito tree? morninga? how about nitro plant? comfy?

  7. Linda

    Just curious how all of these get pollinated without bees.

    1. Jerome

      We leave All cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) windows and doors open, plus upper vents. Lots of pollinator plants inside and around to attract. They are here.

  8. Mary

    I would love to build one of these on my rural property homestaed in central Minnesota. Does Jerome allow people to visit?????

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Yes, he has tours all the time. And classes too. I took his forest gardening workshop which was excellent.

    2. Jerome

      Yes, we bring in people for paid tours and can answer questions along the way. We also will be holding some 2day workshops and 4 day workshops. Please see our website:

  9. Jean-Guy

    Looking at building a greenhouse …. great ideas 🙂

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      We offer consulting as well, see:

  10. Michael

    Thank you so much.

  11. Larry

    No doubt we will do this in Oregon very soon

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      awesome, be sure to send in updates on your progress to the Grow Network!

  12. doroian

    I have a place at 6600 feet, does get cold and snow. Lots of wind various times. Looking for a good green house that can stand up to this kind of weather. recommendations?

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Doroian, those sound like very similar conditions to Jermores. Why not contact Jeromre directly? You can get to his webiste by clicking on the banner next to the video.

    2. Jerome Osentowski

      We offer consulting as well, see:

  13. TRISH

    Some summits have a 48 hr view versus 24 hrs. What say you?

  14. Rochelle

    Amazing work, it’s really inspiring. Thank you.

  15. Diann

    This is so very inspiring! The sound quality was poor, but the inspiration made me hang on to every word. Rating it (for the inspiration) a 5 star.

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      Thanks for hanging in there.

  16. Seadonna

    I was also wondering about pollination….

  17. Kat

    Just saw the presentation. While what’s being grown is impressive, I have no idea how to build the greenhouse, what the parameters should be, how to pollinate in the dead of winter, and on. A lovely tour, really short on useable info on a greenhouse creation.

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      The engineering of a greenhouse requires much more than a talk. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things. My book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse goes into the details of planning and building.


    2. Marjory WIldcraft

      Hi Kat, Yes, is is an overview to show you what is possible. We will have Jerome back in future Summit to drill down into the nitty gritty.

  18. thomas

    The videos do not seem to function. Using Chrome.

    1. Jimerson

      Hey Thomas! Would you be able to try using a different browser, or possibly updating your Chrome?

  19. Jean Schumer

    Great presenation. Looking forward to reading Jerome’s book and finding out more about constructing the subterranean heating and cooling system and the rock wall cages.

  20. Sue

    I agree with Kat…a great tour and inspiring operation but lacking in the “how to” as titled. A link to the book would have been helpful, too.

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      The engineering of a greenhouse requires much more than a talk. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things. My book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse goes into the details of planning and building.


      1. Marjory WIldcraft

        Hi Jerome, so glad to see you online!

  21. ron klinefelter

    I was at his farm 30 years ago, and it was impressive then. But, I sure wish you had included a couple of minutes of outside shots and of the greenhouse as a whole. This entire presentation was done in little spaces inside the greenhouse, so you never got the totality of it’s size and configuration

  22. Bruce

    How do you pollinate the plants inside the greenhouse?

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      We leave all cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) windows and doors open, plus upper vents. Lots of pollinator plants inside and around to attract. They are here.

  23. Diana

    It would have been nice to have a few outside shots so that one could get an idea of the scale of the operation. But now I’m inspired.

  24. Jim Whittington

    Very impressive, but I am curious what the initial capital cost budget would need to be to try to create something like this. Obviously, land, material and construction costs vary around the country, but for someone just starting out, do you have any feedback on this?

    Also, how do you remove heavy snow off of the greenhouse roof?

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      We used a lot of upcycled materials – always on the lookout for things people are throwing away.

      The snow slides off for the most part.

  25. Melissa

    I am planning an earth sheltered greenhouse here in western PA. I am thrilled to have found you as a new resource!! There is so much information here to explore. I am planning to visit family in Colorado Springs the first week of December. Are there any events this time of year that I could attend at your farm? Thank you for sharing this information with the rest of us “Wanna Be’s”!

