The Permaculture Handbook:

Garden Farming for Town and Country

by Peter  Bane

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The urban landscape has swallowed vast swaths of prime farmland across North America. Imagine how much more self-reliant our communities would be if 30 million acres of lawns were made productive again.

Permaculture is a practical way to apply ecological design principles to food, housing, and energy systems; making growing fruits, vegetables and livestock easier and more sustainable.

The Permaculture Handbook is a step-by-step, beautifully illustrated guide to creating resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, complemented by extensive case studies of four successful farmsteads and market gardens.

This comprehensive manual casts garden farming as both an economic opportunity and a strategy for living well with less money. It shows how, by mimicking the intelligence of nature and applying appropriate technologies such as solar and environmental design, permaculture can:

  • Create an abundance of fresh, nourishing local produce
  • Reduce dependence on expensive, polluting fossil fuels
  • Drought-proof our cities and countryside
  • Convert waste into wealth

Permaculture is about working with the earth and with each other to repair the damage of industrial overreach and to enrich the living world that sustains us. The Permaculture Handbook is the definitive, practical North American guide to this revolutionary practice, and is a must-read for anyone concerned about creating food security, resilience and a legacy of abundance rather than depletion.

Peter Bane published Permaculture Activist magazine for over 20 years and has taught permaculture design widely in the temperate and tropical Americas. Author of The Permaculture Handbook, he is a native of the Illinois prairie whose interest in good food and simple living led him at mid-life to become a writer and teacher of permaculture design. Peter serves on the board of PINA (Permaculture Institute of North America). He is also a co-founder of the Great Rivers and Lakes Permaculture Institute, a regional hub in the PINA network. He was also drawn into the arcane world of intentional community as fate presented the opportunity to help create and build Earthaven Ecovillage in the southern Appalachian Mountains. There he discovered his inner architect in the course of building a small off-grid solar cabin and later took on the more prosaic job of rehabilitating a pair of suburban ranch houses in the Midwestern college town of Bloomington, Indiana.
Peter has earned a string of diplomas in Education, Media, Community Development, Trusteeship, and Site Design from the Permaculture Academy of Britain, the Permaculture Institute, and PINA. In 2014, he began building a new garden farm on 10 acres of sand in west Michigan with partner Keith Johnson. Blue Sky Farm emerged from these efforts, and the two have since moved into an energy-efficient, climate appropriate, multifunctional solar building in the breezy Lakeshore region. There they are developing hedgerows, orchards, productive gardens, renewable energy, programs of rotational grazing with small animals, and sustainable management for their 6 acres of oak woods. A prolific writer in journals and collections on forestry, building, and all things permaculture, he has turned his attention in recent years to climate cooling, and through PINA and GRLPI, to organizing permaculture graduates into an effective force for good in the Energy Descent Era.

WatchCollective Action for Climate Cooling,” a webinar by Peter Bane, presented through Gaia University Radio on May 7th, 2020 (on Dropbox).

From the Foreword by David Holmgren

From the Foreword by David Holmgren—

     With his chosen term “garden farming,” long-time permaculture writer, publisher, teacher and practitioner Peter Bane crystallizes this concept for those new to permaculture as well as its seasoned practitioners seeking to extend their chosen way of life into a livelihood. In focusing on the productive transformation of our suburban and peri-urban allotments, Bane shows how these “problematic” landscapes could become the “solutions” in an energy descent world of ongoing climate change, expensive and unreliable energy and economic contraction.

     In true permaculture style, this book combines empowering vision with grounded common sense, strategic thinking with nuts and bolts information.

     Part One eloquently and simply conveys the principles and patterns behind this big-picture story. Bane’s pattern language of garden farming, based on the classic pattern language of architect and town planner Christopher Alexander, is a major contribution to the ongoing evolution of permaculture design methods.

     Part Two draws on the author’s depth of experience as a permaculture teacher to explain the diverse components of permaculture design for creating a livelihood from garden farming in suburban and peri-urban landscapes. The metrics and rules of thumb necessary to make designs work are grounded in both the author’s personal experience and his extensive observation of pioneering examples of garden farming.

     Of all the permaculture books from Australia, America and around the world, this one most completely fills the big space between my own articulation of permaculture theory in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and my earlier intimate documentation of our own efforts towards garden farming in Melliodora: a case study in cool climate permaculture (1995). This book is likely to become the classic design manual for those with the energy and enthusiasm to become the garden farmers of the future.


