Are you serious about becoming a market gardener? If yes, then this is the book for you.
It is not for the faint-hearted. The Permaculture Market Garden is an incredibly indepth guide, explaining the science behind nature and farming, and combining it with our need for ecological and permaculture farming, to save the planet and people.
The first chapter, looking at the farm ecosystem, provides an interesting set up of the Earth, with its different spheres and layers, whilst explaining how these need to be incorporated in a farm design. Zach Loeks brings the large scale Earth ecosystem down to the small-scale farm ecosystem. He touches on natural science, with climatology, biogeography, geology, geomorphography and hydrology. He also includes a diagram of the scientific method, the levels of the organisation of life and scientific classifications. This book is not just a lesson in farming, but also science and geography, all made easily understandable through the stunning colourful watercoloured drawings and diagrams.
I am at a stage in my life where I wish I knew more about the natural world, the science behind it, and how it all works. So although these first chapters are heavy with information, I loved re-capping on some of what I was taught at school (which at the time I wasn’t interested in), and also extending my very basic knowledge.
The importance of water and the hydrological cycle on the farm is covered in some depth, and the geological cycle of Zach’s own farm gives the reader an idea of how to look at their own land. I was fascinated to see this cycle on Zach’s farm, and it helped me visualise the cycles on my own plot of land (a very small vegetable garden). Obviously soil gets a big mention, and I found the details of minerals, the periodic table and the nutrients cycle another bonus.
The ‘Farm Ecosystem’ section is nearly a third of the book, which shows just how much background information Zach shares here. I think this scientific side of permaculture isn’t expressed enough, as these areas show just why permaculture design – replicating nature – really works.
The second section is ‘Whole Farm Mapping’ where the previous section becomes more clear and you can start to visualise and implement the lessons in soil, water, geographical layers etc.
There’s climate, topography, macro- and microfauna and flows to consider, and much more, all before you can begin to design. But taking these into account, and then observing your space will be the key to a highly successful farm. The many areas of mapping your farm will make sure you get the very best from it, as Zack calls it, ‘the treasure’. This section is integral for getting the design right for your farm, so do not skip it.
What really comes across throughout the book is Zach’s focus on the whole. All the information he shares is to help the reader see beyond their farm, how the wider environment impacts it as well as how their farm makes an impact. This is especially noticeable within the ‘Holistic Planning’ section.
Guilds are vital in creating a holistic system, whether it be a guild of plants – where each plant provides each other with nutrients, stability and microclimates – or guilds within the profit centre (your farm) itself, such as selling fresh produce, whilst providing an educational space, and then maybe specialising in something, Zach’s example is seeds. These three enterprises keep each other going, and this rule of three needs to be designed into all aspects. At the beginning of the book, Zach includes this rule in his list of ‘This book in a nutshell’.
We then reach the section on ‘Permabeds’, looking at the principles behind them, the layout and prepar-ations for them, as well as planting them with guilds, cropping, managing and different designs. There are no specifics to plant choices here, but this makes it applicable to all climates. Lists such as ‘Essential guild services to include’, ‘design management for weeds’ and the brimming first section of ‘Farm ecosystem’, make this more than a how-to guide. You learn to understand your own farm and then how to make the right decisions on what to grow, where to grow it, what your business should focus on and who your customers should be.
I cannot wait to implement the lessons from this book; now on my small veg garden and in the future, when I will hopefully have my own market garden.
Rozie Apps is assistant editor at PM