Paradise Lot

Paradise Lot : Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City

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When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a "permaculture paradise" replete with perennial broccoli, paw paws, bananas, and moringa--all told, more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot. The garden--intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden's needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression--also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms. In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden, Paradise Lot is also a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan: to realize the garden of their dreams and meet women to share it with. Amazingly, on both counts, they succeed.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 20.32mm | 385.55g
  • Chelsea Green Publishing Co
  • White River Junction, United States
  • English
  • Black and White Illustrations
  • 1603583998
  • 9781603583992
  • 65,285

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Review quote

Publishers Weekly-In this charming, true-life tale of urban regeneration and the birth of a forest garden movement, Toensmeier, famous among permaculture enthusiasts for his Perennial Vegetables and as coauthor of Edible Forest Gardens, tells the story behind the Holyoke, Mass., garden featured as a test case in the latter, which, in the course of eight years, he and Bates transformed from a bare backyard wasteland into a flourishing, edible Eden. In true permaculture fashion, the book follows not only the progression of the garden but also its influence on and relations with its creators' lives--including a surprisingly Austen-like romantic element--their neighborhood, and the larger permaculture and forest gardening community. Bates, whose nursery business, Food Forest Farm, is an offshoot of this garden, contributes philosophical and personal essays interspersed throughout the narrative. Fans of Toensmeier and Bates's work will be thrilled to read the details of their experiments with polycultures, their problems with and solutions for pests and overly aggressive plants, and their idiosyncratic plant choices. Adventurous readers with conventional gardens and lawns may be inspired to venture into the more integrated, evolutionary approach that this book so vividly and appealingly portrays.

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About Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier has studied and practiced permaculture since 1990. He is the author of Perennial Vegetables and coauthor of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. Toensmeier has worked as a small-farm trainer at the New England Small Farm Institute, has managed the Tierra de Oportunidades new farmer program of Nuestras Raices, and is a graduate and former faculty member of the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont. His current interest is in large-scale permaculture farming as a carbon-sequestering solution to climate change. Toensmeier's writing, consulting, and teaching business is based at, where he posts his latest articles and videos. He lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Jonathan Bates owns Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery (, a nursery specializing in educational services and useful/edible plant sales. He's been studying, creating, and working with rural and urban gardens in the Connecticut River Valley for over a decade. With a bachelors degree in biology, and MA in social ecology from the Institute for Social Ecology, Jonathan loves wild crafting with friends, and working with folks to better the world we live in. He cofounded and is a board member of the Apios Institute, is a teacher at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School, and is a farmer with Nuestras Raices, Inc. He lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

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