This post is a Gaia’s Garden Book Review. It covers a little bit of what this book is about and my impression of the book and how it relates to gardening and permaculture.
The Book – Gaia’s Garden Book Review
Gaia’s Garden is a book written by Toby Hemenway and is one of my favorite gardening books. It’s book written around permaculture and delves into several topics like; building and maintaining soil fertility and structure, catching and conserving water in the landscape, providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals, and growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods. He also includes a chapter about urban permaculture for people with limited growing space.
Toby starts the book out explaining what permaculture is and what natural gardening is and why you would want to do this. He then goes into several key concepts to include soil building, annual vs perennial, plant communities, stacking functions and more.
Toby then goes into different designs and talks about patterns and keyhole design, herb spirals, branch and net patterns and mixing the many patterns together. He does a wonderful job of describing the zones and sectors.
He goes into soil building and humus as well as how to make compost. Toby includes a good table that describes the carbon to nitrogen ratio and how the different materials in compost play into this. He goes into till vs. no till and hugelkultur, sheet mulch, and cover crops. The author has a very nice table on different plants to use as a cover crop.
He gets into water conservation and water needs of plants. Toby describes a swale, mulching, grey water, and other water catchment techniques. The book gets into different plants and function stacking of plants. He specifically gives details on some of my favorite plants to include: goumi, maypop, and comfrey. Included is a table that gives details on plants that are dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, and nurse plants.
He goes into many of the beneficial bugs that we have already covered in the blog posts and some that we will cover in future posts. Toby also talks about how to attract these beneficials. He gets into polyculture, and one of my favorite subjects… Plant guilds. Plant guilds is where he ties most of the rest of the book together and with this one concept changes any garden or planting for the better.
Gaia’s Garden Book Review
He has tables in the appendix that gives information on plants that you can use for you garden. The tables are broken up into; tall trees, small trees, shrubs and small trees, herb layer, and vines and climbing plants. Each table gives you the common name, botanical name, USDA hardiness zone, light requirements, edible parts or use of the plant, animal use, other uses, and comments. If you get hung up on what plants to put in a garden area, these tables are a great place to get ideas.
As I write this review and look back through this book again, I want to read it again from cover to cover. This is one of my go to reference books for plant guilds, but there are so many other concepts in this book that I could really pull it from the book shelf once a week and reference parts of the book.
Gaia’s Garden is a fun read that is difficult to put down. It is not like some other books that are good reference manuals, but bore you to sleep if you try to read it from cover to cover. This is a book I can see myself reading cover to cover many times over. I read it all the way through this past summer and now think it is time to read it again. Maybe over the holidays.
The book can be purchased on Amazon at the link below:
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