The current issue of Northern Gardener includes a delightful profile of a Minnesota gardener who is incorporating permaculture principles in her home landscape. The idea of permaculture — permanent agriculture — is to plant more perennial crops and to combine crops in a way that encourages beneficial relationships among the plants, insects and other life in the garden.
You’ll find lots of books about permaculture available now, and this one by Christopher Shein, published in 2013 by Timber Press, earned a positive review from Northern Gardener. Here’s the review that ran in our Hot off the Press column.
The promise of permaculture is one that many vegetable gardeners can get behind: less work and more food. Christopher Shein’s guide explains the permaculture philosophy as well as offering specific strategies and many small steps to take when applying permaculture principles to home gardens, no matter how large or small the property.
Permaculture began in the 1970s in Australia and its principles involve taking a slow approach to designing and creating a home landscape that produces abundant food with modest effort from the gardener. For instance, permaculture emphasizes perennial crops, preserving and using resources, such as water, and not segregating vegetable-producing areas from ornamental gardens.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture explains the principles and their rationale clearly, with abundant illustrations and photographs helping to convey information. With the big picture addressed, the book guides gardeners through how to design a permaculture landscape, how to build the soil and which kinds of plant combinations work best in different situations. The section on designing a garden is especially helpful. The book includes a variety of designs (all illustrated with drawings) for gardens ranging from the size of a patio to a large lot with room for chickens and abundant fruit trees.
The author gardens in California so not all of his plant recommendations would work in the North. However, this is a small quibble. The book is so full of inspiration and ideas—mushroom logs, anyone?—that enthusiastic vegetable gardeners could happily spend all winter poring over its pages.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture is available at the MSHS Bookstore for $24.95.