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Westerly Sun Column

August 18, 2014

written by Ellie Coffey, CT Master Gardener, 2010

and member of the Friends of Westerly Library & Wilcox Park


Most gardeners have spent many years in the garden and are pretty comfortable with tried and true methods. But the following three books about permaculture may have even the most successful gardeners excited to break from the norm.


Food Not Lawns: How to turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community (2006) by H. C. Flores

The author writes with the earnest style of an activist and you get caught up in her enthusiasm; you begin to look at your yard and garden with fresh eyes and think about changing it up. The author is a great proponent of permaculture, “a plan to grow food while caring for the soil and ourselves.” On page two you read the average urban lawn could produce several hundred pounds of food a year, and in following chapters, you learn how to transform a spring lawn into a winter plot covered by cover crops (no step involves a rototiller or weed killer). She outlines which winter crops are specifically suitable for the vegetables being planted in the spring. She explains the benefits of using compost tea and vermiculture (raising worms). She thoroughly explains the eight layers of a garden and lists plants that both yield a harvest and improve soil quality. Her plan for a scratch and sniff garden sounds like fun for children of all ages.


The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach (2013) by Ben Falk

This work is more scientific in tone and, in fact, reads like a text book, complete with many graphs. Living in Vermont, and working tirelessly transforming overused land, the author’s approach has borne dramatic results only ten years later. He hopes his techniques will be adapted in other places, so his writing is detailed and highly informational. He is highly analytical--until he shares stories about his ducks! Readers can learn so much from his experience, such as how to grow rice in five-gallon buckets. He has created plant lists for many situations which include vegetables like yacon (a potato-like lost crop of the Incas), and seaberry, which is not only high in anti-oxidants, but also fixes nitrogen in the soil, a much-needed benefit.


Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, 2010, by Sepp Holzer

 This author’s anecdotal manner makes reading easy and it is exciting to learn what Holzer has accomplished on an alpine slope in Austria (his ideas have also been adapted in Scotland and Thailand with amazing success). His method for planting fruit trees is downright eye opening and his adventures in animal husbandry are inspiring. He explains why hedgerows are important and what mixture of plants will thrive together and will produce food for wildlife and humans. He shows how to build swales and to create raised beds which look nothing like the flat 4’ x 8’ typically seen here in the United States.


Assuredly, this is only a minimal glimpse of these three books, a profound treasure trove for those who like to dig. There is much more information to be gleaned. All are available through the Ocean State Library System, so check them out!