189 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of info with tables, glorious tables!
What I really love about this book is how much Mr. Hemenway goes into the *reasons* that these methods work. Call me obsessive, but I like authors to provide a good reason their techniques work and not just say "OMG, look at this harvest, just do exactly what I do!" Mr. Hememway gives us beautiful, well-though out tables of different nutrients certain plants accumulate,...
Published on September 7, 2009
148 of 155 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but does it really work?
I have to agree with other reveiwers that this is a readble, approachable book. It has excellent charts, graphs and visuals, and covers the concepts of permaculture in much less space then Bill Mollison's permaculture guide, which is currently running over a hundred dollars, so for these purposes, this is a decent book.
That said, I decided to try his advice...
Published 18 months ago by Quo Primum
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189 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of info with tables, glorious tables!,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)What I really love about this book is how much Mr. Hemenway goes into the *reasons* that these methods work. Call me obsessive, but I like authors to provide a good reason their techniques work and not just say "OMG, look at this harvest, just do exactly what I do!" Mr. Hememway gives us beautiful, well-though out tables of different nutrients certain plants accumulate, what kinds of bugs they attract, plants that can tolerate drought or provide mulch on the spot, plants that have "spiky" roots that break up tough top-soil and plants that can provide structure or shade to other plants. It's about using the attributes of different vegetation to do the work for you in a way that doesn't adversely impact the land. Armed with this information, you can create your own "guilds" and areas of companion plants that work best for your location. Outside of a textbook, this is the most complete information on gardening I have ever come across. The author even presents the downsides of the methods in, what I feel, is a very even-handed manner. No one style fits every need and Mr. Hemenway addresses that. This is my favorite gardening book, period.
130 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on permaculture today,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)I have read nearly every permaculture book written, and I have visited with thousands of people about permaculture. I have to say that this is the book I recommend the most often, but it is also the book I quote the most.
If a person is going to get just one permaculture book, this is the book to get.
148 of 155 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but does it really work?,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)I have to agree with other reveiwers that this is a readble, approachable book. It has excellent charts, graphs and visuals, and covers the concepts of permaculture in much less space then Bill Mollison's permaculture guide, which is currently running over a hundred dollars, so for these purposes, this is a decent book.
That said, I decided to try his advice out in my own garden, and here is what I am experiencing thus far. For background, I am an experienced gardener of 25+years, who has spent the last ten or so years transitioning over to the organic and sustainable approach.
Last year my 80x30 garden and two hoop houses were entirely planted in rows - monoculture. Upon reading Toby's advice, I have planted all of them this year with broader raised beds, with "key hole" type paths to reduce the traffic and compaction areas. The improvement has been from 50% to now being at least 70% plantable space. Very good.
I also did the multiple layer mulching that he details, and followed his instructions very closely. Here is were the garden encountered some very real problems. Toby suggested that the mix of seeds be directly sown - scattered more like - into this top layer of mulch. What I am discovering is that the germination and survival rate for the seedlings is abyssmal due to the high acidity of the mulch. What I found is that if I start the seedlings separately, and then plant them deeply enough to enjoy the compost layer, the plants do well. If however, they were direct sown seeds that have not penetrated through the mulch layer, they are struggling for nutrients, remaining stunted with pale color. I have been liming the garden to correct for PH, and have also been adding kelp meal and other nutrients from above to try to compensate, but it just cant approach what dirt provides a plant.
As a result, it is now mid June and we have no tomatoes yet, although in previous years, our plants were always bearing by now. The plants are smaller and some are still stunted. The larger ones have gone through the multiple layers of mulching and are finally taking off. The same has occurred with the cabbages and beans. The pepper plants ALL still look stunted, and only one plant out of 20 has a blossom.
Under all these layers, we have the most gorgeous soil, with large healthy earthworms in abundance. This is definately building a good environment for them - the shortcoming is the top mulch layer and the fact that out of the cupfulls of seed that I scattered only a few have come up. Yes, I have kept them moist, yes, they are germinating fine in starter trays, etc...
