Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing successful polycultures in small spaces. By Anni Kelsey, published 2014 by Permanent Publications.
This book sets out with a clear vision: “Looking towards a sustainable future when a polyculture of perennial vegetables is as familiar a feature of our gardening landscape as the conventional vegetable patch.” The book clearly traces the author’s own experimental journey towards this vision, and shares the information that she’s learned along the way. She describes the principles underlying this vision, including Forest Gardening, Permaculture, and Fukuoka’s Natural Farming. For the permaculture-minded domestic scale gardener with a small garden, this is a very helpful little book. We can’t all do big scale forest gardening, but this book takes those principles and applies them to plant families that are appropriate for a small garden. Anni includes clear information on what perennial edibles are, what she means by ‘polyculture’, and why both are important to maximise soil health and therefore plant nutrition. She describes many different types of perennial vegetable that she has tried herself in the UK, including some failures as well as successes. This is comforting as it gives you permission to ‘fail’ – not all plants will work in your particular circumstances. She also discusses her experimentation with plants that are normally grown as annuals (such as leeks and kale) to see if they will grow as perennials. This is particularly interesting to me, as some of the perennial edibles are still difficult and expensive to get hold of. She then describes non-edible plants that can earn their place in a polyculture by providing nectar, colour, and fertility amongst other things. Finally she discusses the preparation and maintenance of a polyculture. In this section she shares her refreshing approach of paying attention before intervention. Nature has been around a long time and does generally know what she’s doing, and Anni recognises this and gives her plenty of room to do her thing. Anni’s ‘hands off’ style of gardening is beautiful and inspiring, and not too big and ‘showy’ so I feel that I could actually manage something similar in my own garden. It is an approach that I have learned from, and continue to do so via Anni’s blog at http://annisveggies.wordpress.com
The book can be ordered direct from Permanent Publications: http://permanentpublications.co.uk/port/edible-perennial-gardening-by-anni-kelsey/