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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  781 ratings  ·  116 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published January 25th 2013 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  781 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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Start your review of Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Paradise Lot is like porn for the permaculture geek. Thought-provoking, easy-to-read, and full of fascinating tidbits, I can't recommend it highly enough. On the other hand, I did just blow $80 buying perennials as a result of Toensmeier's glowing descriptions.... ...more
Debbi Cobern
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book and will be re-reading it many times. This is not for the casual gardener, though. It is for the permaculture nut who cares about the world at large and your food security intensely.

These two gentlemen took their 1/10th acre Duplex lot and turned it into a food haven of fruits and vegetables of mostly perennials. (that which returns each year)

Some people have not liked their adding personal info to the book about their falling in love with their future wives, but I thou
Wendy Wagner
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A feel-good account of an urban permaculture garden. In between the cute stories are some pretty clever ideas for adding more productivity to your site. (I, for one, can't wait to try the tip about harvesting squirrel labor.) ...more
Emma Doughty
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City is written by Eric Toensmeier with contributions from Jonathan Bates. If Eric Toensmeier sounds familiar, it’s because he wrote Perennial Vegetables, and co-wrote the two volume Edible Forest Gardens.

Whilst his previous work is very detailed, factual and intended for reference, Paradise Lot is a more personal story – it’s about the way Eric and Jonathan developed a forest garden in urban Mas
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. Be warned. This is a book by confessed "two plant geeks" . Whimsical and packed with information. The appendices and recommended resources alone are worth the price of admission. I found it especially helpful because it goes into great detail about a zone that is very close to the zone that my garden is in. Much of the information is applicable to ALL areas of the globe. The discussion of polycultures is very enlightening. There is significant discussion about the philos ...more
Norris Thomlinson
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
My project took place in Portland OR, his on the other side of the continent in Holyoke MA. My lot was two tenths of an acre, his lot half that. But besides differences in space for trees, and somewhat different plant palettes, Eric Toensmeir's account in Paradise Lot of applied permaculture reads like a parallel universe of my own experimentations with urban lot rehabilitation and perennial polycultures. We each started with infertile and unpromising soil, but guided by permaculture literature ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are two types of urban farming and permaculture books: heartwarming narratives and detail-oriented textbooks. This one is the first, but the author has penned his own textbooks, so I came into this expecting to see an expert at work. And he built something delightful.

If you've seen any of those Youtube video tours of backyard permaculture gardens, this is next-level. Eric knows more about the underlying systems, site-analysis, and the interactions within a plant guild, and you see it in th
Robyn Puffenbarger

Wow, what they have done with a lot in New England is just inspiring. I am looking forward to reading more about permaculture and applying the techniques.
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately I had to return this to the library before writing my review. I studied Permaculture ~15 years ago as a landscape design student and while this book had a few interesting ideas I don't feel it added to my knowledge on the subject. I was also put off by one of the author's selfish attitude regarding support of a bill to allow people to keep chickens in their town. They had their chickens (illegally) so they didn't want to rock the boat so others could have chickens, really?

Also some
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book for anyone wanting to do urban food forest gardening. They give lots of detail about which combinations and guilds worked or failed and why. The authors also include the story of how the development proceeded and fit in to the different stages of their lives.
Annie Oosterwyk
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
Two friends with a common vision transform an urban yard into a complex, permaculture farm. I am inspired to look through those plant catalogs and order some trees.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading this book, “Paradise Lot: Two plant geeks, one-tenth of an acre and the making of an edible garden oasis in the city” and I enjoyed it a good deal. The author, Eric Toensmeier and his roommate Jonathan Bates, tell the story of their purchase of a tenth of an acre with a duplex in Holyoke MA, and their 5+ year process to turn it into a self-sustaining, edible ecosystem. At times getting really into the weeds (hee hee hee!) about their choices of what to plant, where, when ...more
"Paradise Lot" offers an inspiring narrative that will appeal to those who fantasize about beautiful, functional gardens in urban environments. Authors Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates weave a cheerful chronicle of the development of a nearly sterile yard into an ecological oasis. Along the way, they successfully justify their self-identification as "plant geeks."

