This book has recently been published in Positive News, Issue 67, Spring 2011. To subscribe please see here or pick up a copy at your local whole food store, community centre or environmental project.
Book Review: Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture
A Practical Guide for Farms, Orchards & Gardens
Sepp Holzer is an Austrian Farmer who has been pushing boundaries for over 40 years at his 45 hectare farm. Growing thousands of plants at over 1500m above sea level he continually challenges horticultural rules by experimenting and crafting the ecological processes around him, by creating microclimates and situations where plants may be successful.
However the book is not just an overview of Holzer’s own techniques. He also gives practical advice about how to build terraces, ditches, raised beds and water gardens and ponds. There is also a section dedicated to cultivating fruit trees, where Holzer explores why he promotes alternatives to over-pruning and fertilising trees, through mulching, not pruning and planting beneficial plants alongside fruit trees he builds their resilience. Those interested in health would also find this book useful as he explores medicinal plants and how to cultivate mushrooms.
What comes across as you move through the pages of Holzer’s book is his intimacy with nature. His unique relationships with the plants and animals that share his land. He continuously pulls the reader back to question what it is the plants are seeking, what they are needing, what conditions they are desiring in order to thrive. He takes the plant’s eye’s view of the world without compromising on what it his family and himself need to make a living and support themselves.
Holzer emphasises that the principles found in nature that create his productive systems can be applied anywhere. As someone who has just become the steward of a parcel of land, I feel inspired to try to apply some of of Holzer’s techniques and remind by self to consider what the plant communities I cultivate are seeking. I think if in 30 years time young permaculture designers like myself can even attain one tenth of the knowledge that Holzer has accumulated and is now sharing, then we will be on the right track in building a sustainable agriculture that supports all life.