Ahimsa Gardens Earth Friendly Gardening

In today’s interview I spoke with Ahimsa Gardens’s owner Jenny Kuehnle to explore their extraordinary attention to detail and care that goes into all the work they do – from climatewise solutions to excellence in craftsmanship of design, landscaping, masonry, carpentry, welding, irrigation and maintenance. If you are a property owner who cares deeply for your property, this will be an interview you will not want to miss. Jenny takes us deep into the philosophy and ethos that drive Ahimsa Gardens, all the while celebrating her amazing staff and clients that make it all possible!

Jenny, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with me today. To begin with, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your company Ahimsa Gardens.

Thank you Shields. I started Ahimsa Gardens in 2016. At that point I had been living in the Rogue Valley for 11 years. During those 11 years, I had some gardening clients, taught yoga, worked in a coffee shop, worked as a massage therapist, and worked part time for another landscaping company. I was also studying yoga, permaculture design, and watershed restoration. In my work life, I had never put all of my eggs into one basket, until 2016 when I started Ahimsa Gardens.

I grew up in Flint, Michigan, and from early childhood I have always had a strong environmental ethic, but did not always have an outlet for it. I studied environmental science at University of Colorado in Boulder, living at high altitude in the mountains of Colorado for 13 years.

I loved it there, but the growing season was short and I really wanted to garden more. I had dabbled in permaculture at that point and wanted to live somewhere where I could put that knowledge into practice more easily.

When I left Colorado, I moved to Portland first because I wanted to have a big city experience before settling in a smaller town. In Portland I was struck by so many permaculture-influenced yards, on a residential scale, spattered throughout the city. People were harvesting rainwater, and/or diverting downspouts into rain gardens, had flocks of backyard chickens, front and back yard edible gardens and food forests, cob structures, etc. It blew my mind and inspired me a lot. I took the OSU Master Watershed Restoration course in Portland and volunteered doing riparian restoration to restore beaver and salmon habitat on the Willamette and its tributaries.

When I moved to Southern Oregon in 2005, I landed first in Williams on a permaculture farm, and I started really studying permaculture principles and sustainable homesteading practices. I then moved to Ashland where I took two permaculture design courses over a period of several years, the OSU Master Gardener program, and eventually RCC’s landscape technician course in preparation for the Landscape Contractors Board exam. I also had a job for a short time with the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, where I was first exposed to the native land stewardship practices of this bioregion and read a life changing book about the subject, Tending the Wild by Kat Anderson.

All of these experiences, in combination with how busy I was becoming with my private gardening clients, led me to dream of starting a licensed landscaping company.

Jenny, when you first started Ahimsa what were some of your dreams and goals?

I really wanted to create a company in Southern Oregon that was doing the right thing environmentally, and practicing organic and all natural gardening techniques. I wanted to have an educational component to the business in which all of our staff would be highly trained in the best known ecological practices, and would have the ability to talk with and teach each other, and our clients, these environmentally friendly practices.

I wanted to create a company where all of the staff felt valued and respected. I wanted a lifestyle for myself and for my employees where there was some flexibility with hours and vacation time.

I wanted all of us to do work that we loved, that increased the good on earth, and created hope in our daily lives.

My dreams and goals have expanded since then. Currently I am learning a lot about stormwater management and its relationship to climate change. I am also acutely aware of the massive worldwide decline in insect populations, which is linked to a decline in native birds and a myriad of other ecological issues. However, we CAN do something about it by the choices we make right now in how we design and care for our yards.

Fast forward 8 years and you are surrounded by an amazing team of individuals who help bring all these aspects of the vision to life. Please say more.

Thanks for asking this Shields, yes, our team IS amazing! A huge part of what we do with our staff at Ahimsa Gardens is to provide and attend continuing education workshops. I want our work in the community to be impeccable, so the more highly skilled and knowledgeable every employee becomes, the better our work will be. Some of our continuing education is done ‘in house,’ meaning that our crew bosses and leaders teach the newer or less experienced crew members new skills. Other continuing education is done with teachers and organizations outside of Ahimsa Gardens.