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      Great to hear it Melissa! Unfortunately CRMPI closes to the public during the winter months as we are indundated with snow and the road here is rather dangerous in the winter. Hope you can visit in the summer some day.

  26. Carla LeBlanc

    what do you think about having a compost pile in your greenhouse or maybe a rocket stove for heat? I think we are going to try it out.

  27. Carla LeBlanc

    oh and thanks for the great video!!

  28. Debbie

    Someday I would like to grow some warm-climate plants on a small scale, or at least extend my very short growing season with a greenhouse, but the cost of heating an adequate space seems prohibitive. I am interested in knowing the approximate dimensions of the greenhouse in the video and how much it costs to heat for a year.

  29. Melanie Ware

    What an inspiring tease!!! I have been dreaming of a citrus, fig and avocado greenhouse for as long as I have lived in Idaho! What a great way to take care of the winter blues as well! Loved it!

    1. Diana Duke

      Melanie, hi! I am in Sandpoint,id and I just started a semi-tropical sun room….I have figs that are already producing….bought in the spring. Also, trying oranges, lemons and limes…..avocados and pomegranates to follow if all goes well… I hope the sun comes out soon…

      Where are you in Idaho?

      1. Sharon Porter

        Hi Diana – its Sharon! Glad to see you here 🙂

  30. Devan

    None of the videos will play on my ipad! I’m not sure why because my internet is working (I’m getting emails and can watch YouTube and such). Is anyone else having this problem? I really don’t want to miss out on these great speakers today!

    1. Jimerson

      Hi Devan! I apologize about your video playback issues! I consulted with our video host and it seems older versions of iOS might have issues playing the videos (since apple devices don’t support Flash). Are you able to update your device, or possibly watch on another machine?

  31. Caroline

    A lot to cover in a very short amount of time. Lots of questions come up, as others have indicated. It is a wonderful project, but not really enough information here to even have an idea of where to start. A little longer presentation would have been helpful (I think, unless there is so much more to tell that it would cause further curiosity and confusion!)

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      Yes, a bit too much information to cover. There are more videos on youtube. For indepth information about greenhouses you can refer to my book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse.


  32. Raoul Yumul

    I am an Asian living in Canada and this presentation makes one dream of cultivating tropical plants here in this cold country. It is a dream but after watching the presentation is no longer a pipe dream.Thanks,glad to see and be a part of the presentation.

  33. Willow

    Greetings! Thank you for this presentation. Jerome: Is there any type of animal manure that you prefer over another (i.e. goat or chicken vs horse or cow, etc…)? Do you control weeds by mulching? Do you include pine needles in your mulch? How often do you need to replace your greenhouse plastic (or do you use the hard plastic sheets rather than the rolled out plastic)? Thanks much!

    1. Jerome Osentowski

      We prefer our chicken and rabbit manures as we know they are safe. This summer we trucked in a load of horse manure that turned out to be contaminated with biocides and wiped out several of our newly planted swale projects.

      Basically we will take any of them so long as we are sure they are free of biocides, not so easy though.

      Yes, we mulch a lot and also maintain a diversity of plants to fill in the gaps. Some things stick around, some things don’t do so well and we phase them out.

      My book will have more information on the different greenhouse materials and their pros and cons.


      1. LK

        Jill – The Prairie Homestead in chugwater (Wyoming ) lost all her tomatoes this year for the same reason ugg it’s everywhere (almost)

  34. Jason

    This is my first video that I have watched. I hope that the other videos are more educational. This was a tease to buy his book. I paid to have unlimited access. I hope I didn’t pay good money to have unlimited access to commercials.

  35. Diana Duke

    Jerome, Thank you for all of the ideas…..we have an urban homestead here in Sandpoint, Idaho and we raise bunnies and ducks. I am going to incorporate that worm bin walkway! I am all about stacking functions…my favorite principal of permaculture..

    I am buying your book and I look forward to joining you this spring at one of your workshops!

    Great presentation!

