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The permaculture home garden - book review

A while ago I posted my first post about permaculture, explaining how I had just really worked out what it was and how excited I was to find out more.  A couple of people recommended Linda Woodrow's book "The permaculture home garden".  I have been following Linda's excellent blog (The Witches Kitchen), but I had no idea that she had also written a book, so I decided to find out more.  When I emailed Linda to ask the best place to buy it, she offered to send me a copy, I was SO excited, this was the first ever free thing I have received as a result of this blog.

The book arrived a few days later and I couldn't wait to start reading it.  Before I opened it though, I had a moment of trepidation.  What if I didn't like the book?  Would I be able to write an honest review?  Or would I have to resort to faint praise?  I read the first sentence and realised that I need not worry, I loved the book, every wise word!  Thanks Linda!

Linda's book

Linda begins the introduction with "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", what's not to love?  I'm not sure how I would have taken this book if I was reading it as a beginner gardener.  With a few years experience in gardening, I'm able to relate to most of the advice in the book as I realise that what I'm doing, or have done, is not the most efficient or productive way of doing things, and I can see exactly how to use the simple solutions in Linda's book.  Maybe if I hadn't made some errors already I wouldn't see how useful her advice is, but then I'm someone who tends to need to make my own mistakes!  If you are beginner, believe me, everything she says is true!

Linda starts by explaining the importance of planning the garden to minimise the work required, both by placement of activities and by "employing" the services of microbes, earthworms, chickens and other animals.  This is perfect timing for me, as I'm planning a new garden, for those with existing gardens, I guarantee you will be thinking "oh, if only I read this first".  In our case, our chicken tractors are made to last, so we won't be changing to Linda's chicken dome (which is explained in detail), however I will be thinking about how to design the garden to make best use of the chickens and their tractors.  There's also information about worm farming for those who can't keep chickens.

Linda makes some excellent suggestions about record keeping, which I am guilty of being totally slack about, and then later wondering what I planted and when!  Its also given me some ideas about incorporating the compost in the garden, rather than it being something separate.  Linda starts all her plants in seedraising boxes, which is similar to my method, and she has some great ideas about how to transplant seedlings without damaging them, which I will be trying.  I am also really excited about Linda's method for arranging fruit trees in groups with flowering/fruiting in sequence, absolutely genius!  It not only saves on labour, but helps to maintain a population of predator insects in the garden by providing a year-round supply of nectar, good for bee-keeping too.

Finally Linda includes some notes about a range of common vegetables, with yet more great tips.

The only thing that I thought was missing were photos!  There are some very good diagrams, but I really wanted to see more of what Linda was describing, and then I realised that Linda's blog is full of photos of her garden.  So if you're reading the book, have a look at Linda's blog at the same time.  The best way is to click on the "garden" tag under "have a browse" and you will find some good explanations and photos, for example one about chooks in the garden.

This book is exactly what every vege gardener needs to read BEFORE they start their garden (or maybe after the first year, if you want to make a few mistakes first so that you really pay attention to Linda's advice).  Even if you already have a garden, this book will give you more ideas to reduce time and money spent in the garden and increase productivity.  No matter if you have a small patio garden or 258 acres, this book will help you to plan and work in your garden (and gave me a few farm ideas to think about too).  Thank you Linda for writing such a fantastic book so that I didn't have to think twice about writing exactly what I think of it!

I am also reading some more permaculture books at the moment and will eventually do some posts about how we do/can/should apply permaculture principles on our properties and in our daily lives.  How do you use permaculture in your garden?

Each month in 2013 I reviewed a principle from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability:


  1. Hi Liz,
    After a year of gardening in the old-fashioned way and getting a little frustrated with all the tedious jobs, I switched to Permaculture with Linda's book and haven't looked back. I read the book while we were house hunting and could start my garden from a fresh slate. A year later I'm very happy with how it works out, although I've used most of her advice, I couldn't implement all of the ideas. The chook dome is great, we haven't had any casualties and I don't have to lock them up over night.
    I've found the books and ideas of Jackie French also very interesting, just taking out what works for me. I must say I love her ideas for orchard groves: and have started mine a year ago.
    I look forward to you book reviews, always good to learn more.
    Cheers, Marijke

  2. That book is my bible. It rarely sits in the shelf because I go back to it again and again and again. My Permaculture Home Garden book, is dogeared , worn with little book marks in parts I like going back sits in the car so I can read it when i am waiting at school pick up ( mums say, 'Are you STILL reading that book!' )and I take it on holiday with me.

  3. Hi Liz

    My mother recommended this book to us when my husband was very ill with kidney failure and we didn't have the strength to weed our vegie garden. Lets just say it was a blessing!!!

    Our garden which was based on the design in this book is now 10yrs old.

    It does work but, if I could, I would advise those to plant the trees further back. It took a year or so for the trees to grow but what happened is that they grow so well that we had trouble getting the chook dome past them.

    The trees in our first mandala are heavily pruned to allow the chook dome to pass. With the trees planted back further we haven't encountered this problem with our second mandala. (Just sharing)

  4. I like the look of this book - especially since not only you but the last three comments rave about it. I've just added it to my Amazon wishlist but am going to see if the local Permaculture Association has it on lend first!

  5. Oh I want to read this book now. I've been thinking about so many of the things you mentioned - especially making circular gardens so we can have chooks on them one day, and planting more fruit trees.

    I will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the review!

  6. We've used these principles in the set up of our garden but you do have to figure out what will work in your situation. So instead of chook domes, we have a permanent home for them and a series of gardens with gates off a central corridor, then we just let them in and out of each garden as the crops in there finish. We also didn't go with the round shape of the garden bed as its very hard to put an irrigation system in, which we wanted to do, given the size of our patch. But as you all know, things change all the time in gardening, so we'll see what works and what needs fresh eyes

  7. that's so great that so many of you have already read Linda's book (and I feel like I'm the last to know about it!). Anyone who really wants to produce their own food and is willing to change a few things in their garden to make it work better will benefit from this book.

  8. I too have been heavily influenced by this book. My circular garden beds are irrigated with mini wobblers, low pressure sprinklers in the center of each circle. I would have a central pivot in the center circle with a long arm making it easy for one person to move the dome. That would be my main concern. Linda says she could move it in her good clothes before going to work, I have always thought she must have been amazonian to achieve this.


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