Foreword by David Holmgren

Part I: Attitudes

Chapter 1: Garden Farming: ecological crisis, historical antecedents. The novelty of land regeneration and the advantages of small scale.
Chapter 2: Who am I to farm? Aspirations, the agrarian dream of the suburbs and reclaiming our lost village heritage.
Chapter 3: Gardening the Planet: the wisdom of ecosystems.
Chapter 4: Permaculture Principles: creating abundance by nature’s logic.
Chapter 5: Learning the Language of Design

Sidebar A: Measuring with the Body
Sidebar B: Design Checklist
Sidebar C: Permaculture Zones and their elements

Chapter 6: A Garden Farming Pattern Language: archetypes of a healthy world.

Part II: Elements

Case Study A: Renaissance Farm, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Chapter 7: Land: Scales & Strategies; access, quality, location; the centrality of home
Sidebar: Food Groups in Diet
Chapter 8: Labor – Can You Lend a Helping Hand? Household size, recruitment, generational ties, seasonality, transient help and responding to the cycles of nature; cooperation and the rewards of labor.

Sidebar: The Garden Farming Year

Chapter 9: Running on Sunshine: Sun, shade, and the use of climates and microclimates; the placement of buildings, design for solar gain.

Sidebar: Hedge species

Chapter 10: Water From Another Time: Collection, storage, conservation, use and reuse; swales and ponds, marshes, greywater; tanks; aquaculture.

Sidebar A: Desert Dishwashing
Sidebar B: Aquaculture species

Case Study B: Jerome’s Organics, Basalt, Colorado, USA

Chapter 11: Soil – The Real Dirt: durable carbon, the basis of life; minerals, soil biota, nutrient cycling, waste = food; moisture and mulch, practices, compost and no-digging; roots, biomass, fungi and bacteria; balance beyond NPK: aerobic and anaerobic; worms, manure, and night soil.

Chapter 12: Plants, Crops and Seeds: Crop origins, rotations, plant families and diversity, propagation, seed saving, plant architecture and cooperation; polycultures; rampancy, weeds, pulse and cover crops; useful species; succession and roles.

Sidebar A: Foods that Feed Humanity
Sidebar B: Crop Origins
Sidebar C: 4th World Pharmacy

Chapter 13: Setting Plant Priorities: key foods for limited space, staples beyond grain; must-have fruits; oil, alcohol, fuel, fencing, and medicine.

Case Study C: Old 99 Farm, Dundas, Ontario, Canada

Chapter 14: Animals for the Garden Farm: their functions and niches; accelerating fertility; feeding and rotations, breeds, housing, forage, space requirements.
Chapter 15: Living with Wildlife: trophic levels and predation; insects and ecosystem services; integrated pest management; native species.
Chapter 16: Trees and Shrubs, Orchards, Woodlands and Forest Gardens: Using vertical space; coppice, the art of cut-and-come-again; harnessing the power of perennials; shrubs for nitrogen, fodder, and mulch; fuelwood
Chapter 17: Productive Trees and Where to Plant Them: living fences, hedgerows, boundary woodlands and alley cropping; pasture and fodder trees; orchards; fungal companions.
Chapter 18: Structures, Energy and Technology: the working farm; fencing, barns, workshop, the drying yard, woodshed, outdoor kitchens, animal pens, convivial tools and implements; greenhouses and cloches.

Part III: Outcomes

Case Study D: Radical Roots Farm, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA

Chapter 19: Diet and Food: harvest, storage, processing; nutrition, slow food, facilities and practices.
Chapter 20: Culture and Community: celebration, food and work; closing nutrient loops; life stages and community, potlatch, neighbors and strangers.
Chapter 21: Markets and Outreach: what you do well; where the money is; cash or barter? self-reliance, real surplus; keeping it at home, walking it to town; shifting enterprise.
Chapter 22: Making the Change: self-evaluation, where to start, how to manage; future scenarios; hodge-podge growth; the possibilities of a new commonwealth.

Appendix 1: Metric Conversion Table
Appendix 2: Bee Forage Species
Appendix 3: Nitrogen-Fixing Species & Biomass Producers
About the Author