Curled Up with a Good Book
Gaia's Garden is the sort of book that makes gardeners want to go out in the noonday sun and immediately start putting its techniques into practice. This comprehensive guide presents the concept of ‘permaculture’ – also referred to here as ‘ecological design’—in a thorough yet understandable and encouraging way.
The author confesses that he was actually reluctant to use the term ‘permaculture’ originally because so few people were familiar with it when Gaia's Garden was first released in 2000. In this second edition, author Toby Hemenway says he feels confident that the term is now sufficiently familiar and is no longer a foreign word to average growers. This may be true for those dedicated to organic methods, but the majority of vegetable and flower growers continue using outdated and toxic methods, and most still rely heavily on chemicals and labor-intensive practices, either unaware of or unwilling to experiment with the more planet-friendly and body-friendly methods of permaculture.
Toby Hemenway is a devotee of organic gardening, of course, but his reasoning for that goes beyond idealism. Eco-friendly methods not only produce healthier food for us to eat, but also make gardening easier by letting nature do the bulk of the work. These techniques, explained in detail with supporting background information in Gaia's Garden, result in “sustainable human settlements” by emulating nature’s own gardening methods. Natural gardens are part of the larger ecosystem, incorporating the rhythm of soil, water, plants, animals, and yes! even insects. Just take a moment to examine any undeveloped woodland or field; plants of all sorts thrive without human intervention, growing stronger and healthier than most of the plants in cultivated areas. Mother Nature really does know best, and if we would achieve the same low-maintenance, low-impact, high-yield gardens in our own yards, all we have to do is follow Mother’s example.
Read the whole article here.
June 30, 2009
Gaia’s Garden is practically considered a gardening bible by many gardening enthusiasts who seek to worth with Nature rather than against it, and the second edition will prove to be even more valuable.
Gaia’s Garden focuses on permaculture gardening, an approach to small-scale agriculture that mimics the relationships found in nature. The idea is that plants, animals and organisms work in harmony to create a self-sufficient environment in which the need for human ‘input’ is fairly low. That means no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or tilling. No endless trips to the garden center for supplies. Whereas most backyards contain ‘fragments’ – a vegetable garden here, a flower bed there, a pile of wood in a back area for critters – permaculture gardening brings all of these elements together as a cohesive whole.
For those who think gardening involves, by default, a lot of back-breaking work and expensive equipment, this concept may sound unlikely to prove successful. But it works by balancing the needs and benefits of each element in the garden, much in the way a natural ecosystem balances itself.
For example, much of the information in the book revolves around ‘guilds’, groups of plants that provide food or other useful products for humans, create cover and food for wildlife, repel pests, conserve water and nourish the soil. One such example is ‘the three sisters’ – corn,beans and squash – which work together so that each plant, and the garden as a whole, is able to thrive.
In addition to the practical advice about plants with many uses, encouraging beneficial microorganisms, attracting helpful insects and animals and bringing the soil to life, the second edition of Gaia’s Garden features a new chapter on urban permaculture designed especially for people who have limited growing space – a huge help for gardening enthusiasts who live in suburban or urban areas. Other new features include new color photographs and illustrations, as well as new plant lists.
Read the whole article here.
Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Posted by Rodgers Forge Farm Initiative at 9:38 PM
A great book just hit the shelves at your local bookstore -- one that is valuable for anyone learning to garden. It's called Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Second Edition, by Toby Hemenway.
The idea of permaculture is probably new to most readers of this blog, so here is a brief definition: The word "permaculture" is a contraction of the words "permanent culture" and "permanent agriculture," and it describes a set of principles that create a sustainable, interdependent form of gardening. Through the use of annual and perennial plants and gardening techniques that fix nitrogen, ward off pests, attract pollinators, conserve water, and so on, you are creating a ecological space that (theoretically, at least) is self-sustaining and therefore requires less work.
Gaia's Garden goes into all sorts of information that would be valuable to any gardener, whether you decide to pick up permaculture techniques or not. The book has charts on various nitrogen fixers (in other words, plants that take nitrogen, an essential nutrient, out of the air and put it in the soil), plants for birds, plants for pollinators, and so on. The sorts of gardens that Hemenway advocates would be perfect for spaces like those behind Stanmore or around the Rodgers Forge apartments -- places that could accommodate some lush growth.
Read the whole article here.
Not Dabbling In Normal
June 10, 2009 by thebackforty
It’s getting closer to the first day of summer…it’s time for weeding, chores, long days, those projects that couldn’t be done in other months…and yes, everyone’s busy!
Despite the pace, somehow our house is still draped with a rotating detritus of books some would call surface clutter, but what we find enjoyable about anytime we can catch time for a good read. Some of them have been deliberate purchases, and many others are snagged from the library, often requested in inter-library loans after doing fun searches on different subjects.
