Nature doesn’t till. Nature doesn’t need chemical pesticides. And monoculture? Nature ain’t even trying to hear that noise. So why do we break our backs fighting uphill battles when we can just look at the way natural systems work and, basically, rip them off? Take a look at the selection of books below that will tell you about a little something called permaculture: it’ll save you money, time, and wear and tear on your precious back
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Think that gardening and planting is only for the spring time? Well, autumn is great time for those perennials and planning your sustainable garden. The concept is simple – everything should serve multiple functions and let nature do the heavy lifting.
Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition
A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
By Toby Hemenway
The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.
“The world didn’t come with an operating manual, so it’s a good thing that some wise people have from time to time written them. Gaia’s Garden is one of the more important, a book that will be absolutely necessary in the world ahead.” - Bill McKibben
Permaculture is one of those words people toss around a lot, especially nowadays with the upped interest in gardening, and the increase in concern about connection to our food. And to the novice ear, it might sound like a complicated process, something with swabs and chemistry and unsolvable equations. But it’s actually simpler than you think.
Permaculture is the act of working with Mother Nature, not against her. It’s about creating an ecosystem by putting together communities of plants that work cooperatively. It’s about building and maintaining healthy soil. Catching and conserving water, naturally. Allowing a habitat for birds and animals, alongside your garden. And being able to eat your bounty, too. Continue reading here…
Creating a Forest Garden
Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops
By Martin Crawford
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Creating a Forest Garden tells you everything you need to know – whether you want to plant a small area in your back garden or develop a larger plot. It includes advice on planning, design (using permaculture principles), planting and maintenance, and a comprehensive directory of over 450 trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, herbs, annuals, root crops and climbers – almost all of them edible and many very unusual.
Check out the author video here.
Martin Crawford in addition to being the author of Creating a Forest Garden, he is also the co-star of the DVD A Forest Garden Year (the real star of course, is his lovely garden!). In this brief trailer, he show us a few of the edible plants that grow in the simulated natural ecosystem that is a forest garden.
Stories from the New Frontier
Edited by Kerry Dawborn and Caroline Smith
Permaculture is much more than organic gardening. Arguably it is one of Australia’s greatest intellectual exports, having helped people worldwide to design ecologically sustainable strategies for their homes, gardens, farms and communities. This book charts a history of the first three decades of permaculture, through the personal stories of Australian permaculturists. From permaculture co-originator David Holmgren, to ABC TV’s Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne, the authors span the generations and the continent.
Listen to Contributing author David Holmgren
For those whose lives have been changed by permaculture, this book provides a context for articulating and celebrating their own stories and experiences. Even more, it invites each of us, permaculturists or not, to embrace our power in designing our world out of the best in ourselves, for the benefit of the whole earth community.
A Benign Extravagance
By Simon Fairlie
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Meat is a groundbreaking exploration of the difficult environmental, ethical, and social issues surrounding the human consumption of animals, and the future of livestock in sustainable agriculture. It answers the question: should we be farming animals, or not? The answer is not simple; indeed, we must decrease the amount of meat we eat (both for the planet and for ourselves), and the industrial meat system is hugely problematic, but Simon Fairlie presents in-depth research in favor of small-scale, holistic, and integrated farming systems that include pastured, free-range livestock as the answer to the pro-meat or no-meat debate. This is a life-changing book.
In the 1960s, the American biologist Robert Paine conducted an experiment involving the removal of a predator species from a seashore environment:
When he removed the main predator, a certain species of starfish, from a population of fifteen observable species, things quickly changed. Within a year the area was occupied by only eight of the fifteen species. Numbers within the prey species boomed and in the resulting competition for space, reasoned Paine, those species that could move left the area; those that could not simply died out. Continue reading….
Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture
A Practical Guide to Small-Scale,
Integrative Farming and Gardening
By Sepp Holzer
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“After reading this book, all I can say is Sepp Holzer is a Superstar Farmer. Holzer turns out an absolutely remarkable volume and variety of food products, all without one smidgen of chemical fertilizer, and on land in Austria that an Illinois corn farmer would pronounce too marginal for agriculture. American farmers and gardeners will be particularly interested in Holzer’s raised beds-which are quite different in construction from ours in the U.S.-as well as his inventive water well irrigation systems, unique methods for integrating livestock into his fruit and vegetable gardens, and practical, low-labor way to grow mushrooms. A fascinating book for anyone who aspires to become the ultimate, champion professional of sustainable farming.” - Gene Logsdon, author of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, and The Contrary Farmer
There is a fantastic array of vegetables you can grow in your garden, and not all of them are annuals. In Perennial Vegetables the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food.
Perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than a hundred species, with dozens of color photographs and illustrations, and filled with valuable growing tips, recipes, and resources, Perennial Vegetables is a groundbreaking and ground-healing book that will open the eyes of gardeners everywhere to the exciting world of edible perennials.
Author Eric Toensmeier transformed his yard in Holyoke, Massachusetts into a garden that produces food for him nearly year-round. In this video, he provides a tour of his food-producing garden while providing how-to tips on pest-control, nitrogen management, water gardening, and composting.
Edible Forest Gardens
2 Volume Set
By Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier
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Edible Forest Gardens is a groundbreaking two-volume work that spells out and explores the key concepts of forest ecology and applies them to the needs of natural gardeners in temperate climates. Volume I lays out the vision of the forest garden and explains the basic ecological principles that make it work. In Volume II, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier move on to practical considerations:concrete ways to design, establish, and maintain your own forest garden. Along the way they present case studies and examples, as well as tables, illustrations, and a uniquely valuable “plant matrix” that lists hundreds of the best edible and useful species.
Taken together, the two volumes of Edible Forest Gardens offer an advanced course in ecological gardening-one that will forever change the way you look at plants and your environment.
“These will be the benchmark works in the field for many years. The level of scholarship and meticulous footnoting is unsurpassed by anything I’ve seen in permaculture literature.” -Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden Check out the introduction to Volume I
Food Not Lawns
How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden
and your Neighborhood Into a Community
By Heather C. Flores
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Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution-it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders and city dwellers alike build fertile soil, promote biodiversity, and increase natural habitat in their own “paradise gardens.”
Many people see ecological living as something they will do later, when they can finally afford a big place in the country, but I say, “Start now!” Even, or perhaps especially, if you live in a tiny apartment surrounded by a concrete jungle, you should always try to find simple ways to repair the earth, educate others, and prevent further destruction of the natural world.
Growing ecological gardens, wherever you can, is never a waste of time. Nothing lasts forever, and if you can get a few baskets of food without damaging the environment, and perhaps leave behind some long-living fruit trees, then the larger ecological community will surely benefit from your labors. If you can do these things while also educating others, then your work will succeed many times over.