    1. lk

      my home town Sandpoint did they ever build the bypass

  36. Ken Staton

    The day #1 video doesn’t play.
    What is wrong?

    1. Jimerson

      Hi ken, we’ve had a couple people that haven’t been able to play the video today. The common problem seemed to be slow internet connection or outdated web browser, although sometimes just a browser refresh seemed to help!

  37. Diana Duke

    Wow, people….. Gratitude please. I am ashamed at some of these comments. No sure what you can expect in a 20 minute video…the Taj mahal, perhaps. People always want a quick fix. Building a green house is a big undertaking..if you want something easy buy one on amazon.

    Sorry, butvI have to voice my opinion. I felt it was full of good information and I am appreciative of Jerome’s teachings. Thank you.

    1. Jason

      I was sold the fact that I would learn something. I was never told that the video would only be 20 minutes. I would agree that the concepts, efforts and results are way cool but I paid nearly $100 based on the fact the I would learn something. That is the issue. It is never good to over sell and under deliver. It is always better to do the opposite.

      1. Diana Duke

        I think that would be something to take up with the organizers. Not as an issue with the presentation or presenter.

      2. Bill

        I have to agree with you 100%. The things that were listed that we would learn ‘how to’ we did not except for the earth worm walkways and it wasn’t clear if they were the typical red wrigglers or exactly how and what they were fed if at all or whether they just ate the mulch and fallen fruit. The rest of the expected list of how to’s were not much more of a ‘this is it’ kind of intro. NOT Jerome’s fault just overhype I think.

    2. Marjory WIldcraft

      Thank you Diana, I appreciate you balance tone here. We work very hard to offer good info.

  38. frankie

    Hawaiian papaya is GMO. Hard to find non-GMO tropical fruits in Hawaii. So sad.

  39. Jacqui

    Awesome presentation! I live in the Cascade Mts where we get lots of snow so my makeshift greenhouses are taken down each year and put back in early spring.Everything has to be fenced in because of animals but I’m able to extend my season much longer and grow so many things. Sure love your setup and would like to know how to make that 50 gal.tea for gardens. Is it in your book? Thanks for sharing.

  40. Malcolm

    Hi Jerome,

    Long time follower of your videos Great presentation.

    2 questions.

    I have experimented with compost tea before and may not have got optimal aeration but I now question the value in an already high functioning permaculture system (that one would assume is already rich in the bacteria and fungi a good compost tea multiplies) I know you talk about problem solving with sprays and deep root application but I’d be interested in how much value you think it adds.

    Second question is about the economic value of a tropical greenhouse – I know we all love to push the micro climate boundaries outside but especially here in a cool maritime zone 9 – 10 I wonder about the return on the investment (and yes I do realise once built it costs very little to run)

    Thanks again

  41. Joy

    Good overview information here. Have a greenhouse and cold frames here in central Texas, with a walkway similar to yours that I will now turn into a worm bin walkway. Also good tip on the lab lab bean overstory. Never thought of the three story usage in my GH. Canopy story to bring down temps, wow! Many ideas here to do further research on–thanks so much.

  42. Joy

    Also, you mentioned a pellet stove. Do these require an outside vent in greenhouse? Currently use propane and electric heaters but want cheaper source. Am very excited about your book.

  43. Dawn Rae

    How inspiring! Thank you Jerome. I want to build a greenhouse when I move to my land. I love the compost and worm garden floor on yours! I have a meyer lemon tree in my apartment kitchen that flowers beautifully but I’m not yet successful with getting mature fruit. Yet. I loved this!

  44. Fran

    video never downloaded

    1. Jimerson

      Howdy Fran! Please try refreshing your browser or trying an alternate browser and see if the video will load!

  45. Alicia

    I am looking to build this, where can we find the technical information?
    Thanks so much for this beautiful realisation

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      I would recommend you get in touch with Jerome. Perhaps his book? I haven’t yet gotten a copy of his book myself. I was lucky to spend a week there doing a workshop. Much better than a book. 🙂

  46. Anna

    You’ve created my dream greenhouse, and probably that of many many others, Jerome! Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational garden.

