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Forest gardening book reviews
Forest Gardening (Robert Hart)
- Hart, R (1996). Forest gardening : rediscovering nature and community in a post industrial age. Green Books. ISBN 9781900322027.
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 cardiovascular and lymphatic systems 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 secondary to consumption of acid foods 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 he places 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.
Creating a forest garden (Martin Crawford)
- Crawford, M (2016). Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops. Green Books. ISBN 9781900322621
Crawford has decades of study in agroforestry, and is the director of the Agroforestry Research Trust, UK. This is a registered charity founded in 1992 with an "educational and research" mission statement, however appears to have conducted very little research to date. In this cynical world, it is also hard to not notice that the organization appears to be disingenuously profit driven in the sale of videos, courses, learning materials and consultancy. This textbook is his main work (although he has authored several other books, they heavily borrow from sections of this book). Crawford's approach to forest gardening is both scientific and pragmatic. It is evident while reading the book that he has both excellent theoretical knowledge and years of first hand experience of the subject. It is unsurprising that some have described him as a world authority on temperate climate forest gardening. The language is no-nonsense and clearly written. Despite its textbook nature, it feels easy to read through the entire book. Part 1 is entitled "How forest gardens work" and the chapters describe the general theory of forest gardening. Especially for those without formal training in horticulture, it is an invaluable insight. Part 2 is about designing and starting a forest garden. Crawford begins this part by discussing how to prepare the site. Propagation and grafting are discussed, and how to begin planting. Chapter 9 is about initial and overall design. Windbreaks are discussed in chapter 10. Chapter 11 begins the main purpose of the book: a long list of recommended species for each layer of the forest garden along with specifics of design pertaining to each layer or type of plant. Chapters 11 and 12 are about the canopy layer, Chapters 13 and 14 are likewise a recommended species list and design discussion for the shrub layer. Similarly chapters 15 and 16 are for the perennial and ground cover layer, and chapters 17 and 18 for the annuals, biennials and climbers. Chapters 19 covers the design and importance of clearings, and 20 design of paths. chapter 21 covers fungi, both the importance of mycorrhizal fungi, and also discusses fungi in terms of an edible crop. The final chapters cover specifics of harvest and preservation of forest garden produce, and maintenance tasks and strategies. Numerous appendices offer useful aids for those who wish to design a forest garden. Overall this textbook is an absolutely essential resource for anyone wishing to manifest a forest garden in a temperate climate broadly similar to the UK, and cannot be recommended highly enough.