Blog readers and local gardeners keep requesting a list of my favorite permaculture and gardening resources. This is probably not a complete list; however, these represent some of the books, strategies and research I’ve read and/or experienced:
Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway, is the usual go-to book for at home permaculture. The second edition has much more info for urban and suburban settings.
The Edible Front Yard, by Ivette Soler, is also very good, though it’s not permaculture, per se.This book emphasizes beautiful, edible ornamental vegetables, bushes and trees, coupled with expert tips on good landscape design, including color, structure and plant suggestions. A must-read if you plan to garden in your front yard, since this book will help you avoid raising the ire of lawn-loving neighbors.
The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, has information on how to do just about everything related to growing and preserving your own food, raising livestock, making herbal medicines, pruning fruit trees, and more. It’s really a one-stop shop in terms of straight up information with lots of charts, calculations on land productivity, as well as specific suggestions regarding varieties and attractive, edible plant combinations.
Four-Season Harvest, by Elliot Coleman is the go-to book for cold frames, greenhouses and season extension. He shares a phenomenal amount of knowledge, which I am only just beginning to absorb. Thinking in 4-D (with the time factor) brings gardening even more into the range of multi-tasking. Coleman covers cover crops, latitude, daylight hours, chill factors and more. If you want to garden in three seasons and harvest in four, this is the book for you.
Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, by Niki Jabbour, is another excellent book to help you strategize for maximum harvest, despite climate challenges. I own both Coleman’s book and Jabbour’s book, as Jabbour’s seems less intimidating, and I like her excitement.
All New Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew, is considered a must-have by many people who garden in raised beds. I own a copy, and I appreciate the work he does to make gardening accessible for everyone. Based on my experimentation, “Mel’s Mix” for soil really does make a difference. I just don’t like orderly, rigid, square boundaries, so his gardening style doesn’t particularly suit me. I prefer the looks and growth advantages of round, tiered beds, and I also like making free form raised beds via sheet mulching (also called Lasagna gardening) and wood mulch (also called the Back to Eden Method). If you like tidy raised beds, then The All New Square Foot Gardening will prove a worthwhile book to own. If you just want some knowledge about soil, general information on raised beds and trellis ideas, then I’d suggest borrowing this one from the library.
Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space, by Derek Fell. I borrowed this from the Madison Public Library while trying to garden an extremely small space against a chain link fence. We now have a huge garden; however, I continue to implement many of Fell’s delightful suggestions. If I still had a small space, I would own this book for reference.
Back to Eden: This is the film that sparked my own interest in wood mulch gardening for rich soil and dramatically less watering. You can watch it for free online by clicking here.
Permaculture and the Sacred: a fascinating talk given by Starhawk to the Harvard Divinity School. You can watch it here.
Free Introduction to Permaculture Organic Farming Online Course with Will Hooker from NC State University: This is a 38 video series, filmed in an actual ag class at NC State. You won’t get credit for having taken the class, and you’ll need to bear with student interactions and class-specific questions; however, these talks are loaded with information!
PERMACULTURE DESIGN CERTIFICATE COURSES
This is a tricky category, because I have not personally taken anything beyond a weekend introductory course in permaculture. We did participate in a real site design and planting, and we learned a ton; however, this Friday-Saturday-Sunday event did not count as the 72-hour PDC course.
The Permaculture Design Certificate Course is a specific collection of teachings that enables anyone completing it to become a professional permaculture teacher or designer. If you have not taken the course, you are not legally allowed to charge for services that use the word “permaculture” in their description. Of course, you can still study and implement permaculture prinicples on your own, and if anyone wants to learn from you, just don’t call it “permaculture” instruction or design! Terms like “holistic gardening,” “radical companion planting,” “systems gardening” or “relationship in Nature” could all touch upon aspects of permaculture, depending on your interests.
On the other hand, everyone I know who has taken a permaculture design certificate (PDC) course considers it a pinnacle and paradigm shifting experience. Choosing a course depends on your priorities and interests. In some ways, it would be ideal to find a local-ish teacher so that what you learn applies to your climate and location. Any PDC course will encourage you to study your own plot of land across the hours and seasons, though, so you could also select a teacher based on personal resonance.
I’ve often thought I’d want to study with Starhawk‘s Earth Activist Training, if I ever opted to do my PDC. I like that she has studied in the Feri (Faery) tradition and I appreciate the ways she interweaves and grounds her spirituality into everything from gardening to relationships, ritual and politics.
My own major resistance to doing a PDC course is, ironically, that I don’t want to spend much time away from our yard. I read voraciously, and I generally dislike classes (unless I happen to be teaching them). By doing a highly disciplined, self-directed study, I can learn as I go — running outside to evaluate immediately how what I’ve learned might apply to our yard. Traveling to a class also involves transportation, which usually involves fluorescent lights, noise, odd food and sleeping arrangements and noise. While I can handle those things, I’m in a nesting phase and don’t really feel like traveling unless I feel deeply called to a particular area.
If you find yourself in the same boat of not wanting to or not having time to travel for your PDC, blog reader Alan Enzo of http://permacultureeducation.com let me know of an online training that follows the exact criteria of original permaculture design certifier, Bill Mollison:
“Technically, all PDC courses should cover the exact same 72-hours of material. This is how the system was laid out by the founders, and what makes our PDC course special is that we take this seriously. We do not add our own ‘stuff,’ metaphysics, religion, psycho-analysis, or anything else. Some Permaculture teachers out there do, and this is not how Permaculture was meant to be disseminated.
We take pride in teaching only the official 72-hour curriculum as set down by Bill Mollison.
[A]nother major difference between our PDC course and most on-the-ground courses – Students get an intensive design experience with personalized instruction from highly-qualified instructors.
“In most residential PDC courses, 3-4 students work together on a fictional design, for just a few hours, and present it to the group. There is little time for reviewing the students’ final designs in this situation, because there are usually many other students waiting to present their group designs, and the process is rushed through.
“In our course, students get experience creating a real, integrated, working Permaculture Design, with expert guidance, feedback, and suggestions along the way. Our graduates leave with the ability to go out there and design for others, or to teach, consult, start a Permaculture-based business, etc.”
: I have not
taken this course, so I cannot comment on the content or teaching, other than appreciating the rationale for sticking to the original information. That’s what I do for certification courses as a Reiki Master Teacher — teach the basics as originally taught, allowing students to customize after the fact. In this way, I know they have received all the required training for valid certification and will be able to discern what’s original teaching and what’s add-on. I also like that someone can take this PDC course from anywhere and use his or her own project as a real design. I have no financial interest in this, but Alan has offered a $50 discount for my blog readers if anyone chooses to sign up.
Just mention the discount when you contact
The Faery Realm
— no, I am not being facetious! Faeries love to help people who help heal and protect the Earth, so they arrive as natural allies for anyone open to receiving their help. Click here
for some Quick Tips for Interacting with the Faeries.
Local Gardeners, Tree Cutters (for mulch and information about tree health), Farmers at the Farmers Market, Community Gardens and more….
“Permaculture” refers not just to “permanent agriculture” but also to “permanent culture.” The systems approach looks at how everyone and everything interact together in complex, mutually beneficial systems with “stacked functions.” Everyone and everything serves a key function, and permaculture aims to uncover unexpected gifts and relationships. Left brain, right brain, social, solitary observer … it all goes into the mix, so reach out to the world around you. If you read or do nothing else but more deeply, consciously engage your local environment, you’ve already begun taking steps towards permaculture principles. If you add that new knowledge and skill back into your garden, then you’ll have food and beauty to boot!