Our continuing education training covers a wide variety of topics and is part of what makes Ahimsa Gardens a great place to work. There are the obvious topics, such as irrigation training, pruning classes, learning to drive a truck with a trailer. And then things such as carpentry, welding, etc. One workshop that a few of us attended several years ago was hosted by Lion Waxman, called ‘Be the Beaver, Plant the Rain.’ At this workshop we dove deeply into some aspects of stormwater management and the idea of slowing, sinking and spreading stormwater into the soil, rather than piping stormwater straight out to the rivers. Since then, the importance of climatewise stormwater management really has come alive for me.

Breaking down the services of your business, can you please say more and introduce us to your team members?

Yes, so what’s really cool is that we have an incredible team at Ahimsa Gardens of about 15 workers and we have all of the skills and knowledge needed to design and install ecologically sustainable landscapes in a manner that is very high end, beautiful, functional and durable for decades to come.

We definitely would not be where we are today without the awesome crew that we have. Matt, our construction manager, joined our team in 2017 when we were in a pinch and really needed a skilled craftsman.

Matt has been in the construction industry for just about his entire life, so when he joined the team, the complexity of jobs that we were able to handle skyrocketed. He has been absolutely integral to building the business.

Joe, our maintenance manager, really helped us step up our game in the maintenance department. He started at Ahimsa in 2019 and had a lot of skills and knowledge from working in landscaping at Carol’s Colors for many years. Joe organized our maintenance clients into a monthly calendar with several routes, and is extremely efficient with handling large commercial properties and HOA’s. He is often the first person that new employees train with when they start at Ahimsa Gardens. He is another person whose work and knowledge has been invaluable in growing this business.

We have a few others on our team that have been with us for a long time. Dino was my first employee in 2016 and is currently one of our installation crew bosses. He’s been a great steady employee for a long time and his work is beautiful. His coworker, Gabe, came to us from the restaurant industry, and has been with us for a number of years now and his work, skills and work ethic are awesome.

Our maintenance crew boss Alicia has a deep environmental ethic and a keen eye for detail and tidiness.

We now have a full-time irrigation tech, Jeff, who started out as a maintenance worker, but then found a passion for the intricacies of irrigation. Jeff has done quite a bit of on the job training, attended irrigation trainings at Ewing, and is currently becoming a certified landscape irrigation designer. Jeff is also a regenerative farmer and owns Oak Mountain Farm, and he brings a world of knowledge about soil health to our company.

We have a couple of very talented landscape designers that we subcontract with, Sarah and Kira. They are wonderful to work with and come up with beautiful, creative and functional designs that really suit our clients’ needs.

In summer of 2023 three stone masons formerly from Banyan Tree Landscape joined our crew, as well as Andrew, the old owner of Banyan Tree. Andrew has been helping to bid jobs with us, and has been bringing in some larger projects for our team. It has been really fun integrating Andrew and the masons into our team. We are eagerly taking on larger masonry jobs as the quality of our masonry projects is top notch. Our lead mason, Beto, is from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, aka ‘The Stone City’ and comes from a long lineage of stone masons.

Our office manager Allie is absolutely amazing. She is smart, clever, and highly motivated. Allie is THE key person that keeps this whole operation running smoothly. At this point, none of us would be here without her! I am so grateful for all of these incredible people that make Ahimsa Gardens what it is today.


Yes, I am sooo grateful everyday for our crew. We have an awesome team and an awesome company culture. Many of the crew spend social time with each other after work and on weekends. I think it’s safe to say that the crew genuinely enjoy each other and genuinely enjoy their jobs. The clients feel this too. I cannot even name how many times a new client has called because they saw our crew working at a job, and were impressed that everyone seemed happy at work, were impressed with the quality of care that each team member gave, and with their overall friendliness. People contact us because they want that quality of care and that positive energy in their own yard.

Jenny, let’s go more into this relationship you form with your customers. It certainly is special. Why do locals choose to work with Ahimsa Gardens and what type of experience do you seek to give them?

Our clients are pretty wonderful. A lot of the maintenance clients have been with us for many years and we care for their yards like we would a family member’s. Our installation clients often have us back for future projects and often become maintenance clients on a seasonal, monthly or biweekly basis. We do our best to give every client detailed attention. We know every plant in their yard. We know the names of their dogs, pets and kids. We keep track of special considerations with every client so that we can give them the best customized service possible. We care deeply about these people and their gardens.

