Chelsea Green Publishing

Paradise Lot

Pages:240 pages
Book Art:Black and white illustrations
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603583992
Pub. Date January 25, 2013

Paradise Lot

Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
January 25, 2013

$19.95

When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a "permaculture paradise" replete with perennial broccoli, paw paws, bananas, and moringa—all told, more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot. The garden—intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden's needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression—also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms.

In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden, Paradise Lot is also a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan: to realize the garden of their dreams and meet women to share it with. Amazingly, on both counts, they succeed.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

ForeWord Reviews-

“Urban agriculture is becoming a hot topic in sustainable farming circles as more people become interested in organic foods, healthy eating choices, and environmental topics. Given population densities in some areas, “urban agriculture” might seem like an oxymoron to some, but with careful planning and a sense of adventure, even a tiny plot of land can yield a bumper crop.

Longtime friends Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates certainly demonstrate the type of strategy and passion required for the effort. In their charming, insightful description of their tiny urban garden in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the two cover twelve years of growing, from their initial reaction to seeing the compacted, gravel-edged soil, to the moment when they have to consider the long-term future of their growing families, which likely means leaving their garden paradise.

Along with relaying various missteps and challenges, Toensmeier (with occasional contributions from Bates) layers together their experiences with natural pesticide controls, wild mushroom foraging, city regulations, berry plants, forest gardens, chickens, having girlfriends move in, trellis systems, and an array of other topics.

Dividing the garden’s history into four sections—sleep, creep, leap, and reap— Toensmeier creates a combination of personal memoir and permaculture guide. Filled with insight, but not too technical, he strikes an artful balance between giving useful detail and geeking out on gardening nuances. Although readers who want to learn more about compost and chicken coops may get the most out of their journey, Paradise Lot will still be a delight for someone who can’t even grow a houseplant.

As Toensmeier and Bates demonstrate, it doesn’t take twenty acres to start a garden filled with nourishing vegetables and gorgeous flowers; it just takes some vision, especially if the potential garden is a scruffy urban lot.

Part gardening guide, part personal story, the book is ultimately a call to action, with the pair proclaiming that it doesn’t matter what a patch of land looks like, as long as someone is willing to explore its potential. “We made our little paradise here,” Toensmeier writes. “Imagine what would happen if we as a species paid similar attention to all the degraded and abandoned lands of the world.”

Library Journal-

STARRED REVIEW "Part handbook, part memoir, this book details the evolution of a permaculture garden on an urban lot in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Having spent years describing permaculture gardens in a theoretical manner, Toensmeier (Perennial Vegetables) and his friend Bates (owner, Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery) put these theories into practice when they bought and moved into a duplex situated on a 1/10 acre rundown lot. Nearly a decade later, the lot is unrecognizable—a tropical paradise in the front and a wealth of more than 200 edible plants in the back. Toensmeier clearly explains the processes—needless to say, nothing changed overnight—that achieved this near-miracle. VERDICT: The authors’ prose pulls the reader into their lives, sparking a desire to see the result and try this kind of gardening. The appendixes are filled with useful information for readers who may be intrigued enough to create their own paradise. All readers interested in urban renewal or environmental issues will welcome this book."

“Although many of us dream of creating our ideal urban homestead from scratch, the reality is far less pristine: toxic soil, rampant exotic species, outdated codes, and all the other grit of city life. Paradise Lot is a practical manual, based on hard-won lessons, for working positively with the realities of our cities to create a sustainable, peaceful, and abundant oasis in the urban jungle. In this vivid and engaging work, Eric Toensmeier entices us with his journey as an example, explaining what to do, and what mistakes to avoid, to develop our own versions of an edible urban paradise.”--Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden

“Our connection to place defines us as gardeners and farmers just as much as the plants we choose to grow. The integration of perennial plantings, microclimate, and natural beauty comes about by listening to the land. What a delight to then have one of America’s preeminent permaculture teachers share his personal story with both place and partner. Sometimes that meaningful insight we need in shaping our own garden path comes from hearing of the successes and foibles other gardeners found on their path. The gift Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates offer in Paradise Lot is their heart for all things green.”--Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower

Paradise Lot is a magnificent story about how two young broke landless 'plant geeks' transform an urban lot into a permaculture heaven capable of producing all their fruit and vegetables as well as attracting suitable mates. The book is a groundbreaking work on temperate-climate permaculture as well as a personal saga, as the author’s discovery and discussion of the differences between theory and practice goes beyond anything in the current permaculture literature. The book has a lot of information on growing and using various perennial food plants and, of particular value, it includes specific accounts of what didn’t work and why as well as what did. Paradise Lot should be particularly useful to those with small lots or poor or abused soil. Much writing in permaculture is for people with plenty of land and money. This is permaculture for the rest of us. Best of all, Paradise Lot is fun to read. It overflows with love—love of plants, love of land, love of adventuring on the edge of knowledge, and love of living. It’s hard to put down. I read it in two large gulps.”--Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

