This may only be of interest to those of you who garden, but since Cannonballer Lizella recently posted a book about rose enthusiasts, I’m feeling a little more confident in reviewing it. I’m a pretty avid gardener and have a number of gardening books in my arsenal. I have probably read them in their entirety in a piecemeal fashion, while using them as a reference tool, but I have never read a gardening book cover to cover. Toby Hemenway’s book is a cover to cover read. It demonstrates a fairly doable approach to ecological home gardening. Plant native plants! Embrace nature! Even you city folk can grow a food forest and raise you some chickens!
Permaculture and sustainability are buzz words in gardening these days and “Gaia’s Garden” is a great introduction to those ideas while offering good ways to employ them on a small-scale in your backyard. Why slave all season weeding, replanting annuals year after year, and generally fighting against nature when, with a little patience, you can let nature do the work for you? Plant the right plants in the right spot, supply water and shelter for beneficial insects, and aim toward everything being multipurpose. Like wine? Build an arbor and plant some grapes. Voila! A shady gathering spot for getting soused on homemade wine, nesting and food for the birdies and a great location for shade loving plants. Nature wins, you win.
Most of the book is full of common gardening sense that has some how escaped us in a world of pesticides and big box stores selling all of those large and shiny annuals. Delayed gratification is not our strong suit. A lot of the ideas are being practiced more and more in community gardens situated in reclaimed empty urban lots, but can be just as easily employed at home.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hemenway’s homage to the “chicken tractor”. I wish I had the gumption to do this. Coop those chickens in a moveable structure and they will peck (till) and poop (fertilize) an area in no time. Beats dragging out the rototiller, no?