  47. Mary

    Lychees don’t have thorns and they have elongated leaves, not rounded. Have never eaten one that I would describe as apricot like. 10:24

  48. steve

    Very inspiring!
    Mentioned building a 60 gal. compost tea setup “from the internet”.
    Where can I see that info?
    We have a small greenhouse in No. CA we built from a Harbor Freight kit.
    Haven’t done too much on the heating and cooling yet, but it’s great for early starts and late harvests.

  49. Sandy

    We are working on our first solar greenhouse, 16 ft. zip-tie and UV rated plastic type. We are in zone 3, figured we would need heat, are setting up a smallish rocket mass heat system for it. For this one, we will be happy if our tomato seedlings, a few potted herbs and winter veggies survive until late spring. Hearing about all those tropical fruits has us very excited. I, and I think Marjory too, had hoped to hear the term “cacao”, and since some of the fruits Jerry grows are from higher altitudes in SE Asia, I wonder if he has tried atemoya, a (dwarf?) form of green sapote, and nut trees n general. A coconut grove would be a very pleasant place to hang out, especially with some stephanotis and vanilla orchid to enhance the atmosphere!

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Hi Sandy,

      LOL, you’ve got that right! I would have loved to see cacao growing. Cacao is a tough one as it can survival down to about 40 deg F, but it needs to stay above 60 deg F to successfully fruit. That level of consistent warmth is tough.
      But yes we can dream, huh? SO how many BTU’s does a chicken throw off? grin.

  50. Veronica Vatter

    I’m super jealous

  51. Shivani

    We are in Wisconsin, where it’s often -20 and sometimes -25 in winter. We added a small, attached greenhouse to a “missing corner” at the S. corner of our house. Earth blocks were added to the two walls towsrd the house. The roof is metal, keeping the sun out in summer. We don’t heat it in any way, but enough heat is stored in the earth blocks and stone walkway that the soil never freezes. Greens started in late fall spring into rapid growth in March. A door and window open into the dining area of our house, so on sunny days in cold weather we can cool the greenhouse and warm the house by opening the door and/or window. The outdoor end of the greenhouse has a door and there are also two little vent doors that I open as needed, one low, one high, for ventilation and cooling as needed. There is an ll-inch wide shelf running around two sides that is great for starting seedlings in spring. We started with a load from an old cattle manure pile and it brought i chickweed, which turned out to be a good thing as it can take a lot of cold so provides our first spring greens and good ground cover whenever an opening for it occurs.

    1. Debbie

      Thanks! You’re talking more in my temperature range (northern VT). It’s encouraging to know that some things can still grow where the winters are actually cold, without supplemental heat. Maybe I will forget about tropical for now and just be content with starting seedlings to get a head start in the spring.

  52. Noralene Ballou

    I’m just in awe! I live in south Texas under a canopy of Oak trees. The soil is very acidic. lots of oak leaves. Not sure what to do with it. There’s not a lot of light. I’m considering aquaponics. We already have baby chicks and have worms on order. If only I had the skills to do aa little of what Jerome has done.

  53. Marisa

    I also live in Colorado and built my first small greenhouse last year. I would have like to know more about the building itself–what materials it uses. I’m trying all kinds of things to keep the warmth in–made a “solar panel” from 100 pop cans painted black, put a cold frame inside the greenhouse, experimenting with mylar walls versus brick walls, etc. Hope to visit CRMPI next summer!

  54. Joe in Missouri

    Disappointed in that very little practical info was provided on how to use the earth to moderate greenhouse temps.
    That was the first question I had when I saw the title, and it was never answered.

  55. Shar

    Thank you Marjory, for including Jerome! I am nearing my 74th year, and do not have the ways or means to create such a masterpiece, Jerome, but I wanted to thank you for showing me around and telling me about it. I had a wonderful time learning new things. I have always worked hard to grow food and I love working in the dirt, and making do with what others would throw away. I feel somewhat validated by what you have done with cast-offs and ingenuity and the knowledge you possess. Your enthusiasm was contagious! I am happy for you, that you can enjoy the fruits of your labors. I feel inspired and grateful..

