Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education (SAGE) Course

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Previously taught at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Salida, and Buena Vista…Now offered online to promote a learning community of gardeners across Colorado!

The Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Series is an online course with one-to-one mentoring that you can access on your own schedule. Practical demonstrations occur at the Ecocity garden and are shared on YouTube. This course is appropriate for new and experienced vegetable, herb, and flower gardeners.  

Course Topics

  • The ecology of your home landscape
  • Native garden design
  • Selecting and starting seeds
  • Wise water planning and use in the garden
  • Tending, training, and propagating young plants
  • Planting and maintaining your garden
  • Harvesting flowers, plants, and seeds


$100 per student, $50 per additional student in the household

To Register, contact: ecocitycoloradosprings@

Course Dates:

Start on your own schedule!  Enrollment is on-going

Keep reading to catch a glimpse of the first module of the course:

Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Course Module #1: The Ecology of Your Home Landscape


In this module, you will assess your growing area. You will measure its dimensions, figure out the aspect, and document the shade and sun patterns. You will also locate water and assess the slope and how to most efficiently utilize water resources.


Welcome to Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening. In this class, you will become an ecological gardener, using the resources and geography, the food and aesthetic interests of your family, and your own critical thinking skills to plan and execute a successful and sustainable garden. We will communicate and document primarily through online exchange. Each week, local students will participate in a hands-on practicum in downtown Colorado Springs, CO. Each week, online students will follow our progress on their own using the online lab modules as I guide. Throughout it all, we will document our learning and practical progress in our online classroom. You will always have access to our online classroom after completing the course. This is our online gardening community resource that we grow together!

After completing this Module, students will be able to:

  • Define ecology, slope, and aspect.
  • Measure a piece of land to ascertain its dimensions, aspect, slope, and the relative positions of any shade-producing structures and plants on the property.
  • Draw a map of landscape and note ecological features, using technological or paper tools.
  • Establish a web-based location for documenting course progress.
  • looking forward: create an ecological garden design

Instruction and Action Items

The secret to successful gardening is knowing the ecology of your landscape. There is some place for almost everything you want to grow, but just planting without considering the light, moisture, aspect, and slope is not likely to result in lots of veggies. So let’s start understanding these parameters so we can learn how they affect growth. By the end of this module,  you’ll have a map that describes the ecology of your landscape.


Slope is a measurement of the angle of the landscape. This has many important implications related to how water moves across and through it. You don’t need to measure the slope directly, although this is an easy task that can be accomplished with an inclonometer, which is a small mechanical hand held tool. Some compasses have a small arrow that measures the slope of a nearby or far away horizon.  Backcountry skiers use this to ascertain the slope for avalanche assessment.

In your garden, you need to understand the relative and approximate slopes.  Where does water move most quickly and in what direction? For example, the combination of steep and south or west facing slopes can lead to extremely dry conditions because any water that is available will run off quickly and/ or evaporate in the heat of the afternoon sun. On the other extreme, low-lying depressions on the north side of your property or facing north, may be a whole month behind in terms of spring soil warming.


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