Book Review: Gaia’s Garden
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Is there a book that has completely changed your perspective on something you do on your homestead? For me, that book is Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway.
Chosen as the Spring 2019 read for the Homesteaders Book Club, this book was originally published in 2000 and updated in 2009. It is one of Chelsea Green Publisher’s best selling books, and given how it has changed my perspective entirely, I am not surprised.
Gaia’s Garden starts with the simple but important position that permaculture practices allow us to work with Mother Nature instead of against her as we design our landscape and our gardens.
How much time have you spent fighting with pests, watering your garden when it gets dry, or trying to create the right conditions for a plant that doesn’t seem to be doing as well as you’d like? For us, the answer was “constantly.” Whether it was the deer eating our berry bushes, or carting a hose down to our garden to water it the expensive way, we seemed to be in a competition with our natural surroundings. I knew it didn’t feel right, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Enter home-scale permaculture and the lessons learned from Gaia’s Garden. In short, Hemenway teaches you why the modern approach to agriculture with its straight rows, abundant lawns, and sprinkler systems is in no way the most efficient or productive way to do it.
Instead, permaculture teaches you how to lay out a landscape plan that works with Mother Nature by doing things like changing from monoculture to polyculture in your garden, creating garden “communities” and “guilds” in which plants work together to help each other thrive, and creating conditions that conserve water rather than drain it away.
Our Favorite Take-Away?
One of our favorite ideas relates to those “pesky” deer. The fact is, we didn’t do our homework to realize that we were planting our vegetable garden right in the path that the deer normally travel. Rather than seeing them as “pests” we’re going to shift our attitude and try to be good neighbors to them. Rather than installing endless heights of fencing that they just break through again and again, we’re going to try a “fedge” or “food hedge” that creates a natural barrier that both protects our garden and provides some food and distraction for the deer.
Toby Hemenway passed away in October, 2016 but he left a lasting impression on the gardening and permaculture world. His website is still live with plenty of resources and links. We are grateful for this book that introduced so many people to new (old) ways of thinking that allow us to work in harmony with mother nature as we pursue our homesteading dreams and visions.
Get your Copy
We invite you to consider purchasing a copy of this book from Chelsea Green Publishers through our affiliate link. We support Chelsea Green Publishers because we love encouraging people to buy directly from this Vermont business. We earn a small commission on sales, and that commission helps to support our ongoing work with this website and our Homesteaders Book Club!
Thank you to Chelsea Green Publishers for their sponsorship of the 2019 Homesteader’s Book Club!!