  56. Ken

    Hey Marjorie,

    You really should be more responsive to the criticisms here.

    Your title is deceiving and folks have legitimate concerns about what you are delivering compared to what you are advertising. The title should be “a tour through Jerome’s greenhouse and a promo for his book.” Except for about 3 superficial minutes out of this 25 minute video, there is only info about a tour of tropical plants in a tropical environment, not how to create a tropical environment in a cold climate which is what you implied.

    In the comments, Jerome keeps saying to read his book to get the details but at Amazon the critiques say that he hasn’t got the details only more “inspiration” and stories about his experiences. All the good reviews proclaim the inspiration angle and all the bad reviews complain about no details. Same as what we see here in this video.

    You could have made a video all about his overall greenhouse, his heating systems, something about how to and how long to install them, how much they cost to construct and maintain, dealing with winter crises that will crop up… And also something about how much quantity and how valuable the produce is for how long it takes to get a return on your investment if commercial production is your interest…compared to “gentleman farming (hobbying)” that tends to be what most permaculturists practice and what this appears to be. That could all be done in a 25 minute video like this one and still be a much better promo to go buy Jerome’s book to get the details – if he had included them in his book – and for your $100 video series.

    As it is, you should be more honest with your demographic that you are catering to beginners who don’t know much and want inspiration for what they “might do someday” but no delivery to anyone who wants and needs detailed info about any aspect of organic gardening and farming.

    This is the first video in this series that I have looked at because it sounded like it would be something useful that I could learn something about, compared to the rest of this initial offering. Just the time I spent watching it is valuable to me and this video didn’t give me a return on my time investment, especially since I could have gotten better results by looking up free youtubes, which is what Jerome is recommending in one of his unresponsive responses.

    Marjorie, I get that you want to be a media minicelebrity arbiter or filter for the movers and shakers in the “movement” and their techniques, but you have invested plenty in media production values while neglecting “content”. What is going to distinguish you from the permaculture “royalty” of Paul Wheaton and Jeff Lawton, those bloviators of permaculture media superficiality, if you don’t have anything more substantial to offer? Yes, I may actually watch your videos of them for free when you release them, but only for exercising my eyerolling muscles, not gleaning any useful information.

    But you know… this has been a campaign year and my eyebrows are lately Neanderthalean, and not something those two doofusroyals are likely to influence.

    Thanks Ken

    1. Cristy

      This is some valid critiquing. While I loved Jeromes charm and loathed Marjories tiresome narrative at the beginning, I am thankful to not have paid money for the privilege.
      I am finding that I am being inspired but nay there is nigh education. I have to seek this knowledge with further research and time.

      The nostalgia is great, but more content and detail is a must if you are asking people to spend their hard earned cash on such a product.

  57. Clare

    Not getting any sound with this video

  58. Clare

    Working now, thank you

  59. marcy

    I loved the presentation and would have liked to see the outside of the greenhouse to see how big it is. I hope Mother Earth is selling your book as I’ll get it to find out more how to heat the floor system first mentioned in the presentation.

    THanks again.

  60. Cristy

    oh, this was amazing. thankyou so much Jerome. You remind me of my grandfather who also has a green thumb of which I was priveledge to witness growing up on his farm. I have taken notes and will implement your knowlegde in my own garden, such an inspiration. Lots of love from the Blue Mountains New South Wales Australia xoxo

  61. Lynne Aldridge

    I bought Jerome’s book at the London Permaculture Convention this past Summer, so seeing his ideas in action has been a great insight. While I do not have anywhere near the space or resources he has, there are ideas I can use in my home greenhouse and allotment polytunnel. Hopefully in years to come I may have more space and resources and try more of what I saw on the film.

  62. Susan Harris

    As I mentioned on a previous video, the title does not fit what actually occurred in the video. The titles are misleading. The videos are good for what they deliver IF they had been described as what they actually are. In this case, it should be more of a tour or “What a greenhouse can produce” and not dubbed as a how to.

    I am in the middle of creating a greenhouse would have loved more of the how to.

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