35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2000
Since reading Robert Hart's classic book I have seen forest gardens sustaining life in Mexico, Fiji, Australia, South Africa and Britain. Around the world perennial 'home gardens' have been grown for millennia. Yet in temporate climates we seem to have forgotten how. This book has inspired me to increase the diversity and productivity of my own small garden in England, so far with good results. It is inspirational, but it is also practical. The Appendices offer suggestions for a variety of uses and climates. I would recommend as a companion volume, Patrick Whitefield's 'How to Grow a Forest Garden' for further details of the practicalities. But Hart's desciption of his own forest garden at Wenlock Edge stands alone and is an invaluable guide to practical sustainability.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 1999
The practice of "forest gardening", is an absolute must for anyone interested in sustainable agriculture and/or gardening. The book, however, presents only limited amount of information, that could have been easily written in half the space.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 1998
The author believes harmony (peace) on this planet is highly correlated with an approach to gardening that recognizes the value of plants and all living things. He blends history, philosophy,and anthropology together as he talks about plants, vegetables, herbs, nuts, animals, and trees. He offers practical ways in dealing with "natural" problems associated with farming. Best part of the book is his Appendixes where he lists drought resistant plants, wetland plants, sun loving herbs, shade loving herbs, etc. He provides an excellent bibliography. The author loves this planet. This is a thoughtful essay on the proper relationship of human beings to animals and plants on this planet.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2004
Robert Hart's book on Forest Gardening is very inspiring, but more research is needed to start your garden. The list of suppliers in the Appendix is very helpful for those in North America, and the list of cultivars includes little known but very useful varieties. Overall, the book helps one understand the why of forest gardening but not the how to.
64 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2007
Perhaps the major problem I had with this book was my expectation that it might actually have something to do with forest gardening. What a silly thing for me to think - its only the title of the work after all.
This book was, if not entirely worthless, perhaps one of the more repugnant things I have read in a while. It is seldom that I can read a book and be so turned off that I can't get through the whole thing - and with this book, I didn't even get through half. "Forest Gardening," is a book that is much more of an inspirational nature, and doesn't have much to do with forest gardening at all (what I wanted). Instead, it is filled with anequdotes about how "primitive" people lived in harmony with their forests and how all of societies ills can be traced to a non-vegan diet.
In short, I came to this book looking for helpful information about forest gardening, and found instead a 233 pg. book of propaganda full of mistruths and out-right lies about the basic biology of the world.
Most of the misconceptions (If I can call them that) centered around biology itself and how individual organisms interact. The author warps facts, and I think deludes himself and possibly his readers, by explaining how everything that happens in an ecosystem is the will of Gaia, a non-real entity which comprises the "concious earth."
I am a died in the wool environmentalist. I practice permaculture, and I grow a very real forest garden. I also have a degree in biology - and all of these things made me object to the way this author defiled what otherwise would be a worthwhile topic by interjecting this deified view of ecology and making biological similarities (convergent evolution) seem like proof that Gaia was working to shape the earth. In this regard, he was as mistaken as creationists are, just on the other extreme and I found that particularly upsetting coming from a book that I had high hopes of actually learning something from.
My recommendation: leave this one on the shelf. If you find it in a free box somewhere, take it out and throw it away when you get home so it won't confuse anyone else. This book is propaganda and anequdote with almost no useful information and even less inspiration (unless you're willing to palate the boxfulls of propaganda the author tries to get you to swallow). Don't buy it. If you want something useful, try purchasing a book by Bill Mollison on Permaculture instead - that will help you get where you want to go much better than this dubious work and without the pseudo-science and mistruths.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2004
If you have not yet read 'Forest Farming' by Douglas and Hart, then you may lack the background to fully appreciate this book. In 'Forest Farming' we are told that civilized man has marched across the face of the earth and left a desert in his footprints primarily because he has ploughed the hills with the loss of top soil. Crop-yielding trees offer the best medium for extending agriculture to hills, steep places, rocky places, and to the lands where rainfall is deficient. Every good Buddhist plants and sees the establishment of one tree at least every five years and this simple act multiplied six billion times would have a greater economic benefit for humankind than traditional development plans. The 'tool' with the greatest potentials for feeding men and animals, for regenerating the soil, for restoring water-systems, for controlling floods and droughts, for creating more benevolent micro-climates and more comfortable and stimulating living conditions for humanity, is the tree. Douglas and Hart point out that the deeper problem is ignorance as many crop-yielding trees and shrubs are currently ignored by farmers because agriculture in most parts of the world is geared to cereal growing and livestock rearing by conventional means, despite the fact that trees offer higher yields per acre. If the tree growing potentialities of city private gardens was fully recognized, suburban areas would not only have purer air and a more benevolent microclimate but a greater degree of self-sufficiency.
