The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow is the book from which I stole the quote you saw on my home page.
It is the very first sentence of the book's first chapter:
"This is a book about saving the planet and living to be a hundred, while throwing very impressive dinner parties and organising other creatures to do most of the work. It is a book about a very different style of growing food."
Why would you want to grow food in a different style? Linda answers that question two paragraphs further down:
"If you follow conventional gardening systems, growing your own food is a very expensive hobby. It is a full time job, and not exactly an inspiring one..."
And later on she says:
"I don't mind physical work, but I hate drudgery. There are too many things to fit into life for anything as boring as weeding or driving a tractor back and forth, back and forth."
It was Linda who taught me to think this way: if any garden task is boring, repetitive, or otherwise not much fun, then there has to be a better way to do it, or a way to outsource the task to nature.
Do you want a beautifully landscaped, productive and organic garden, where growing food is easy and fun, rather than a full time job? A garden full of birds and butterflies, of lizards and blooms, full of food and sensory delights? If yes, then Linda's book is the answer to your prayers.
The Permaculture Home Garden focuses on growing vegetables, fruit and herbs on a garden scale, from tiny inner city backyard to market garden.
Linda has developed a gardening system, a permaculture design module, that can be scaled up or down to be used in any size garden. She gives you a recipe, and it contains both the instructions, and also the reasoning behind them.
If you are a beginner, follow the recipe exactly and it will turn out well. If you are more experienced, be inspired by it, adapt and substitute to your heart's content, and come up with your own personal recipe.
The flavour? Seductive and scrumptious!
"I also believe that the best flavours come from the most seductive garden. A garden has to be an art form to be really productive. It has to feed the eyes and ears and nose as well. It has to be a refuge, a place of reflection, creation and enchantment to produce peas that can be used to bribe children."
That late, tired dash through bedlam with a shopping trolley compares very badly with a stroll through a seductive garden, not least because you can leave your purse behind.
Let's have a closer look:
No, we are not talking about gardening tools. The tools Linda refers to are pencil and paper, common sense, imagination and creativity.
In the first chapter Linda explains the design she uses, how she arrived at it, and how that design can be adapted and modified for different size gardens and situations.
The basic design is a beautiful mandala (circular) garden. Depending on the space you have available you would use one or more of the basic mandalas she describes. (Or use one of the mini designs that she developed for friends' tiny inner city gardens, they are real beauties!)
Each mandala incorporates room to grow herbs and vegetables, several small fruit trees, permanent shrubs, room for compost piles, and even a pond if you want one.
Linda uses a mobile chicken cage to prepare the garden beds. The chickens do most of the work like weeding, fertilizing, tilling, pest control...
Linda also explains how you can substitute the chickens with a worm farm, or with compost piles. After all, not all city dwellers are allowed to keep chickens, and not everybody wants them.
The second chapter is called "Enterprise Bargaining" and explains how her designs outsource just about all the garden work to chooks, worms, soil bacteria, wild birds, lizards, or other plants. The tasks that are outsourced that way are for example making soil, conserving soil, aerating soil, feeding plants, pest control, weeding and clearing new garden beds. Wouldn't you rather outsource any of those?
Chapter three is titled "Garbage In, Garden Out" and teaches the noble art of scavenging and recycling. Here you find pages of great ideas for sourcing free mulch and fertilizer for your garden, and at the same time reducing waste. After all, there is no waste in nature, everything is a resource!
Chapter four is about managing time and tasks, and has some advice on lunar gardening and keeping a garden journal.
"Site And Layout": chapter five starts with advice on choosing a site, and covers the usual aspects of climate, wind, sun, slope, soil etc. Linda then shows you how to lay out her design for your chosen site, how to measure everything up and mark it out.
In chapter six you build the chook dome. The chapter has everything: list of materials and tools, drawings, and detailed step by step instructions.
You need some PVC pipe, a joiner and some PVC glue, wire to tie things together, something to drill holes into the PVC pipe, some kind of netting to cover the dome, and a small tarp. No great handyman skills required.
Linda also gives advice on how to use the dome, and on keeping chickens in general. I never had chickens before and knew nothing about them. She got me started, and now I can't imagine having a garden and not having chickens. Even if getting chickens was not your plan, you may just change your mind when reading this book!
The chook dome is in my opinion the absolute perfect chicken cage solution. I built mine in the week I bought the book. I have since moved house three times, and started three new gardens, all different adaptations of Linda's design. Today, seven years later, I still use the same original dome. I love it.
Chapter seven is about making compost, and chapter eight about worm farming. Both are excellent common sense guides, easy to understand and follow, just like the rest of the book.
You now have your site designed, marked out, and decided if you will use chooks, worms, or just compost in your management. Let's start planting!
Chapter nine is another general gardening chapter. You learn about different propagation methods, raising seedlings and planting them out.
If I say general gardening, I don't mean that her advice is interchangeable with what you might have read in conventional gardening books. Linda still explains exactly how everything ties in with the use of her particular design, and how you can save time and work and improve the health of your garden at every step.
Chapter ten is a gem. It's called "Guild Planting" and here Linda tells and shows you exactly what to plant where and when, in each of the beds.
Her planting schedule takes advantage of companion planting relationships between plants, and it ensures that you have a constant supply of a variety of vegetables and herbs, rather than a lack or glut of any.
The chapter includes drawings for four individual guilds (for different times of the year), and one drawing of the whole mandala garden that shows which guild to use when, when to move the chooks on etc. It's all there. You just can't go wrong!
Chapter eleven introduces fruit trees into the design. Again it has a good drawing making recommendations what to plant where, and how it all works together. All the fruit trees are small varieties that are well suited even for small gardens.
Part four is a mixed bag, and includes creative ideas and advice on weed and pest control, attracting wildlife, making your own liquid fertilizers and sprays and watering.
From Asparagus to Zucchinis, this part is simply an A to Z of growing instructions for common herbs and vegetables.
Now, if any of the above sounded somewhat dry or boring, not a single paragraph in this book is dry or boring. Linda has a knack for explaining things in a way that makes you chuckle and slap your forehead at the same time. It's fun and entertaining, but it's also so crystal clear and so much pure common sense, that you wonder why it took you so long to see the light.
To me The Permaculture Home Garden is simply the most sensible, practical and inspirational permaculture book about food growing on a home garden scale there is.
Linda uses permaculture methods, but she does not harp on about definitions, or about the ethics and principles and science behind permaculture. The title is in fact the only place where the word permaculture is used, the rest of the book talks about gardening.
Buy The Permaculture Home Garden at Amazon.com
(This is an Australian book and is expensive to buy in the US. However, it's worth it.)
She just explains what to do, and why it makes sense. And does it ever make sense! And it's a fun read! And it works!
The specific examples in the book are most applicable to people who have enough space to implement her chicken dome/mandala design (the full size mandala measures 14 metres across), but it can also easily be adapted to smaller gardens. I'm single so I use a smaller version (and I still feed friends as well...)
The chicken dome itself and also her planting schedule are suited for temperate to subtropical areas. People in very hot or very cold climates will need to experiment and adapt.
Linda's design is so flexible, and all the advice from the first to the last page of The Permaculture Home Garden is so valuable, that absolutely everybody interested in growing herbs and vegetables at home will very much benefit from buying this book. The fact that it's fun to read is a bonus!