University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Gaia's Garden
Toby Hemenway.  2001.  Chelsea Green Publ.  222pp, softcover
Subtitled "A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture", this is one of the few books on this subject for this audience.  It is a good introduction to permaculture, and serves as a quite thorough how-to guide for incorporating these principles into your landscape and gardens.

If you're not familiar with this concept of permaculture, it (and this book) is described as " ...a gardening system that combines the best features of wildlife habitat, edible landscapes, and conventional flower and vegetable gardens into a self-renewing landscape that lets nature do most of the work."  (sounds appealing to me!)  To this description should be added functional uses such as plants for windbreaks, fiber, dye, poles, insect repellents, herbal uses, and the like.  Incorporate these principles and your landscape should be attractive, functional, sustainable with the least input of resources (your time, as well as chemicals and such), and ecologically friendly.

The book has three parts-- The Garden as Ecosystem which introduces basics of ecology for gardeners, the why and the how; the second part covers the Pieces of the Ecological Garden including soils, water, plants and helpful animals including birds and bees; the third part is Assembling the Ecological Garden, covering design and creating communities.  The book has many illustrations and extensive tables of plants for various uses.

This book and concept have also been described as "revolutionary" for the course of gardening and agriculture.  "It is organized around the premise that it is possible to substitute information and human stewardship for hardware, capital, chemicals, and machines in the growing of foods and the crafting of landscapes."  The author is a professionally trained scientist, gaining continuing experience in his garden in southern Oregon, and an editor for The Permaculture Activist-- the leading journal of ecological design in North America.

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