Summary New Society Publishers says, "Journey into the good food movement by unleashing the potential of your yard, transforming it into a beautiful and vibrant space that offers a continuous supply of food. Using dozens of beautiful color photographs and watercolor planting charts, infographics, and landscaping designs, Your Edible Yard is the comprehensive how-to guide you need to turn your yard into a bountiful feast.... Whether you're a beginner or experienced gardener in the city, the suburbs, or the country, this manual is the A-Z guide for how to make use of the space you have, highlighting the colorful and abundant array that edible landscapes promise."
About the Author New Society Publishers says "Crystal Stevens is an author, an artist/art teacher, a folk herbalist, a regenerative farmer, and a Permaculturist... Crystal is a prominent speaker at conferences and workshops, focusing on a myriad of topics including gardening, small-scale farming, ethical foraging, herbal medicine, natural household, and healthy cooking."
“Your Edible Yard” is a good introduction to permaculture for people with suburban-sized yards who want to grow food and learn about permaculture.
The book begins with an introduction about why we want to change the current agricultural system, and how we can do this through growing our own food, and supporting local farmers, along with community education and many other practical ideas.
Chapter 1 talks about the detriment of the lawn obsession. One shocking statistic about this is that lawn grass is actually the largest irrigated crop in America! It receives far more water than corn, soy, or any other crop. Thinking about this, it’s amazing to think of the possibilities if many more people with lawns transformed them into food production.
Chapter 2 is all about the process of converting your lawn to food - there may be legal things to consider before you start digging, so this is useful to know. Suggestions on how to keep neighbours happy are provided too.
Chapter 3 is all about building healthy soil with compost and worm farming. I liked this chapter a lot, as it provides a lot of detail and many ideas and designs for worm farming and composting, complete with helpful illustrations and photos.
Chapter 4 is an introduction to permaculture - the history of permaculture, permaculture ethics, and permaculture principles. Ideas are given for how to practise permaculture in your backyard, and in your community. Recommendations for further reading are also provided. I liked the pictures and information about zones and sectors in permaculture design. This chapter also includes information about preparing garden beds for permaculture food growing, including many ways to transform lawn into food growing. There’s also information about cover crops for different seasons and water conservation.
This chapter also has a step by step guide for how complete beginners can start their own gardens - it’s really good to see this information out there from a permaculture perspective. The suggestions are really budget-friendly as well.
Chapter 5 covers natural alternatives to herbicides and pesticides, including the different ways of covering the soil (and the pros and cons of each method), different types of hoes, companion planting, beneficial insects, row covers and netting, trap cropping, hand picking, and homemade organic sprays. The drawings of the beneficial insects and ‘pest’ insects are really helpful. Crop rotation information is provided that is very beginner-friendly, along with a section about encouraging pollinators by planting a garden for them. It’s also good to see information about the benefits of some weeds, especially the edible ones - photos and illustrations are provided for these, to help with identifying them, and there’s also ideas about how to use them for eating and medicine.
Chapter 6 is about choosing the right plants for your edible landscaping project, it includes information about light requirements, spacing, height, types of plants, zone hardiness, disease resistance, insect resistance, regional considerations, planting times, guild plantings and food forests. The illustrations are really helpful, especially for the guilds.
Each part of the food forest is gone into in depth. A long list (with photos) of many types of edible canopytrees is provided, with plenty of information on each one, and the same is also provided for the other layers of a food forest. There’s also a section about trees to consider for a larger property, along with one about growing mushrooms.
Chapter 7 is about edible landscape designs. It includes sample designs for many situations, including a small front yard, a backyard food forest, a formal-looking edible garden, farm-style backyard garden, edible flower garden and herb gardens. There’s lots of helpful and inspiring illustrations in this chapter.
Chapter 8 has even more edible landscape design ideas, with lots of photos from different properties. It’s good to see ideas for different garden bed edgings and pathways, trellises, and guilds.
Chapter 9 is about yard-to-table recipes. There’s recipes here for both using your tasty homegrown foods fresh for the table, or for preserving them for later on. There are many ideas of different creative ways to serve vegetables. and some tasty fruit desserts too, along with preserving recipes for canning, freezing, and fermenting. There’s also information for beginners about what preserving gear to look out for (and what it is better to find second hand, and what is best found new).
Chapter 10 is DIY herbal remedies and recipes, including herbal teas, oxymels, elderflower cordial, elderberry syrup, tinctures, elixirs, herb-infused oils and salves and sunburn relief and insect repellent sprays.
What I like the most about this book is that it provides information about many topics all in the one book, so that someone could pick this up, learn how to compost, make a food forest, grow organic annual vegetables, and have recipes for food and herbal remedies all from the one book.
I’d love to hand a copy of this to everyone who I have ever seen on Permies saying “But there’s so much! How do I even know what the choices are?”
permaculture tells how to choose from a dauntingly large toolkit — all the human technologies and strategies for living — to solve the new problem of sustainability. ~ Toby Hemenway In this book Crystal Stevens shows a lot of the tools and options that are used in permaculture, and makes them accessible to people who are just starting out, have a yard and are overwhelmed, or want to work on a larger property and don’t know where to start.
Some things covered are why to get rid of your lawn, building soil, choosing plants, canning and cooking with what you grow, using herbs, and much, much more. It’s an excellent starting point, with lots of good ideas to think on.
I think my favorite part of the book was her showing us pictures of Punta Mona organic farm in Costa Rica, and gardens in the St Louis area. As I’m in that zone, the local pictures taught me a lot, and since I’m not in the zone for the tropical gardens of Costa Rica, it gave me inspiration and beautiful things to dream of doing within my own zone.
Definitely worth reading, and worth giving copies to people who are ready to learn but not sure of the steps to take.