In his book, Toby Hemingway says "permaculture is a set of techniques and principles for designing sustainable human settlements." Permaculture uses organic gardening principles to deal with big as well as little problems. Permaculture is involved with the local rose and the ecosystem within which the local rose lives. Most of the ideas Hemenway suggests have been "out there" for some time, but Hemingway combines and organizes this cumulative knowledge into a coherent approach. While I don't agree with everything Hemenway suggests, I think most of his ideas are worth trying.
Hemenway seems to have acquired much of his hands-on experience in semi-arid areas on the West Coast, so some of his "live and let-live" tactics may not work on the more lush East Coast. For example, Hemenway appears to be opposed to fighting certain kinds of invasive plants, some of them exotic (i.e. not native), but to me the whole purpose of my garden is to have something that does not look like the rest of the surrounding area--whatever that is--so, I will never give up the effort to keep certain plants OUT. On the other hand, I have discovered I can tolerate some "wildness" in my patch, and have given over certain parts of the yard to natural vegetation (as long as it does not include, poison ivy, bindweed, prickle vine..you get the picture) which the National Wildlife Federation would approve as bird-friendly.
Hemenway's "plan" is geared to the 1/4 acre lot, so folks in the suburbs with more space than me may be able to accomodate more of his ideas. However, I think some of his ideas can be adapted to a smaller space. One thing I really like about this book is his novel approach to laying out beds. No raised boxes or perennial borders here. He goes for keyholes, spirals, wreaths, and all sorts of novel shapes. And they work. I've laid out beds to fit my space and the result is some oddly designed garden areas that are beautiful (my whole yard is a collection of garden beds, I have NO grass).
I particularly support the building of swales to retain ground moisture, and using leftover woody material to build "Hugelkultur" compost heaps. Whenever we replace fence material, trim bushes or trees, or create other woody waste, we bury it at the back of the garden. I also throw newspapers, paper towels (7th Generation of course), and other biodegradable paper into the compost bin. And speaking of compost, adding it directly to the bed is a good idea. Just slip it under the existing mulch, or grab a shovelful of mulch to toss over it. This way the garden gets the full benefit of the decomposing material, not the area around the compost bin.
This is a wonderful book filled with wonderful ideas that hold the key to saving our world.
This book combines all these other concepts, adds still more, and makes it all easy to understand. There are lots of things I loved about this book. But the most important was the way Mr. Hemenway explains guilds. He gives specific examples, which you can follow pretty much exactly. But then he gives the information to go beyond his examples and create totally new guilds specifically designed for your site.
If I had to give up all my gardening books and keep only one, this is the book I'd keep.