Paradise Lot is a timeless classic of urban permaculture in action that clearly shows design evolution over time. This is a true model of the change the world needs.”--Geoff Lawton, founder of Permaculture Research Institute and creator of Greening the Desert

“Just when I figured I had heard it all in growing food, comes a book that makes me realize I don’t know the half of it. Paradise Lot is an amazing, almost unbelievable account of how to grow some 150–200 food- and nitrogen-producing plants on a measly one-tenth of an acre, providing food year round in a cold climate. The authors reveal in great detail how they do this, starting with poor urban backyard soil and using totally organic and permaculture methods. They have raised 400 pounds of perennial fruits and vegetables in addition to many annual vegetables per year in this tiny garden. With more time, knowledge, and labor, they are sure they can produce appreciably more. If you want your imagination challenged and intrigued, this is the book for you. As the authors say, here is proof positive that with proper knowledge and will there is no such thing as food scarcity.”--Gene Logsdon, author of A Sanctuary of Trees and Small-Scale Grain Raising

“Eric has a leisurely, entertaining, and personable way of revealing how his own edible forest garden evolved. Along the way, the reader will learn design guidelines that can be used in virtually any climate. A good read full of insight and science.”--Robert Kourik, author of Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape—Naturally 

Paradise Lot is an inspiring book that encourages exploration of the possibilities of growing edibles in any and every yard, no matter how small. And not only tomatoes or apples, but all sorts of edibles from hog peanuts (taste much better than their name) to pawpaws to mints to jostaberry. Join Eric Toensmeier and his friend Jonathan Bates on their ten-plus-year journey in creating a garden of eatin’ in a very small city lot. I can’t wait for the sequel!”--Lee Reich, PhD, author of Grow Fruit Naturally, The Pruning Book, and Landscaping with Fruit

Publishers Weekly-
In this charming, true-life tale of urban regeneration and the birth of a forest garden movement, Toensmeier, famous among permaculture enthusiasts for his Perennial Vegetables and as coauthor of Edible Forest Gardens, tells the story behind the Holyoke, Mass., garden featured as a test case in the latter, which, in the course of eight years, he and Bates transformed from a bare backyard wasteland into a flourishing, edible Eden. In true permaculture fashion, the book follows not only the progression of the garden but also its influence on and relations with its creators’ lives—including a surprisingly Austen-like romantic element—their neighborhood, and the larger permaculture and forest gardening community. Bates, whose nursery business, Food Forest Farm, is an offshoot of this garden, contributes philosophical and personal essays interspersed throughout the narrative. Fans of Toensmeier and Bates’s work will be thrilled to read the details of their experiments with polycultures, their problems with and solutions for pests and overly aggressive plants, and their idiosyncratic plant choices. Adventurous readers with conventional gardens and lawns may be inspired to venture into the more integrated, evolutionary approach that this book so vividly and appealingly portrays.

Booklist-
With their shared passion for plants and a commitment to creating as self-sustaining a garden as possible on a minuscule lot in a small New England city cursed with a terrible climate and even worse soil, Toensmeier and Bates set about converting their urban backyard into a permaculture paradise. Informed by his work on a seminal, two-volume encyclopedia devoted to the concept of forest gardening, Toensmeier transformed the infertile and debris-laden property behind the duplex he shared with Bates into a natural ecosystem teeming with edible plants. As the authors’postage-stamp-size front yard morphed into a lush, tropical showcase that astounded their Massachusetts community, the backyard incorporated all the components necessary to produce fresh fruits and vegetables year-round using cold-hardy, mostly native plants that would ideally require a minimum amount of work for a maximum output. As a memoir of a purposeful life, Toensmeier’s work is engaging, honest, and natural. As a directive to other gardeners eager to establish natural ecosystems in unlikely settings, his work is instructive, illuminating, and inspirational.

Kirkus Reviews-
The front yard was a short, steep slope of asphalt with a tiny strip of sterile gravel and subsoil," write Toensmeier and Bates, with a "backyard that looked like a moonscape, sparely populated with tufts of crabgrass." It was the perfect place to launch their experiment: Could two men with horticultural experience and a love of nature turn a typical compact backyard into a garden full of lush plants and edible food? The authors chronicle their 10-plus years of trials and experiments, as they transformed their "moonscape" into a permaculture of "trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous perennials" that produced food at every level. By analyzing their soil and plotting the movement of shade and sun for a year, the authors discovered the prime locations to build a greenhouse and tool shed. They knew where to plant trees and perennials so that they could bring their site to life, and they developed a deeper kinship with the space and with each other. Along the journey, the authors present ideas like sheet mulching, which can transform a lawn into a useful garden plot capable of growing tomatoes and sweet corn in the first year. They also share their thoughts on the plants that can become noxious weeds despite their culinary uses. Toensmeier and Bates discuss both their triumphs and their defeats, as they experimented with chickens, nitrogen fixers, ground covers, numerous kinds of berry bushes and water plants. Although not a how-to guide, the authors give readers plenty of choices and ideas to think about when deciding whether to embark on this kind of gardening.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Eric is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, a Senior Fellow with Project Drawdown, and an international trainer. He presents in English and Spanish throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean. Eric has studied useful perennial plants and their roles in agroforestry systems for over two decades, and cultivates about 300 species in his urban garden. His writing can be viewed online at perennialsolutions.org.