Can you please share a few customer testimonials with us?

“Jenny, Matt and the rest of the crew at Ahimsa are a joy to work with. Besides being dang nice people – they are super knowledgeable and talented about all things landscaping in southern Oregon. Over the last six years, Ahimsa has landscaped our front and back yards, built 2 beautiful fences, re-worked our irrigation system, installed pavers and walkways, and built 7 raised garden beds/planters. Ahimsa supports the environment by encouraging the use of native plants and sustainable garden practices.

The workers attend to detail and deliver a high level or quality. We highly recommend Ahimsa!” – Barbara Harmon

“Ahimsa Gardens is the only landscape company I would want to hire. I trust that the work they do is beautiful and thoughtful; good to the eye and good for the planet.

I’ve worked with them on commercial as well as residential properties from design and installation, to maintenance and tree care. I am always beyond happy with the quality of their work and care.” – Philip Whitmore

“Ahimsa Gardens is a highly professional crew that was a pleasure to work with. They completed the job accurately, on-time and with great attention to detail. I would highly recommend their work to anyone needing landscaping assistance.” – Paige Morse

“Ahimsa Gardens transformed my unsafe, weed and squirrel infested backyard into a beautiful, easy to maintain sanctuary! They fixed my irrigation and drainage issues and now my landscape looks cared for and healthy. Their crew was professional and very pleasant to work with. I highly recommend Ahimsa Gardens for your landscape needs.” – Julia Rezek

Jenny, so much time and consideration goes into the work that you and your company does and this is what makes it both valuable and unique. I like to just consider it as smart and intelligent design when it comes to water catchment, climatewise planning and more. Will you please say more about this?

Yes. I do think that our work is valuable and unique. I think that our company fills a special niche in this valley. It is unique that we are able to provide these climatewise solutions and have the skills to do it in a way that is durable and beautiful for our lifetimes and beyond.

I think it is important for clients to know that while we are willing to work within their individual budget constraints, it is important to understand that landscaping is expensive. There is a ton of overhead in running a business of this size, maintaining our tools and equipment, and in providing living wages for a crew of such knowledgeable and skilled staff. The quality of our craft is top notch. We guarantee our work. We are not a mow and blow operation, but love to tend to the detail of plant care and the details of fine design, installation and craftsmanship. Our work is high quality and meant to last.

Thanks for sharing this. It gives more insight as to the quality and longevity of the work that you create. Specifically, what types of clients and jobs are best suited for Ahimsa?

Because landscaping is a big financial investment, I think our work makes sense for people who intend to stay in their homes or commercial space for at least the next ten years. We want to work with people who have a strong environmental ethic, even if these landscape design concepts are new to them, but they just want to do the right thing for the earth and trust us to help with those decisions. We want to work with clients who seek natural and non-toxic solutions for their plant care and people who are interested in efficient water usage and building healthy soil. We love creating pollinator gardens, native plant gardens, food forests (permaculture fruit and nut tree guilds with beneficial understory plants), and doing small scale riparian restoration. We love creating beautiful outdoor spaces and outdoor ‘rooms’ for people to gather and enjoy.

Something you had mentioned earlier is that you are very invested in the continuing education and advancement of your workers. Please say more.

Yes, I think I said a lot of this already, but one more thing that I could elaborate on is this; I think our commitment to continuing education makes Ahimsa Gardens a great place to work. It keeps our employees inspired and interested in their jobs. It also is creating an avenue for our workers to become leaders in the company. Ahimsa Gardens is growing and we are working hard to make our company a ‘career option’ for those that want it. Not just a job. The idea is that as the current leadership ages, they will become the teachers and supervisors of the younger new employees who might be learning all of these skills on the job for the first time.

Jenny, please talk about climate change and how creating a landscape to hold water on the Earth is an important action to take.

