Author To Offer Tips On Creating Sustainable Gardens In A Dry Climate

Feb 21, 2014

Credit Toby Hemenway

Home gardeners are often frustrated by Idaho’s dry climate. Finding the plants best suited for your garden is not always easy. Toby Hemenway is an author who teaches and writes about permaculture and sustainable gardens and he’s coming to Boise.

“Rather than try to learn permaculture from a theoretical point of view, or try to understand it all, it’s a lot easier to just get involved in one aspect of it,” Hemenway says.

He says water conservation is an easy, gateway into learning permaculture.

“The tools and the principles that you use for learning to save water can really help you understand what permaculture is in general and help you apply it to growing healthier food, or building up your soil and all sorts of things from there," he adds.

Hemenway says everyone has different ideas about permaculture and what it means to the home gardener.

“I like to think of permaculture as a way making decisions to live more sustainably,” says Hemenway. “It originally comes from permanent agriculture and it was the idea of creating a sustainable food system. But you can have a sustainable food system, but if it’s embedded in a culture that isn’t otherwise sustainable, it doesn’t really help. So permaculture really means permanent culture now.”

He says permaculture has a lot of tools for working in dry climates, like Idaho. 

“Start with the soil. Build up your soil so it will hold more water and release less water on hot days. Adding mulches and putting plants in layers so there’s always shade on the soil.” 

Hemenway will speak at the Idaho Botanical Garden’s horticultural symposium Saturday. He says he’ll discuss different techniques, including how to use them, when to use them and how to employ them inexpensively.

“Permaculture is really a decision-making tool." he says. "We’ve got a lot of options out there and I want to cover which ones are best, which ones make the most sense and are the easiest for people to use.”

Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture,” encourages home gardeners to work with nature, not against it.

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio