The Untold Story of Gaia’s Garden (V149)


Ben Watson, a senior editor at Chelsea Green, joins me to talk about his work with Toby Hemenway on the first edition of Gaia’s Garden back in 2000 and how much of an influence that book had on the permaculture movement and the future of books in this space.

Toby Hemenway was the author of the first major North American book on permaculture, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, as well as The Permaculture City.

After obtaining a degree in biology from Tufts University, Toby worked for many years as a researcher in genetics and immunology, first in academic laboratories at Harvard and the University of Washington in Seattle, and then at Immunex, a major medical biotech company.  At about the time he was growing dissatisfied with the direction biotechnology was taking, he discovered permaculture, a design approach based on ecological principles that creates sustainable landscapes, homes, and workplaces.

A career change followed, and Toby and his wife spent ten years creating a rural permaculture site in southern Oregon.

He was associate editor of Permaculture Activist, a journal of ecological design and sustainable culture, from 1999 to 2004.

He taught permaculture and consulted and lectured on ecological design throughout the country, and his writing appeared in magazines such as Whole Earth ReviewNatural Home, and Kitchen Gardener. Toby passed away in 2016.

Visit his web site at patternliteracy.com

See more on Toby and Chelsea Green.

 



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Books by Toby Hemenway:


GaiasGaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As Hemenway demonstrates, it’s fun and easy to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including:

  • Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
  • Catching and conserving water in the landscape
  • Providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
  • Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods

This revised and updated edition also features a new chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.


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The Permaculture City by Toby Hemenway

Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns. The same nature-based approach that works so beautifully for growing food—connecting the pieces of the landscape together in harmonious ways—applies perfectly to many of our other needs. Toby Hemenway, one of the leading practitioners and teachers of permaculture design, illuminates a new way forward through examples of edge-pushing innovations, along with a deeply holistic conceptual framework for our cities, towns, and suburbs.

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Hemenway lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs for food, water, shelter, energy, community, and livelihood in sustainable, resilient ways. Readers will find new information on designing the urban home garden and strategies for gardening in community, rethinking our water and energy systems, learning the difference between a “job” and a “livelihood,” and the importance of placemaking and an empowered community.

This important book documents the rise of a new sophistication, depth, and diversity in the approaches and thinking of permaculture designers and practitioners. Understanding nature can do more than improve how we grow, make, or consume things; it can also teach us how to cooperate, make decisions, and arrive at good solutions.


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