I would love to talk about this. We have really disrupted the water cycle on this planet by building so many impervious surfaces and piping stormwater offsite and straight out to the rivers. Not only is this damaging to salmon habitat, but it also is a key player in climate change by disrupting the natural water cycle. Before European settlers arrived in North America, we had between 100,000-200,000 beavers here. The beaver population plummeted during the fur trade. Today the beaver population has gone back up slightly to about 15 million beavers in North America. The work that beavers do by building dams, slows the water in the rivers and allows water to percolate into the surrounding soil, replenishing groundwater. This groundwater is taken up by trees and plants and then through evapotranspiration into the air, becomes rainwater over the land. That is part of a healthy water cycle. With the decimation of beaver populations, we have broken that water cycle. We are now piping a large amount of stormwater directly to rivers and ultimately the ocean. It is not being slowed and filtered into the soil, it is not being taken up by the plants and transpired by the plants into the air above to create rainwater over the land.

I am not suggesting that we reintroduce beavers on this level back into our cities and towns, however, it IS possible to do the work of the beaver in our residential and commercial properties on a landscape scale by building rain gardens to slow, sink and spread stormwater, rainwater catchment systems to irrigate with during the dry season, by using household greywater in our landscapes, and very importantly, by building healthy soil that will act like a sponge to filter and hold this moisture.

I truly believe that restoring a healthy water cycle is a key component in combating climate change and global warming. This is a topic that I’d like to delve more into in a future article. Mimicking the work of the beaver in our landscapes is crucial to humans surviving and thriving on earth. We are in an ecological crisis and I think about it every day. At Ahimsa Gardens we absolutely have the knowledge, skills, and resources to address these issues. My hope is that through our social media (Instagram, Facebook, and our website), and through our word of mouth referrals, this knowledge will spread far beyond the Rogue Valley. I believe that this work is part of what the earth needs us to do. Obviously there is more to do and there are a multitude of social justice and environmental justice issues to work on. We each need to do the work that we are most passionate about. We can inspire each other, we can change the world, and this gives me hope.

Jenny, what are some of your favorite quotes that you like to reflect on?

Oh this is tricky! I have a mantra that was given to me long ago by my grandmother and another one that was given to me by a spiritual teacher about 30 years ago. Both of these go through my head on a daily basis, but are personal and I don’t want to share. For this article, ‘Be the Beaver, Plant the Rain’ from Lion Waxman’s workshop feels fitting. Also I dance a lot and my dance teacher Ms. Tina always tells us that we ‘make the world a better place through our dance.’ I believe this applies to all aspects of my life, as my whole life feels like a heartfelt and meaningful dance.

On a day-to-day basis what are you most grateful for in your creation of Ahimsa?

I am grateful for the potential to do good through this business. I am grateful to be providing ‘right livelihood’ for myself and for our employees. Meaning that we are doing work to the best of our knowledge at the moment to make positive change on earth. I am grateful to have a career that is always exciting to me and in which there is always something new to learn. There is always something new to create. I dearly love all of our employees. I love meeting with new clients. I love envisioning outdoor spaces with the clients. I love being in nature and love creating gardens that support nature. I love bringing it full circle, promoting sustainable practices, conscious water management, practices that are beneficial to the insects, native birds and all life on the planet, yet feel nourishing and relaxing to humans.

Moving full on into spring and summer, when is the best time to call and get a project started with Ahimsa?

Probably best to contact us 3-6 months in advance for design, hardscaping and installation projects. 4-6 weeks in advance for big landscape cleanups or to get a regular spot on our maintenance schedule.

Are there any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers here today?

Thank you Shields. This has been a great opportunity to share all of these thoughts with you and I really appreciate your thought provoking questions. It definitely feels like Ahimsa Gardens is emerging and coming into fruition in a new and powerful way, different and more complete than it has ever been. This is definitely due to the incredible people that I work with and to the clients who have been so supportive and encouraging. I see on the horizon the future completion of the dream I have had in my head for so long. My hope is to create a company that is durable for the long run and does good work far into the future with happy and prosperous employees, beyond my time here. At one point during our interview you referred to this as my ‘life’s work’ – that struck me and it feels good to step up and embrace that. I think you are correct in identifying that. Thank you very much, it has been a pleasure talking with you and I look forward to diving more deeply into some topics over the coming issues.

Learn More:

Ahimsa Gardens

POB 614, Ashland


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