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The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystemby Christopher Shein, Julie Thompson (With)
“A masterful distillation of permaculture in a way that is easy to apply to our gardens, farms, and lives today.” —David Cody, founder, Urban Permaculture Institute Once a fringe topic, permaculture is moving to the mainstream as gardeners who are ready to take their organic gardening to the next level are discovering the/b>
“A masterful distillation of permaculture in a way that is easy to apply to our gardens, farms, and lives today.” —David Cody, founder, Urban Permaculture Institute Once a fringe topic, permaculture is moving to the mainstream as gardeners who are ready to take their organic gardening to the next level are discovering the wisdom of a simple system that emphasizes the idea that by taking care of the earth, the earth takes care of you.
The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture teaches gardeners of every skill—with any size space—how to live in harmony with both nature and neighbors to produce and share an abundant food supply with minimal effort. Permaculture teacher Christopher Shein highlights everything you need to know to start living off the land lightly, including how to create rich, healthy, and low-cost soil, blend a functional food garden and decorative landscape, share the bounty with others, and much more.
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"Shein's straightforward, practical guide describes techniques and deciphers terminology to encourage gardening practices built on principles of caring for the planet and sharing its bounty.”
"If this is your first exposure to Permaculture: buy this book. If you know permaculture and want a way to share it with someone else… pick up a copy, it’s the right place for them, or you to start.”
"The book gives gardeners a wide variety of tools to begin to use the principles and techniques of this ‘ancient yet cutting-edge technology.'"
"With beautiful photos and an open layout, this book is easy to access and a fine afternoon read. Whether you are starting a new edible garden or looking to take your veggie patch to the next level, this book is worth exploring."
"Gives gardeners a wide variety of tools to begin to use the principles and techniques of this ‘ancient yet cutting-edge technology.'"
“Straightforward and engaging… the book clearly outlines the steps you can choose to incorporate [permaculture] into your home landscape.”
“Shein offers plenty of color photos, diagrams and plans for turning a backyard garden into an edible ecosystem.”
“The range of content in the book defines what permaculture is, how to apply these ideas in gardens, and ways to connect with community using a permaculture focus.”
“Gardeners who are interested in experimenting with the permaculture approach to growing edibles would do well to use this book as a guide.”
"Shein teaches gardeners both novice and experienced how to apply permaculture to vegetable gardens."
“The book gives gardeners a wide variety of tools to begin to use the principles and techniques of this ‘ancient yet cutting-edge technology.’” —Publishers Weekly “Along with detailed plans and lavish illustrations, Shein’s straightforward, practical guide describes techniques and deciphers terminology to encourage gardening practices built on principles of caring for the planet and sharing its bounty, whether one is feeding a family or a village.” —Booklist “Gardeners who are interested in experimenting with the permaculture approach to growing edibles would do well to use this book as a guide.” —American Gardener “Straightforward and engaging. . . . the book clearly outlines the steps you can choose to incorporate [permaculture] into your home landscape.” —Garden Therapy “Shein does an excellent job of explaining the concept of permaculture.” —The Gardener “The range of content in the book defines what permaculture is, how to apply these ideas in gardens, and ways to connect with community using a permaculture focus.” —PLACE “Shein offers plenty of color photos, diagrams and plans for turning a backyard garden into an edible ecosystem.” —SF Gate “I didn’t read this book so much as devour it, and few books in recent years have inspired me more to continue my efforts to turn what little yard I have into an edible landscape.” —East Oregonian “If this is your first exposure to Permaculture: buy this book. If you know permaculture and want a way to share it with someone else. . . . pick up a copy, it’s the right place for them, or you to start.” —The Permaculture Podcast “I love this book because not only does it get into the philosophy behind permaculture, it gives you examples of permaculture and the knowledge to design a permaculture system to fit your space and needs.” —Fruhlingskabine Micro-Farm
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Read an Excerpt
What Is Permaculture? What vegetable gardener wouldn’t like to grow more food in less time and for less money? That’s exactly what permaculture offers. Instead of relying on backbreaking work, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, the permaculture gardener uses methods that build healthy soil, smother weeds, and promote plant life, while recycling waste products from the garden. Whether you are a beginner gardener just starting to grow your own food or an experienced grower who wants to increase your yields, you’ll find that permaculture offers design tools and growing techniques that will help you create an abundance of food for your family and friends while saving you effort in the garden. Formalized in the late 1970s in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, permaculture combines sustainable agriculture, landscape design, and ecology (the name is drawn from the terms permanent agriculture and permanent culture). It is an approach that encourages the home gardener to work with nature