Cover of Gaias Garden

Cover of Gaia's Garden

This book was outstanding.  It was a fantastic blend of how to make your yard into a lush food forest and why to do the things he recommends.  I loved the chapters on soil and water.  I also liked how he made mention of chickens and other animals but didn’t dedicate so much space to it like other books (not where we’re at with the process right now, so we just skip all the farm animal talk).  I loved how he presented, explained, and recapped his ideas at the end.  I can see how this would be a totally overwhelming book for a first book with these concepts.  Though far from an expert, at least I’ve read several related books in the last few months so the terms and ideas he presents are not totally unfamiliar.  Still, the gardens he’s talking about take lots of vision and lots of dedication to that vision.

I read the first edition, but just bought the second edition.  I don’t know if there are any differences yet other than the color used in printing, but am excited to find out!  ETA:  Yes, there is a whole exciting additional chapter called “Permaculture in the City!”  This is such good news – I am in a city!!  🙂  Plus within that chapter there is a whole large-ish section of advice on how to use what we in the Twin Cities call the boulevard, though he calls it the parking strip – that piece of land between the sidewalk and the street.  We have a lot of this land being on a corner lot, so I was so happy to see it recognized and get some real tips for it.  Plus, one of the ideas he presents is an idea I had already thought up all on my own for improved water harvesting (to lower the sidewalk a little along the sidewalk, like a mini-swale, to catch the runoff during stronger rains).

Surprisingly, as much about activism as it is about gardening. Strong on the why, and not as strong on the how. For example, I appreciated the big picture lessons like to improve your soil before rushing to plant. But I had to go to the Internet to flesh out the details of HOW to improve my soil.  Not high on the to-buy list, but a quick read and if you are only in it for the gardening tips, you only have to read about half of it anyway.

I just got done devouring this lovely little book, which I happened upon simply because I wanted a better understanding of what lasagna gardening is and her other, more popular book already had many holds on it at the library.  Turns out this one is perfect for us!  Since we are novices, this book is great because she gives a ton of practical tips and doesn’t get bogged down in technical or philosophical stuff.  She has nice little lists of “Pat’s Picks” for annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits and berries – all with space-challenged gardeners in mind.  She actually explains how to espalier (or train on a flat wall) a fruit tree.  And since it’s published by Rodale, it’s all organic techniques, especially important to me because we are on a corner lot with two storm drains going to the Mississippi.  I will be buying this book – now my to-purchase list is growing quite long!

Cover of Fresh Foods from Small Spaces

Cover of Fresh Foods from Small Spaces

For a novice like myself, this is a great book. It reinforced a lot of what I’d read elsewhere, inspired me to take on a sheet mulching project, and gave me tons and tons of good ideas about what kinds of edibles can be grown in low light. I plan to purchase it just for its recognition of and emphasis on the fact that foods can be grown in partial shade, which is most of our lot. His ideas about varieties for shade are awesome. I find this is a great follow-up book to The Urban Homestead – it’s got similar kinds of information but fewer illustrations. Admittedly, I only skimmed the chapters on fermentation, sprouting, and mushrooms. My interest mostly lies in the gardening-in-the-dirt types of activities right now.

The Urban Homestead

The Urban Homestead

This spring I got this book on my then-fiance’s recommendation, who spotted it in the Piragis catalog. I loved it! I skipped some sections, like livestock and foraging, and focused on the gardening section. I learned so much and it validated things I was planning to do but was unsure about, like having pulled up our landscape fabric and wanting to mix veggies in with the flowers. So many good ideas.

What this book really had going for it, as far as a novice like me is concerned, is the simple how-tos, complete with diagrams and step-by-step descriptions. It gets into the why just enough for understanding to start to take root, but not overwhelm.

I plan to buy this one – and that’s saying a lot for me!!  There have been several instances when I’ve wanted to consult it and it is at the library.