Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture
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Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  1,802 ratings  ·  197 reviews
Permaculture is a verbal marriage of "permanent" and "agriculture." Australian Bill Mollison pioneered its development. Key features include:
use of compatible perennials;
non-invasive planting techniques;
emphasis on biodiversity;
specifically adaptable to local climate, landscape, and soil conditions;
highly productive output of edibles.
Now, picture your backyard as...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 27th 2001 by Chelsea Green Publishing Co (first published April 1st 2001)
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Pest Control for Organic Gardening by Amber RichardsThe Backyard Homestead by Carleen MadiganThe Dirty Life by Kristin KimballGaia's Garden by Toby HemenwayIntroduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison
Gardening/Farming/Sustainability
4th out of 25 books — 18 voters
Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Lorax by Dr. SeussDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
101st out of 498 books — 553 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Susan
What a great book!

I don't read a lot of gardening books for fun (I find them dry) but the personal experiences, anecdotes, and concrete examples in this one make it a breeze. It appears quite well researched, and it answers all kinds of questions I've had for a long time about Permaculture and even urban gardening. (How safe is food grown next to a busy street? for example)

Why did I wait so long to read this book? As far as I can tell, this is going to be one of my foundational gardening books,...more
Valerie
Loved this book! Practical ways to implement permaculture--which is the most efficient way to garden. As I dream of my own fruit orchard, I want to lay it out as recommended in this book: with bird and insect attracting shrubs (to deter fruit tree predators without spraying) and nitrogen-fixing plants (to lesson the need for fertilizers) and mulching plants (to decrease the watering needs). I love the idea of planning out my landscape so it takes care of itself (as much as possible).

Lara
Great overview of permaculture and gardening with "guilds" of "useful" plants. I almost passed by this one because I found the title off-putting. I was afraid I'd be hearing about Mother Earth, nature's balance, and the perfect harmony with which indigenous peoples once lived. The book still has an odor of this, but if you sift through it you get some tremendously helpful information for the new-to-permaculture gardener. In section three I found exactly what I needed: a spreadsheet of recommende...more
Kerrie
This was a very good introduction to the field of permaculture. The Mollison textbook is rather overwhelming (though I do plan to read it cover to cover), and Hemenway broke it down into bite-size pieces with lots of real-life examples. I was afraid that I would have to do a translation from East Coast permaculture to my place in the arid Southwest, but how exciting it was to see 2 amazing success stories from Santa Fe and Los Alamos! This book will definitely keep a place on my gardening refere...more
Tera
Jul 19, 2008 Tera rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gardeners, plant nerds
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book that should be on every gardener's shelf regardless if you have one acre or one hundred. This book got me thinking of my own gardens as living, changing, interconnected environments and not some space I keep my plant collection. The ideals are something that any gardener, regardless of experience or gardening style can incorporate for a healthier and more active ecosystem.
Steve
My first permaculture book and still probably my favorite. Lots of practical information about designing gardens and landscapes, and good case studies, too. Hemenway is preparing a new edition that should be even better, but until then...
Mina Villalobos
This book is quite the game changer if you, like me, had a very traditional understanding of gardening and what a garden should look like. As a designer, it completely changed my way of seeing landscaping and what a landscape should look like and work like. This book teaches the basics of permaculture in a practical, non preachy way. It helps you design a forest garden, gives you the bases to work with large scale gardens and small scale gardens -though the actual small scale gardens could use m...more
Mo Tipton
Apr 23, 2009 Mo Tipton rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gardeners who want to work with nature
Shelves: gardening
I've been interested in learning about permaculture for some time, but what little I knew always struck me as being intimidating and not for someone with my limited gardening experience. This book has completely changed my mind, and I'm eager to test out a few ideas in my community garden plot until I have access to a more permanent site.