It is a much prettier garden, having departed from rows of monoculture. Instead we now have meandering paths that look more like an Elizabethan Garden. Instead of just working or harvesting in the garden, it has now become a destination in itself, with new things to look at around each bend. We have also planted permanent plants for shade and variety, such as columner apples (Jung seed) Nanking bush cherries, rose trees and bushes and perennial herbs. The honey bees visit the "bee bath" in the center and the ambiance is much improved over those boring old rows.
I am deeply concerned about his nonchalance toward invasive species of plants, even preferring to give them a new name "opportunistic." He casts blame for their existance on practices that made their survival possible. Having a large proerty with natural forest, I can assure Toby that the Kudzu has come up on enormous oak trees (slowly killing them) that have not been disturbed for Only Lord Knows How Long. The mountain olives are pushing out and taking over natural grassland areas, but this does not seem to disturb the author. As even the movie Planet Eart states, grasslands feed more animals on this planet than any other type of covering, and Toby's deep love for trees seems to exclude recognizing the importance of grassland ares for feeding indigenous species such as deer, grouse, wild turkey etc., which CANNOT survive with only the mast crop of the forest. He also seems unwilling to cast blame were is really lies, with the various department of natural resources (pick your state) that have imported these things ON PURPOSE as various experiments. My personal "favorite" was when the local DNR decided there were too many wild turkeys. Their solution was to import rattlesnakes to this area (no kidding) who would eat the eggs and drop the population. Well, rattlesnakes, being equal opportunity kind of guys, dont discriminate between turkey, quail, grouse, eggs. We haven't seen a grouse in almost 10 years.
So, in sum this is a good book for charts, graphs, etc, but for real life application I would suggest Sepp Holzer, who hase been working with the plants and actually using these practices before people were even calling it permaculture. While Gaia's Garden is a good book, I would not rely on it exclusively.
I will give an update on the garden in the fall and share the results. I am giving it three stars for now because a gardening book should help to get a garden off to a start where seedlings thrive. With the top acid layer of mulch problem, it leaves an additional step for the gardener to have to work out. More soon.
July 18, 2012 Update
Yesterday I planted our hoop house for fall harvesting, yet to date we have harvested exactly three tomatoes from our main garden, a serious disappointment, although there are finally large clusters of green tomatoes on the vines. The early setbacks we experienced have seriously delayed harvesting food. What we are able to harvest are those plants that send their roots down deeply, so carrots and turnips are doing well.
Another problem that has arisen is pests. Now we've been growing organic for years now and are accustomed to a certain number of pests, but this is ridiculous. The author mentions problems with slugs in the early stages of the mulching, and he did not exagerate. They are everywhere. His "solution" is to plant more than you'd consume so that the slugs do the "thinnning." Not working - they have pierced every delectable plant with holes - none are without. His other "solution" is to make metal rings for each plant - does he realize this would number in the hundreds? The other plants have beetles and pests that I have never encountered before. Amazed about this I went to Eliot Coleman's book Four Season Harvest again and was reminded about this:
"The scientific evidence indicates that the effect of stress on a plant - whether from lack of nutrients, excess or deficiency....is to inhibit the synthesis of protein in the plant. When the protein synthesis is inhibited the plant accumulates increasing levels of free amino acids (also called free nitrogen) in its aerial parts....insects thrive on plants high in free nitrogen and are thus attracted to and feed upon those plants." page 148.
So something about the sheet mulch layers that created this early failure to thrive has now stressed the plants to the point that they are insect candy.
This has also been a very expensive venture. In addition to losing cup fulls of seeds early on (the author pointed me out to his sidebar with the advice about scattering seed, but perhaps this advice SHOULD be in the chapter where he actually discusses planting the seeds, FOUR chapters later), we had to purchase many replacement plants at the garden center - which I normally never do since we start our own seeds in trays here - but this year it was too late, so we ended up at the garden center. We also have about $160.00 in utlra fine mulch. With these considerations, we could have bought alot of organic produce at the grocery store for the money. But I dont think that actually growing much is this author's concern. In one section he states that his tomatoes planted in the shade don't yield as much, but that's OK. hmmmm.
