Practical Permaculture

Maddy Harland | Tuesday, 4th August 2015
A useful introduction to permaculture design packed with photos and illustrations plus resource lists and further reading.
Author: Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein
Publisher: Timber Press
Publication year: 2015
RRP: £20.00

This is a permaculture design primer but it is a big one, as indicated by the subtitle. It really does try to look at the ethics, elements and processes that inform permaculture design in the home and garden, but it also has a good stab at including the wider perspectives of community and even how permaculture can change the world. Written by two Americans, it inevitably has a climatic bias, even though it makes brave attempts to reach beyond borders and the North American climate zones. 

What I like about it is that it is clearly written and laid out. Jessi is a landscape designer and you can see that flair and clarity on every page. Dave is an outdoor educator and permaculture teacher. He is also an accomplished photographer and his photographs are captivating. I looked carefully at every illustration and enjoyed the stories they alone had to tell. You can see the authors’ pragmatism and experience from start to finish. Permaculture design principles and the design process are explained well, shown through urban and rural examples and illustrated within the context of permaculture systems. These include soil fertility, energy, waste and water, to food and plant systems and animals and wildlife. Where the book really comes alive for me is every time they illustrate a system with a real life design. I also love Jessi’s landscape designs and garden examples that have a high aesthetic as well as a functional purpose.

Where the book can be disappointing is where, in trying to indicate the vast potential of permaculture, it alludes to huge subjects like disaster relief or eco-renovation in a single paragraph. I can forgive the authors for this because they are clear that this isn’t just a permaculture gardening book, it is an introduction designed to encourage the reader to explore further, based on individual preference and what we might find challenging. There are therefore useful sources and further reading at the end to encourage research.

This is a permaculture primer that is fresh and vibrant. Bring it on! We need to hear more from the new generation of permaculture designers and practitioners.

Maddy Harland is the co-founder and editor of Permaculture magazine and Permanent Publications. You can read a digital copy free of charge hereAll print and digital subscribers can read 20 years of back issues totally for free.

Practical Permaculture is currently on offer at £18.00.

Further resources

What is Permaculture - Part 1: Ethics

What is Permaculture - Part 2: Principles

Read 'What is Permaculture - part 3: Design' by Aranya