Jonathan Bates

Jonathan Bates owns Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery (permaculturenursery.com), a nursery specializing in educational services and useful/edible plant sales. He’s been studying, creating, and working with rural and urban gardens in the Connecticut River Valley for over a decade. With a bachelors degree in biology, and MA in social ecology from the Institute for Social Ecology, Jonathan loves wild crafting with friends, and working with folks to better the world we live in. He cofounded and is a board member of the Apios Institute, is a teacher at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School, and is a farmer with Nuestras Raices, Inc. He lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

CONNECT WITH THIS AUTHOR

Apios Institute
Food Forest Farm Website

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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.

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as the flowers in your perennial beds and borders—no annual tilling and potting and planting. They thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season. It sounds too good to be true, but in Perennial Vegetables author and plant specialist Eric Toensmeier (Edible Forest Gardens) introduces gardeners to a world of little-known and wholly underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such "minor" crops as ground cherry and ramps (both of which have found their way onto exclusive restaurant menus) and the much sought after, anti-oxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as goji berries), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and satisfaction.

Perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than 100 species, illustrated 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.

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Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

In this DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

In Toensmeier's book, Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2007), 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. In his book, readers will find 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.

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By Eric Toensmeier

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

Get the best information on growing these easy and interesting crops from Eric Toensmeier's award-winning book Perennial Vegetables, and tour his own lush forest garden in the new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier

About Perennial Vegetables:

In Toensmeier's book, Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2007), 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. In his book, readers will find 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.

About Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD):

In the DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

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In this groundbreaking book, author Eric Toensmeier offers a Big Idea: That agriculture, often blamed as a major culprit of our climate crisis, could be harnessed as part of a global solution to avert disaster, heal our planet, and provide real food security.

Toensmeier (Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables) argues that “carbon farming” has the potential—when combined with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions and in concert with adaptation strategies to our changing environment—to return our atmosphere to the “magic number” of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

Carbon farming is a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequester carbon in the soil and in aboveground biomass, which includes modifications to current cropping systems, the use of perennial crops, new approaches to animal grazing, agroforestry, and more. Toensmeier brings together these powerful strategies in one book including in-depth analysis of the available research and, where research is lacking, a discussion of what we need to understand better and the steps that can get us there. The book includes in-depth information on:

  • Perennial staple and industrial crops including those that can provide us with starches, sugar, oils, fiber, energy, and more
  • Improved grazing and livestock practices
  • Measurements of a project’s impact on carbon reduction and sequestration
  • Details on how to scale up existing carbon farming enterprises
  • Effective financing models for communities and the private sector
  • An overview of international policy barriers to expanding carbon farming

Using The Carbon Farming Solution as a guide, farmers, communities, and governments large and small can successfully launch carbon farming projects with the most appropriate crops and practices to their climate, locale, and socioeconomic needs.  Along the way it can help address food security, social and climate injustice, women’s empowerment, environmental degradation, and some of the core problems with the global food system.

Citizens, farmers, and funders will be inspired to use the tools and shovel-ready solutions presented in this important new book to transform degraded lands around the world into productive carbon-storing landscapes.

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AUTHOR VIDEOS

Eric Toensmeier Edible Forest Garden Workshop (Part 1)

Eric Toensmeier Edible Forest Garden Workshop (Part 2)

Eric Toensmeier Edible Forest Garden Workshop (Part 3)

Perennial Vegetable Gardening DVD Trailer

Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables, tours his perennial root crop.

Eric Toensmeier Tours His Backyard Perennial Food Garden (Part 2 of 4)

Eric Toensmeier Tours His Backyard Perennial Food Garden (Part 3 of 4)

Eric Toensmeier Tours His Backyard Perennial Food Garden (Part 4 of 4)

Four Perennial Vegetables Perfect for Shady Spots

Find Out What Carbon Farming Is, and How It Can Help Tackle Climate Change

Author of 'The Carbon Farming Solution' Eric Toensmeier explains the farming techniques with the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere.

Perennial Staple Crops presentation

Perennial Staple Crops presentation

Perennial Polyculture Guidelines

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Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as the flowers in your perennial beds and borders—no annual tilling and potting and planting. They thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season. It sounds too good to be true, but in Perennial Vegetables author and plant specialist Eric Toensmeier (Edible Forest Gardens) introduces gardeners to a world of little-known and wholly underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such "minor" crops as ground cherry and ramps (both of which have found their way onto exclusive restaurant menus) and the much sought after, anti-oxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as goji berries), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and satisfaction.

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