Here are a few that are being enjoyed by us at the moment. […]
3. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Second Edition (By Toby Hemenway)
This is a book I’m thoroughly enjoying, and that’s been on my wish list for some time. When it arrived in the mail a month ago, I was so excited! It’s a pretty thorough yet straightforward and understandable book on permaculture, easy enough for beginners to understand. I’ve learned a lot so far by taking this book a chapter at a time and giving myself time to read a section and chew on it a bit. What I enjoy so much about reading about permaculture, once it’s demystified, is that it “feels right” for what we hope to accomplish with our plan for our own surroundings, be it right here in the sorta-suburbs, or later with some more land. I’ve heard this book recommended before, and I’m glad I listened.
Some sample section headings:
The Garden as Ecosystem
The Pieces of the Ecological Garden — Bringing the Soil to Life. Catching, Conserving, and Using Water. Plants for Many Uses. Bringing in the Bees, Birds, and Other Helpful Animals.
Assembling the Ecological Garden — Creating Communities for the Garden. Designing Garden Guilds. Growing a Food Forest. Permaculture Gardening in the City. Pop Goes the Garden.
Connie Krochmal, BellaOnline's Landscaping Editor
Sustainable Gardening Book Reviews
In recent years many people have embraced sustainable gardening. A number of gardening books stress earth-friendly approaches, including the following titles.
The second edition of “Gaia’s Garden-A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” by Toby Hemenway was released by Chelsea Green. For city and country gardeners alike, this comprehensive book explains how to garden with nature. It is illustrated with color photos and color drawings.
The author provides all the basics from nurturing the soil the natural way to creating permanent plantings that provide food for humans and food/habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and other beneficial animals. Readers can learn all about choosing suitable plants and creating appropriate eco-friendly garden designs. There are profiles of all the recommended plants. One chapter focuses on water conservation and water catchment/harvest systems. There is also a helpful list of drought resistant plants.
Throughout the book there are handy tables, charts, and lists of all sorts. This also has a helpful glossary. The appendix has a helpful table of all the recommended plants. […]
green LA girl
Book review: Gaia’s Garden — Less weeding, more Eden
Posted by Siel in art/lit/music, books, environment, garden (Thursday May 28, 2009 at 1:29 pm)
Wonder why it takes so much work and money to keep a tidy grassy lawn or a weed-free veggie garden? It’s because you’re fighting nature, instead of letting nature work for you. That simple idea’s the starting point for Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, a book by Toby Hemenway that promises to show you how to harness nature’s power towards your own ends.
“Most gardens ignore nature’s rules,” writes Toby, who points out that nature doesn’t till, create monocultures, or rely on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Do these things and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. After all, tilling means a ruined soil structure and depleted fertility, while planting blocks of the same plant is like creating an all-you-can-eat buffet for all sorts of bugs.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on growing a veggie garden or nice backyard landscape, settling for an unruly, unmanaged tangle of urban wilderness. Gaia’s Garden’s about including people in nature — and about combining the many segregated elements of the garden into a cohesive whole.
Most gardens are fragmented, with “an orderly vegetable plot here, flower beds there, and a back corner for wildlife or a natural landscape,” Toby writes. “And each of these fragments has its weaknesses. A vegetable garden doesn’t offer habitat to native insects, birds, and other wildlife. Quite the contrary — munchng bugs and birds are unwelcome visitors. The flower garden, however much pleasure the blooms provide, can’t feed the gardener. And a wildlife garden is often unkempt and provides little for people other than the knowledge that it’s good for wild creatures.”
Gaia’s Garden explains how you can go about combining these fragments through permaculture techniques so you can get the most out of your plot of land without working so hard. The book starts easy — explaining how dividing your garden into zones (how often an area’s used or need attention) and sectors (how to manage the forces that come from the outside, like wind or wild animals) can help make the most out of each spot. Then Gaia’s Garden gets into polycultures — “dynamic, self-organizing plant communities composed of several to many species” — moves on to guilds — an “attempt to bridge the broad gap between conventional vegetable gardens and wildlife gardening by creating plant communities that act and feel like natural landscapes, but that include humans in their network” — then gets into the holy grail of permaculture, the “multi-storied forest garden” — which showed me that I think of “home-scale” as something much smaller than Toby does.
Throughout the book, you’ll see illustrations of sample polycultures, guilds, and other garden models — plus instructions on designing your own guilds or gardens. Gaia’s Garden also explains how you can integrate smart water use — from making a catchment or graywater system to creating a swale or a backyard wetland — or animals — from bees and beneficial bugs to livestock — into the ecology of your garden.
Gaia’s Garden was first published in 2000, but the second edition came out earlier this month with 60 more pages, including a new chapter on urban permaculture, a few new plant lists, and a bunch of new color photos and design drawings. The softcover book’s available for $19.77 on Amazon.