Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture


Gaia’s Garden cover imageI got a wonderful Christmas present: A copy of the second edition of Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden. I was thrilled! I just love to read inspiring books, and this certainly is one. I devoured it.

What it’s about

This book is made up in three parts: the garden as ecosystem, the pieces of the ecological garden, and assembling the ecological garden. He explains this idea of a garden as a functioning ecosystem in depth, to what extent it can work and what’s still gardening work. He then goes on to show what makes natural ecosystems tick, and finally gives lots of information on how to piece it all together. There’s also a whole chapter about urban gardening that really sparked my imagination.

What I like about it

He gives many real-life examples throughout the book, both from other people’s experiences and from his own, which serve well to illustrate his ideas and also broadened my understanding of the limitless possibilities you have when you start to work with Nature instead of against her. I particularly enjoyed reading about the folks who set up a now flourishing, rich garden (more like an oasis) in a barren, dusty, very hot desert. I’d love to do something like that!

I also think it’s a very well-structured book, it’s easy to grasp the concepts and, more important, all the bigger concepts that they tie into. And it’s delightfully written! A real joy to read. I noticed that especially with the urban gardening chapter: I don’t really fancy urban gardening, I’m longing for “the real thing” – I usually do – and as usual I give myself a hard time and do nothing when I have to settle for less. But after reading Gaia’s Garden I suddenly felt inspired to get going right now, sort of as both a taster and a test run for when finally everything is perfect. Feels funky!

Admittedly it wasn’t just the book, things have been building up like they often do. But anyway, for me it’s quite a big shift in perspective, not postponing everything for the perfect moment. I also figure that I’d be in quite a bit of trouble if I tried to get an almost-offgrid house and a full-fledged permaculture garden with a walipini and whatnot going all at the same time. Silly idea, really! ;-) So I’ve now devoted a tiny kitchen corner to vermiculture – but more on that in another post.

Tiny caveat

The book is aimed at people living in the USA, which with the exception of Alaska is a little to a lot warmer than where I live. I can now roughly transguess Fahrenheit to Centigrade (get that sorted before you read the book, it’ll come in handy), and my research tells me I live in a USDA zone 6. Roundabouts. I’m planning to get another book specially for gardening in colder climates.


Gaia’s Garden has my full recommendation. Whoever you are: read it. I’m sure it didn’t tell me anything that was really new to me, but the level of detail is fantastic, and it does make everything very coherent. Goooood book.