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Forest gardening book reviews

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Forest Gardening (Robert Hart)

Hart is famous for coining the term forest gardening and applying it to temperate climates. First published in 1991, this revised and updated edition was published in 1996. Hart died in 2000, so this was one of his last publications. The first 3 chapters of the book serve as an introduction to Hart's world view and his understanding of biological systems, with spiritual and philosophical thoughtfulness interwoven. Hart writes with a love for the past and culture, and indeed an optimism for the future. This book is dotted with anecdotes. The reader learns of Hart's deep interest in herbalism and rural culture of ancient peoples and of the more recent past. Some of his views however do not represent modern, mainstream scientific understanding. Dubious statements are occasionally present, e.g. "[F]luids, whether blood, sap, lymph glandular secretions that constitute a large proportion of [...] total substance are in a constant state of free circulation. Therefore one of the main physical causes of all disease is any clogging of the bodily channels that allows a buildup of antagonistic factors." Hart goes on to claim acid based diets cause "clogging" and disease and advocates for alkaline based diets.W Generalization between the circulatory system of e.g. a mammal with the xylem and phloem of plants is highly problematic, and the claim that all disease is based on clogging of bodily channels is markedly ignorant of scientific understanding. It becomes clear that Hart has great interest in human physiology, nutrition and disease prevention, but sometimes has an open mind towards fringe and pseudoscientific belief systems. In chapter 4, he describes his life long learning journey (the reader also learns some of his life story in the process) and how he came across the idea of forest gardening, humbly placing much of the credit on others, particularly Toyohiko Kagawa.W In chapter 6, there is a detailed history and description of his forest garden at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire. Parts of this chapter may be of some practical use to readers who wish to learn about design and planning of a temperate climate forest garden, although other sections are of little use such as the list of individuals to whom Hart dedicated trees.