I think that if you follow Eliot Coleman's advice about building soil, you'll end up with healthy soil that yields, with no less destruction of the environment.
I strongly suspect that this author is part of the "rewilding" groups that want to restore more of human inhabited places back to nature. If that's your thing, this book is perfect for you. If you want to put food on the table, you can expect much better crops from Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch.
More in the fall about the time of first frost....
October 16, 2012 Update
We had our first frost the other night, so its time for the third and final installment. I have revised my rating from three stars to two, having thought it through completely, and based on the assessment of this year's garden.
I can't stress enough what problems I have had with insects, including some that I have never had before, and cannot even find identification for on google searches. We have had tomato pinworms, squash beetles, japanese beetle, potatoes beetles, aphids, slugs, cucumber beetles (two kinds) and blister beetles, which were also newcomers to our garden, and ate every bit of chard they could get ahold of, at least when they were done eating the potato leaves. This strange new beetle was even eating the jerusalem artichokes, and I have NEVER seen any bugs eat those.
The trouble is, the keyhole approach does not give you good access to all sides of plants as rows do, and so going through the plants for insects, which I do regularly, is not nearly as effective because one is bound to miss some. It also means having to step into those mulched beds instead of staying on the path.
This system may work in the future as the multiple layers of mulching break down and the soil regularizes itself. In the meantime, as I pointed out above, my plants became insect candy, and the harvest was pathetic.
Out of all of those broccoli, califlower, and cabbage plants I bought, we ate NONE. I mean it, NONE. Those relentless beetles took over and devoured the plants. They eventually even went and took over the turnip tops after they had consumed every other brassica. To that, some members of my family finally had a sigh of relief - they were tired of turnips, even with huge amounts of Romano cheese.
The tomatoes eventually produced, and the carrots have done extremely well. As a matter of fact, every time I pulled a bug-infested plant out to destroy it, I sowed carrot seeds. So the only remaining greens in the garden are the frilly tops of carrots, and the volunteer fennel plants.
This book just does not cut it. Having read Bill Mollison's bible, as well as Sepp Holzer's I find that they have more practical advise. Look objectively at the picture on the cover, pretty, but lets be honest, messy too. Imagine trying to pick around that to find invading pests, or even the cucmber vine that trailed under the tomato plant, and now the cucumbers are setting seed.....frustrating. (And the lettuces in front are bolting, possibly from overcrowding?)
Weeding was also a challenge, due to the keyhole beds, In order to hoe, once again, you have to get in the beds.
If you are looking to restore some very neglected parcel of land, and have several years in which to do it, this book would be helpful, although you may as well go to the Master, Mollison, himself. For putting food on the table, this method is counterproductive. I go with my earlier statemnet, that Eliot Coleman provides the best advice for growing food.
I know there are lots of initiates to permaculture that get excited when they read this book, and the author certainly is engrossing and upbeat. But this book does not perform and therefore perpetuates the need to have produce brought in, and keeps the demand for fuel going.
One Friday, I actually bought vegetables at a produce stand - green beans, squash, beets, pumpkins - all items I TRIED growing in our garden. This book goes back on the shelf.
91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Create a Sustainable Garden Using Less Input and More Diversity for Better Yields.,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)This book is a wealth of information. It teaches how to design and grow a home garden using permaculture and ecological gardening techniques. These techniques are designed to minimize input regarding fertilizers, pesticides and time, by imitating nature. Nature shows us that many different species of plants perform better together than one species. In permaculture each plant has more than one purpose. Not only will the plant provide food, but it may also shade another plant or attract beneficial insects. In Gaia's Garden you'll learn how to implement these ideas to create your own sustainable food forest.
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing Book,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)I knew literally nothing about Permaculture gardening when I bought this book - my mother mentioned it to me and said to check it out, so I came to Amazon where the description intrigued me......fast forward 3 weeks later and my front water guzzling lawn has now been sheet mulched in preparation for a wonderful, sustainable, garden, and I have 5 baby chickens being delivered next week!
