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Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture Paperback – April 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Hemenway, a permaculture expert and associate editor of The Permaculture Activist, explains how gardens can function as ecosystems, describes the basic parts of an ecological garden (soil, water, plants, and animals), and shows how to create backyard ecosystems through guilds. Guilds, the author tells us, are groups of plants that function as an ecosystem to provide products for humans, create cover and food for wildlife, nourish the soil, conserve water, and repel pests. A simple example of a guild is the "three sisters" (corn, beans, and squash); corn stalks provide a trellis for beans, the beans supply nitrogen to the soil, and the squash leaves inhibit weeds and conserve water. While Hemenway's ideas are intriguing, creating guilds specific to an area involves extensive research, which involves either observing plant communities in the wild or using books or university contacts. In addition, the author doesn't sufficiently explain how to incorporate the many sun-loving vegetables and flowers into guilds, which are often shade-oriented. Recommended only for botanical and academic libraries. Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Toby Hemenway is the author of the first major North American book on permaculture, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. After obtaining a degree in biology from Tufts University, Toby worked for many years as a researcher in genetics and immunology, first in academic laboratories at Harvard and the University of Washington in Seattle, and then at Immunex, a major medical biotech company. At about the time he was growing dissatisfied with the direction biotechnology was taking, he discovered permaculture, a design approach based on ecological principles that creates sustainable landscapes, homes, and workplaces. A career change followed, and Toby and his wife spent ten years creating a rural permaculture site in southern Oregon. He was associate editor of Permaculture Activist, a journal of ecological design and sustainable culture, from 1999 to 2004. He teaches permaculture and consults and lectures on ecological design throughout the country. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Whole Earth Review, Natural Home, and Kitchen Gardener. He is available for workshops, lectures, and consulting in ecological design.

He lives in Sebastopol, California.

Visit his web site at www.patternliteracy.com


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890132527
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890132521
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on June 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been organic gardening since the 1960s and I find GAIA'S GARDEN--A GUIDE TO HOME-SCALE PERMACULTURE contains much useful information for the gardener who wants to work with Mother Nature instead of against her.
In his book, Toby Hemingway says "permaculture is a set of techniques and principles for designing sustainable human settlements." Permaculture uses organic gardening principles to deal with big as well as little problems. Permaculture is involved with the local rose and the ecosystem within which the local rose lives. Most of the ideas Hemenway suggests have been "out there" for some time, but Hemingway combines and organizes this cumulative knowledge into a coherent approach. While I don't agree with everything Hemenway suggests, I think most of his ideas are worth trying.
Hemenway seems to have acquired much of his hands-on experience in semi-arid areas on the West Coast, so some of his "live and let-live" tactics may not work on the more lush East Coast. For example, Hemenway appears to be opposed to fighting certain kinds of invasive plants, some of them exotic (i.e. not native), but to me the whole purpose of my garden is to have something that does not look like the rest of the surrounding area--whatever that is--so, I will never give up the effort to keep certain plants OUT. On the other hand, I have discovered I can tolerate some "wildness" in my patch, and have given over certain parts of the yard to natural vegetation (as long as it does not include, poison ivy, bindweed, prickle vine..you get the picture) which the National Wildlife Federation would approve as bird-friendly.
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Format: Paperback
For the past few months I've been reading books and learning all kinds of new things. Sustainable agriculture. Edible landscaping. Naturalistic landscaping. Agroforestry. I learned alot, but something seemed missing. And then I found Gaia's Garden. While I was reading it the first time, I kept thinking, "This is it. This is exactly what I've been looking for."
This book combines all these other concepts, adds still more, and makes it all easy to understand. There are lots of things I loved about this book. But the most important was the way Mr. Hemenway explains guilds. He gives specific examples, which you can follow pretty much exactly. But then he gives the information to go beyond his examples and create totally new guilds specifically designed for your site.
If I had to give up all my gardening books and keep only one, this is the book I'd keep.
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Format: Paperback
I thought I was getting a book that would negate the need for an entire shelf of gardening books, and it's true that I will probably never buy another gardening book. On the other hand, I must now buy books about Chicken Tractors, Worm Composting, Soil Building, How to Buy Land in the Country, etc. Now, I need to subscribe to a Permaculture magazine. And I need to take some Ecology courses. And . . . here I thought I was going to save money! :-) I couldn't be happier. Hemenway has disrupted my whole lifestyle for the better. There is enough info here to get me started on the right path, but he has only whetted my appetite for more information about permaculture. But at least I now have a pretty garden to sit in while I read those other books and munch on fruit I grew myself!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At last! A book written for non-biologists, non-ecologists and non-tree-huggers!! I have read several books on permaculture which always left me wondering, "What the heck IS permaculture and who needs it?" This book, by Toby Hemenway, will get you so excited about the relevance and applications of permaculture that you will want to race outside with a bucket of vegetable peelings and leaf mulch before breakfast. Gardening can be a lot of hard work, but permaculture is about making it easier. Turning over compost piles every week is not for you? See his section on sheet composting. Does the very word "grey water" turn you off? Read Hemenway's description of taking a shower, then tearing outside in a towel to see the water drain out through a rocky stream. This book is full of concepts and inspirations that will not only make gardening a little easier but will also improve the land you live on, help you achieve greater self-sufficiency and create sanctuary for beneficial critters. And here is a major plus: Toby Hemenway, unlike other permaculture authors, actually has a sense of humor! An enjoyable read on the one hand and a basic gardening manual for the rest of your life.
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By A Customer on December 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book gives a wonderful introduction to permaculture. I had absolutely no idea what it was before reading the book. A one-sentence definition is worse than none. It is exciting to read about how the various parts of a garden interconnect.
I love the various shapes he suggest, such as keyhole gardens. I especially liked the way he guides you through the process of creating guilds. And it is good to know I can use all those plants I had to eliminate when planning a traditional garden. That is one of the nicest features of these gardens.
I have to admit the title is offputting. I thought this was some New Age system. Fortunately I read the reviews at this site, so that when I saw the book, I decided to give it a try. It is a very, down-to-earth, convincing book. Nothing New Age about it. I am excited and want to get started using some of these ideas.
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