rather than against it to design a garden that thrives with minimal intervention. Although terms like hugelkultur, fruit tree guilds, and food forest may seem unfamiliar now, these are in fact simple concepts that can be implemented in any edible garden. Permaculture has much in common with organic gardening, but it is a different approach. Natural ecosystems are the model, so plants are placed in mutually beneficial plant communities. There is an emphasis on perennial plants over annual ones, and permaculture gardeners grow many crops at the same time in the same location. There are ongoing recycling and re-use projects throughout the garden, such as water harvesting. And permaculture does not advocate plowing and digging the soil, but rather building it up over time with no-till methods. Permaculture and Food My mother became a vegetarian when I was twelve years old, and it was thanks to her love of vegetables that she became my first gardening mentor. I remember when we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she tended vegetable patches beside the porch as well as in different community gardens. Those early years spent around vegetables gave me a great appreciation for their immense variety, both in the garden and on the table. To me, there’s nothing better than a meal cooked with fresh vegetables picked directly from the garden minutes before eating. Not only does fresh produce taste better, but it is also more nutritious. Permaculture is a perfect match for edible gardeners because in addition to creating a more sustainable and responsible garden and community, it also leads to lots of great-tasting food. Successful edible gardening relies on well-prepared soil, ample moisture, minimum weed competition, the right choice of plants, and proper timing. The amazing thing about permaculture is that it allows you to meet these needs with a minimal investment of time and money. That’s because the best long-term solution to growing abundant food is to garden in ways that enrich the garden’s resources rather than depleting them. The first step in permaculture is intelligent garden design. Typical residential landscape designs with large lawns and veggie plots relegated to a far corner require a lot of maintenance and are not very efficient. Permaculture uses techniques that have been adapted from indigenous peoples around the world—such as layering and stacking—to help maximize every available growing surface: backyards, front yards, curb strips, decks, balconies, fire escapes, rooftops, along walls and fences, in neighbors’ yards, and at community and school gardens. As I have seen from my own garden, these tools help create a maximum edible yield in whatever space you have available. If you are living in cold climates, permaculture methods can be applied to starting seeds indoors, making use of cold frames, hoop houses, and greenhouses to add even more growing space. In warm climates, you can use permaculture to create shade and to harvest water. Next, permaculture finds ways to repair even the poorest soils, even if previous generations left the soil in an unhealthy condition. Dirt is the basis of all good growing. Without healthy, biodiverse soil, you cannot grow healthy and resilient plants. Rather than tilling and digging as in conventional farming and gardening, permaculture gardeners use techniques that add fertility and encourage biological activity in the soil in ways that mimic the natural soil food web. Finally, permaculture is based on the common-sense idea of eating what grows well locally and celebrating what is in season. Baby boomers will remember when getting an orange in your Christmas stocking was a big deal. That’s because oranges were grown only in places like Florida and California, and were exotic and expensive. Now that so much of our food is routinely shipped thousands of miles, we’ve lost a connection we used to have with local farmers and food. Permaculture encourages us to celebrate local producers by eating local, seasonal produce, and by preserving and sharing the bounty. In our own gardens, we feature a variety of plant choices based on what is best adapted to the particular garden and the tastes and needs of those who tend it. In addition to the practical aspects of this system, it’s important to realize that permaculture is more than just a way to grow plants. It’s an ethical approach to growing food that reconnects us to our farming traditions. Although it’s a newer system, it’s based on cultural traditions that have been supplanted by industrial agriculture and fast food. It can be said that permaculture is a ten-thousand-year-old, cutting-edge technology that teaches us to grow crops in a sustainable way. The beauty of permaculture is that it embraces both traditional pre-industrial agriculture and influences from other cultures. It returns us to the model of small-scale growing, when resources were shared in the community, and the garden itself is part of the larger ecosystem.
Meet the Author
Christopher Shein has been a gardener in Berkeley and Oakland, California since 1993. He has started dozens of community gardens, school gardens, market gardens, and gardens in backards in centers serving the homeless. He teaches permaculture at Merritt Community College where he helped develop the award-winning student farm. Shein also owns Wildheart Gardens, a permaculture landscape business that designs and builds sustainable gardens. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and earned his Permaculture Design Certificate at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, British Columbia. He lives with his wife, Dr. Runa Basu, D.O., and their daughters, Gitanjali and Bija Sol, in urban South Berkeley.
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Well written and informative, a definite asset in any gardnener's collection. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in sustainable permaculture.