Hemenway outlines the basic ideas of permaculture as relevant to the home gardener, from organizing plantings and structures in zones and sectors, to conservin...more
Tinea
Jul 25, 2012 Tinea rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with any amount of land and the desire to cultivate it
I've found now a few different "comprehensive teach yourself permaculture" books, each tailored to a different audience. Food Not Lawns for the punks and the community organizers, The Urban Homestead for the busy, The Transition Companion for the big picture people and Toolbox for Sustainable Living for the tinkerers. Gaia's Garden stands above these books for its general appeal, a guidebook in clear, flowing language for understanding and working with the ecology of cultivated environments.

Toby...more
dale paul
I've learned more about musical form from this book than I have in any music book. Aside from that, Gaia's Garden has inspired me to further readings on permaculture and its applications. I'm recommending it to my friend's family who's just bought a farm. How efficient and wondeful the farm will be once they've applied these principles. For those who know nothing of permaculture, but a little about gardening I suggest you beg, borrow, or steal this book.
Sara
Great, inspiring and informative read on permaculture. I would have liked a little more information on integrating an annual vegetable garden into the "food forest"....and even to go farther into the homesteading idea of growing your own wheat/oats. The "lasgana mulch' section was very thorough and the charts describing different perennial bushes/trees/plants; their uses and companions is an invaluable resource.
Abe Louise
after reading this book -- which has some didacticism amidst its informed passion -- i risked an experiment in scandinavian composting with a huge (10 foot x 20 foot) pile of brush and branches in my yard. it did shrink by 2/3 in a year, but never compacted enough so that i could do as the author instructs, and make a grassy hill or shapely bench out of it.
Meadow
The author's idea of "small-scale" is still larger than my own backyard, but I like his writing style and find myself endlessly fascinated by potential permaculture projects, such as worm boxes, chicken tractors, and greywater irrigation systems. Sustainable living is super sexy!!
Chris
May 20, 2008 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gardeners, farmers, ecologists, and everyone else
Of all the permaculture books I've read this is the best intro to the concept. Plus, it's an enjoyable, interesting, and pretty book in it's own right. I re-read it occasionally just for the inspiration to do useful and interesting things with our yard.
Gea
Aug 06, 2007 Gea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those looking for permaculture inspiration and general info
I learned that I have a lot to learn! But what a fun and interesting book - general, but maybe even hard to fully grasp without at least some hands-on 'training' in permaculture - a classic nonetheless (and has an amazing bibliography).
Michelle
I found this book inspiring. It has really changed the way in which I approach my house, my yard and my garden. It breaks down the concepts of permaculture in a way that makes it easy for the beginner to understand and apply.
Al Valvano
Good high level primer on permaculture. I found myself wishing for a more detailed guide on design, although the general principles were solid. Still looking for the book that is going to help me design my new acreage.
Karina
Ok, so I have to admit that I didn't read EVERY SINGLE WORD, which was hard for my book-loving and perfectionist soul to do...but I gleaned enough to decide that it is not the time in my life to "do permaculture" (although I completely read the section on desert permaculture and was impressed that it's possible!). I loved the parts about using garden space more wisely (I really want to do an herb spiral and a keyhole/mandala garden!) and the concept of guilds. Also appreciated his ideas on compo...more
David
The most accessible book on permaculture I've picked up so far. Lots of helpful diagrams, inspiring photos, and useful charts. Maybe I'm geeking out on permaculture, but I can't put it down.
Bianka
Aug 13, 2007 Bianka rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nature lovers
Shelves: extremelyuseful
Good intro to permaculture.
Adam
Reading some of the early permaculture texts, especially Dave Holmgren's, it's easy to get lost in the diagrams and theories and linguistic structures they create. Hemenway takes the opposite tack, starting with the essential premise of permaculture: using nature's logic to tackle agricultural problems. That was what I needed to hear at the moment I picked up the book, thinking with some trepidation about the problems I was going to face growing vegetables and livestock next year. The takehome l...more
Denis Farley
A nuts and bolts guide to small scale permaculture, gardening solutions, maybe a survivalist guide to the 21st century in the sense it asks you to take a sober view of your balance sheet, holistically, in terms of your life support systems, understanding what they are and how to best maximize your relationship with them. In that sense, it unwittingly shares a common theme with some of the new theories of quantum physics, in what limited knowledge I have of that, in that relationships between phe...more
Stephie Jane Rexroth
"No human designed an alpine meadow, a tropical forest, or a creekside grotto, yet these wild landscapes are never ugly. They follow a larger natural order that seems to ensure beauty…

