Posted on 15 February 2009 by

Book Review: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway

bookBy Cindy Naas

Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture is a remarkable book.

I count it as one of only a handful of gardening books I’ve ever read that present completely new ideas.

It is one of those books which will forever change the way you think about all gardens, most especially your own.

From The Ground Up

Hemenway examines the way soil is built and then presents an interesting new way to create growing beds. His method also includes new ways to companion plant in order to create long-term sustainable gardens, with combinations of plants maintaining soil fertility.

New Partners

Hemenway details interesting combinations of plants for maximum food production coupled with the increased ability to attract wildlife. One page alone of this book has me throwing out every plan I’d drawn for my new garden and drawing up an entirely new planting scheme. My new garden will couple apples with lettuce, raspberries with carrots and roses with sweet corn and runner beans.

The Urban Food Forest

One of Hemenway’s most intriguing ideas is that of the ‘food forest’. Planting fruit and nut trees for long-term production is the tip of the iceberg. Companion planting along with the shape and design of the edible forest is really one of Hemenway’s innovations and one of the most remarkable ideas I’ve come across in my years of gardening.

I am planning out a small orchard/vegetable garden/home landscape for my new home, and the design is based on the concepts outlined in this book. It’s not only that the wall of espaliered apples will look great opposite a lane of roses, it’s that the insects will attract birds which will enrich the soil, which will grow better roses, which will attract more bugs . . .  see where this is going?

Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be

This is one book which won’t be making its way into the hands of friends. It’s the kind of book that is so full of information and ideas that I’d like to keep it nearby at all times. From a handy zone reference included in the index to several thorough discussions of soil design, planting and more, this is one book I’ll be using for years to come. I can’t recommend it highly enough, I consider it an essential book for any gardener. Whether flowers, veggies or wildlife habitat is your style, you need this book.

3 Responses to “Book Review: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway”

  1. Shibaguyz Says:

    Just put in on hold at the library! Thanks for the recommendation, Cindy!

  2. Cheese Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation! Permaculture has been something I’ve been meaning to nerd up on for quite a while. If I ever finish the Omnivore’s Dilemma, this looks like a good book to visit next :).

  3. Samantha Says:

    What happens if I want to grow my bonsai large as possible (grow natural)? Do you think it would do well in the southeast USA?

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