I'm not kidding when I say that this book was transformational in my views on gardening - I live in the city with very limited space, and our lawn was the best in the neighborhood. I have a raised bed for a garden in the back, and did produce some good veggies, but not near enough to eliminate buying any items at the grocery store. My first 10 minutes with this book I learned what I was doing wrong in my raised bed - and as I dug deeper it was one "Aha!" moment followed by another. I am a scientist, and I can't believe none of this had ever occurred to me!
The book is very in depth and gives wonderful examples with specific plants (not just general concepts) - the only thing I would have liked to see more of was pictures of actual permaculture gardens. I'm a very visual person and like to have something to imitate when designing my own project, so I'm still searching for design examples to incorporate (once again with specific plants).
Just know that if you get this book you're going to be inspired to make some drastic changes in your landscape - as evidenced by my "Bomb Proof Sheet Mulched" lawn - the recipe in the book for this was extremely helpful! I will admit that my first initial thought upon opening the book was - oh no, this is too in depth and not being a professional gardener, I'm never going to understand - trust me when I say, pick a chapter that sounds interesting to you and start there - that is what I did, and it migrated to many of the other chapters and just kept going!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice starting point,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)Gaia's Garden does a nice job of making the basic principles of Permaculture clear without being boring. I've read several other books on the subject and this is by far the most accessible. Perhaps most interesting to me was the advice on developing plant guilds and cultures from the principles up. That's something that most other permaculture books tackle only by example (coming off as bragging, as well), and I found the treatment here to be exemplary. That could be especially useful if you, like me, live in an area that hasn't received a lot of attention yet from the permaculture movement. If you're looking into permaculture, I'd recommend this as a good starting place, a lot of bang for the buck. The only thing holding me back from giving it five stars is that some of the plant lists and tables are rather short. While the book doesn't advertise itself as the end-all be-all book of permaculture data, I sometimes felt a few more table rows or pages would have gone a long way. On the other hand, if you're pioneering permaculture in your area, you'll have to do some research anyway. Its not difficult research, as much of it is available online (often from Ag extension offices or similar government services, although often the plants are considered weeds) and Gaia's Garden does provide more than adequate instruction on how to evaluate the performance of your selections. Of course, as with a lot of permacultural things, patience is key.
95 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SHOULD BE YOUR FIRST BOOK ON PERMACULTURE!,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture (Kindle Edition)This was the first book I ever read on Permaculture. I had wanted to get it for a long time and finally purchased it when it came out on Kindle I grabbed it. If you are interested in this concept of farming/gardening then this is where I would start before going into the heavier reading on the subject by the originators of the theories and practices.
As someone with forty years of experience under my belt and always open to learning of new ways to help our mother earth, I can highly recommend this book. I've read it more than once and will probably read it many more times before I kick the bucket!!! And no, I will not spoil it for you by going into the details of the book. I hate it when reviewers do that.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaia's Garden,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)Wonderful book which opened my eyes to different possibilities! Even saw some examples of Huegelkultur at an outdoor farm house museum in Graz, Austria this summer, something which was described in the "Gaia's Garden" book. This mound of brush, compost, and dirt was successfully growing a variety of veggies. "Gaia's Garden" encourages innovative thinking as I begin to explore what varieties of fruiting plants are available from around the world and which may work on my particular suburban lot. Recommending this book to many of my gardening family & friends who are working on developing a healthy food production ecology in their own back yards.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)In my opinion, this is the best introduction to permaculture. It is very well written in a style that is easy to read and understand. There are, also, many color photographs and illustrations throughout the work. The author makes a point to direct the reader to the bibliography for further study of any subject covered throughout. Thank you Toby!
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great revision,
This review is from: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (Paperback)I own the first edition of this book and was chary of paying for the second edition, but it was totally worth it. The color photos alone are worth the cost of admission, as models and as sheer drool-worthy inspiration, but I also loved the added information on incorporating home-scale permaculture into a larger community/urban fabric. It also seems more cleanly organized and smoothly written. Highly recommended.
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Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition by Toby Hemenway (Paperback - Apr. 2009)