A natural landscape is patterned in ways that harvest the energy (sun, wind, heat) and matter (water and nutrients) that flow through it, casting a living net that collects these resources and shuttles them into myriad cycles that transform them into more life. Nearly everything that enters a natural landscape is c...more
Emily Mellow
This is a very inspiring and informative book. So far I've realized that I shouldn't remove any yard debris from our property, because it has so many uses! Unfortunately we had already hauled away truckloads (literally!) of limbs and leaves and brambles to Jan's house. But I kept what we had left and used it as the base of a berm I built in the front yard (yet to be planted...) and the rest is just for wildlife shelter in hidden parts of the back yard. Aparently, clearing all the plant junk away...more
Tracy
Permaculture is a fascinating concept and one that I had begun to dabble in (with great results) before picking up this book. At the beginning of Gaia's Garden the author states that you need to be ready for the book. You need to know what permaculture is in order to fully appreciate this book.

I found Gaia's Garden exceedingly informative and I plan to make a much bigger effort toward employing permaculture techniques this year.

What is permaculture? I'm too much of a novice to properly explain,...more
Jenny
Jul 25, 2010 Jenny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny by: Dear Old Dad!
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Hey, this is a great book! It was such a useful, informative, and accessible read. Each chapter built on the one before, so by the end I had a comprehensive understanding of how all the individual pieces work together. But it would also be handy to read a particular chapter alone, if in search of specific information. This book explained a number of things I always wondered about, for example, how rocks contribute minerals to soil.

--"Rocks contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, and most of the o...more
Leisa
i really liked this book- or at least the idea of this book. while permaculture seems like a natural sensible way to garden but if you're reading this hoping to design your own you'll quickly it's not natural in the least- that's not to say it's not a good goal. it does mean that beyond some basic guidelines there's not a lot specifics (anywhere in any permaculture literature). the field is too new- not enough people have successfully done this to be able to walk you through it for your area. th...more
Foxthyme
This is a handy book that is densely packed with great ideas. The author describes...well, how to take a piece of land that may have almost no vegetation at all, and within a year have a bountiful, near self-sustaining system, with a bit of elbow work from you, that provides food for the table, as well as herbs, medicinals, fruit trees, even chickens and rabbits. The author is familiar with the Arizona/Texa area, dry, and so goes into some excellent methods for trapping water for and in the gard...more
Miles
This is only the second gardening/farming book I've read, so I don't have much to compare it to. Hemenway has written a solid, accessible book teeming with great ideas about how to make the backyard a more exciting, vibrant, and self-sustaining place. It's easy to see why it has become a standard for permaculture enthusiasts and practitioners. Hemenway does a great job of offering ideas that are concrete enough to copy but also flexible enough to allow for experimentation. I'm not nearly knowled...more
Jody
I learned a lot about permaculture which is a very interesting and relatively new theory of gardening which relies on interdependence of compatible plants grown near each other, efficiency, proper use of natural and available resources like water, sun and wind. The book was extremely repetitive, extolling the wisdom of nature constantly. The author could have cut out a lot of the repetition and made this into a much shorter book, or even better spent a little time on sample gardens suitable for...more
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Toby Hemenway is an American author and educator who has written extensively on permaculture and ecological issues. He is the author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. He has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University, Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and is currently a field director at the Permaculture Institute (USA).
More about Toby Hemenway...
Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening

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“The plants we've chosen will collect and cycle Earth's minerals,water, and air;shade the soil and renew it with leafy mulch; and yield fruits and greens for people and wildlife.” 3 likes
“The average yard is both an ecological and agricultural desert. The prime offender is short-mown grass, which offers no habitat and nothing for people except a place to sit, yet sucks down far more water and chemicals than a comparable amount of farmland.” 0 likes
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