Book Review– Gaia’s Garden, a Guide to Home Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

Gaia’s Garden, a guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway is, in my view, one of the most influential books on sustainable gardening and permaculture.  If you want a broad understanding of what this movement is all about, Gaia’s Garden is an excellent place to start.
Over a year ago, I started to seriously read Permaculture literature and immediately discovered that the approach was a game changer for the way I think about and practice gardening.
Like many life long gardeners, I had a well-developed, yet very traditional understanding, of gardening, my study of permaculture invited me to look at the garden as a completely different canvas, one that can be summed as – “using the natural intelligence of the Earth’s symbiotic ecosystem, in which humans are partners, not a competitor. “  I began to understand that nature can do a thousand things at once because nearly everything (sun, rain, animals, plants, humans) that enters a natural landscape is captured and used, absorbed and reincarnated into a vibrant weave of biodiversity that feeds, shelters, stores and creates beauty. 
Until we ask ourselves, what is nature doing and how can we emulate and enhance it, we're going to keep hitting the same walls, investing wasted time, energy and resources in our gardens homes and communities, trying to invent solutions, like increased pesticide use, that are extension of the problems that we created ourselves.
Gaia’s Garden is a happy fusion of the practical and the visionary written in a fun and non-preachy style. Yet, Hemenway never looses sight of where we must be heading for a sustainable future, the detailed reasoning behind that, while, in the realm of the practical, offering page after page of crisp and workable “how to do it” instructions.  
The chapters on soil bringing soil to life and designing gardening guilds (guilds are plant communities where each member supports, enhances and benefits from the others) were the best of I have read on these topics.
This book brought me so much joy, interest and hope, inviting me again and again back to his pages for a re-read, re-think and re-enjoy.

Leave a Comment