The book lacks substantial quantitative data, but otherwise contains a fair amount of useful information related to the authors' lan
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
The book, which focuses most of its attention on edible perennials (and not annuals like corn, tomatoes, etc), is divided into four sections -- Sleep, Creep, Leap, and Reap -- offered essentially in chronological order from 2000, when Toensmeier and Bates first rented a farmhouse together and started to put into practice some of their gardening ideas, to 2012, after they had lived in their duplex house in urban Holyoke, MA (zone 6) for about 8 years. Toensmeier writes most of the book, with Bate ...more
Niklas Braun
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. To be sure, the subject matter is interesting and inspiring; I surely would love to have my own "paradise lot" and there is a lot of material in here on examples of just how that has been done in an unexpected and small location. In fact, the sheer number of different things that these two were able to grow on their tiny new-England lot is very cool.

But the writing style is dragging in some parts, and outright cringey in others. The "love story" part where
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
This was an interesting read. I will likely not create a permiculture anytime soon but it is certainly a goal to strive for. I grew up with a front yard that was a giant herb garden and the experience (a much as I remember) is similar to the work. We had a variety of birds and bugs and it was little oasis in the middle of the neighborhood. It has since been plowed under.

This book could have had 5 stars if the authors hadn't been so weird about "finding their mate" by saying that they "prepared
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The description on the book says this "is a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan." The book I read is neither charming nor funny. It is insufficiently anecdotal and too informational to be funny. It is insufficiently informational to be a good garden resource. I am glad to know that these guys put together a successful permaculture homestead in the middle of urban Massachusetts, but it was a dry read to get through the whole thing. ...more
Anna Nesterovich
The title - Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City - turned out to be very misleading for me. Mostly because my idea of a city is very different: not a house with a front and back yards in a town, but a flat with a balcony and maybe some roof space. So the inspirational part didn't really work. I was also expecting more helpful suggestions, while the book is mostly an autobiography from a little train that could. ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Besides the descriptions of gardening and so many interesting plants, fruits and vegetables, something I found very interesting about this book was because I had started reading Perenial Vegetables right before starting this book and was surprised to realize that the books were by the same author. I enjoyed reading about the plants in a real life backyard garden and about mistakes, surprises, and all they learned over the course of several years.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun little story of two plant nerds who build a permaculture oasis on a scraggly piece of land in Massachusetts. Not great writing, but super informative. It took longer to get through than it should’ve because every few pages they would mention a new plant or technique, and I would pause to write it down or go look it up online. It’s esoteric for sure, but a good fit for permaculture geeks.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Inspiring book for any 1/10th acre permaculture gardener in grow zone 6. The author tells his story of planning, creating and maintaining a garden of his dreams including trials, errors and lessons learned. I enjoyed the personal perspective and insights of "a plant geek"...and it provides a steep learning curve to those who are not familiar with the mentioned 200 plant species. ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is charming and fun to read. I especially enjoyed reading about the beginnings of the garden and all the setbacks and missteps in the early days. It makes the this kind of project seem more approachable.
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment, design
A permaculture memoir-of-a-garden, always in progress with failures and successes and as subtitled, some exceptionally happy plant nerds. Inspiring towards perennial vegetables and fruits, though overwintering Massachusetts freezes is no longer so relevant for me.
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
It's an informative book if you're new to permaculture and live in zone 6. Unfortunately, I live in 9B and have been studying permaculture for about a decade. But the title was so catchy that I had to give it a go. It won't go on my shelf but will be donated. ...more
Rachel Vryhof
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent memoir of a pair of friends creating a new urban permaculture test garden and the joys and trials it brought, including the creation of new families. Great for inspiration and the resources appendix was especially helpful.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating to read the story of these two friends who undertook a big permaculture project together and really made it work.

I would love to read a similar book by someone who has done it in the Pacific Northwest, where I live!
Amanda Munday
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book with excellent plant and gardening descriptions alongside some humble learnings. Worth the read.
Scott Schluter
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lot to absorb.
Lisha Doucet
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took a bit of time to read but oh the ideas generated for my suburban yard. I would love to spend time with these guys
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Non-fiction about changing a Holyoke MA house lot into permaculture
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