Annotated map of our yard.
Detail of keyhole beds from Gaia’s Garden.
Tasha Tudor Reminding me that skirts and dirt go well together.
The stacks of our public library yielded this inspiration:
Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway is the best home permaculture book I’ve found. Hemenway carefully builds a framework (or should that be layers a sheet mulch?) of how to understand and create an “ecological garden.” Why to mix perennials and annuals, how to layer plants, the importance of building soil, the role of observation in the garden, and so much more. This is one of the best gardening book’s I’ve ever read.
Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World by Wendy Johnson is, simply, beautiful. For decades Johnson has tended the gardens at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, California. Her writing is as skilled and mindful as the gardens she describes. One part poetic storytelling of a life of Zen meditation and turning dirt, one part highly thoughtful and comprehensive narrative of gardening lore. Anyone who likes to think about plants, gardens, meditation, compost, koans, and their kin will love this book. Even if you just love one of those things, Wendy Johnson will make you swoon for all the rest.
The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing the Green World edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson isn’t a gardening book. It is a book about connection and relationship between women and plants, and ranges from the garden to the wilds, touching upon every aspect of green growing things. It includes essays and poems and stories by many writers you already love and others you will come to love, including Zora Neale Hurston, Isabel Allende, Alice Walker, Rachel Carson, and dozens of others. This book is an inspiration that will have you humming with appreciation for your particular plot of earth, the larger homeground beyond it, and the green tribes that fill your life. I revisit this book every year.
When I delve into a subject, I go full bore (a remnant of my interest-led unschooling years, perhaps?) I absolutely inhale everything I can get on the topic, applying it as I go and eventually moving on, a bit wiser for my efforts. A few other gardening books on hold for me at the library, or ordered through interlibrary loan:
How to Grow More Vegetables… by John Jeavons. A classic of bio-intensive gardening that everyone else seems to refer to.
Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik
The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
Gardening for the Future of the Earth by Howard Yana Shapiro and John Harrison
Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva
Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman
I told you, I’m voracious. Probably won’t get all the way through this list before the actual work of gardening takes hold of me and I turn to the plants and soil to teach me all I need to know. But I might get close. And there’s always next year. For now, I’ll plant the fertile beds of my imagination for whatever harvest lies ahead.
p.s. what are your favorite books?