In this book Hart develops the case for the urban dweller to adopt forest gardening to achieve economy of space and labor while producing fruit, nuts, root and perennial vegetables and herbs. He provides the guidelines required for temperate, tropical and sub-tropical climates. "Like the forest it is arranged in seven 'storeys', with the original apple and pear trees constituting the 'canopy' and the other plants occupying the lower tiers. Thus the garden has a well-defined vertical dimension as well as horizontal ones. Now that it has been established for several years, I can affirm that it requires minimal maintenance, as the plants - nearly all perennials - largely look after themselves and are very healthy. The main work involved is that of cutting back plants that try to encroach on others. The wide diversity of species ensures that any small invasions of pests never reach epidemic proportions, as they tend to do under monocultural conditions. The large number of aromatic herbs creates a deliciously fragrant atmosphere, and, I am convinced, contributes to the pest-and-disease-resistance of the other plants. As we eat the herbs and perennial vegetables daily in our salads, the garden makes a significant contribution to our diet throughout the growing season, from the first herbs and wild garlic in March to the last apples in November."
The author goes on to warn us that we must seek ordered diversity governed by the laws of plant symbiosis but the results can be that a half hectare can support a family of up to ten people. Java has the greatest concentration of forest gardens yet is one of the most densely populated rural areas of the world. Forest gardening is more than a system for supplying mankind's material needs; it is a way of life which addresses man's spiritual needs by its beauty and the wealth of wildlife it attracts. In the early chapters we follow the author's development as he wrestles with the problem, concluding that: "if one could devise an integrated system of land-use consisting mainly of perennial plants - fruit and nut tress and bushes together with perennial vegetables and herbs - as well as a diet based on this mix, the task of achieving self-sufficiency would be vastly simplified. This is how I discovered agroforestry."
There are plenty of good tips such as this one on potatoes. "The champion exponent of this technique, the aim of which is to grow a colossal crop of potatoes from a single seed, was a Sussex villager, Tom Cooke, known as the Ace of Spuds. This was his procedure: large seed potatoes, well supplied with eyes, were soaked in a solution of liquid seaweed and water for an hour a week for six months, starting in October. During the winter Tom prepared his plot, allowing eight-foot squares for each seed. The site was excavated one-foot deep and filled with wheat straw, to which dry seaweed fertilizer was added after the straw had weathered and was almost black. On top of this came a layer of manure and soil mixed with more seaweed. The tubers were planted at the end of March or early April and covered with a thin dressing of straw. Then, at fortnightly intervals, the growing plants were earthed up with layers of straw, seaweed and soil until they reached a height of some 3-4 feet, sending out numerous side-shoots liberally supplied with tubers. After a series of foliar feeds with liquid seaweed, the harvest was eventually reached: over half a ton of potatoes from just six seeds!"
If you are an avid gardener there will surely be something new in this book; if you simply want to make your garden more productive and did not know of the seven story concept, you will find this book helpful; if you have been overwhelmed by the work in the garden you should concentrate on perennials as Hart has done; if you have just a small plot this book will help you get the maximum production and help you to eat healthily; if you would like to attract more wildlife to your garden, read this book. It is difficult to imagine anyone not profiting from Hart's theoretical and practical research.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2009
The author states in his introduction that this is not a "how to" book. If you are looking for a helpful book to get you started in forest gardening, this is probably not the book for which you are looking. However, if you just want to read about others who have created forest gardens and their reasoning/philosophy for doing so, this will probably be a good book to read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2014
-Very 'personable' (by this I mean it reads like you're talking to the author in a one-on-one conversation)
-Lots of anecdotal evidence and educated-speculation
-If you're looking for a book that is more of a practical introduction to Agroforestry (AF) or Permaculture (PC), this is not the book; this book will whet your appetite but won't teach you the basics.
I have a small personal journal of AF/PC principles I started when I took a class on AF/PC and fell in love with the concept. I periodically look up new systems and principles and approaches to AF/PC (I'll shorten this to AF from now on for conveniences sake) and sketch them down in my journal for personal notes for when I finally have my own little home.
I grabbed this book from my school library along with several others to work on my journal over the summer break. This was probably my least favorite of the 4 books because it is not the most applicable of books that I checked out, and by this I mean that it doesn't really lay out basic design ideas for AF. Instead, this book reads more like a personal, one-on-one conversation with the author. You can read his excitement in telling the story of his personal development in sustainable and ecologically responsible farming practices over time.
This really is more of a book about the author's own application of AF and less of a universal approach, but if you read closely this book is peppered throughout with examples of AF practices that you can apply to your practices. For example, in the middle of Chapter 7, Design and Maintenance, which really doesn't lay out in a concrete manner how to manage your property, on page 74 it discusses a type of mulch the author uses that can be easily adapted to one's own needs.
I liked this book because it also introduced me to other pioneers in AF and other organic farming practices that I had not heard of before, and some famous names such as Mollison and Holmgren. And, again, I liked how personable of a read this was (if you can apply the term personable to a book). I found myself making more notes about the people, concepts, books, and individual plant species rather than system designs.
If you are looking for something that will outlay practical application of AF principles and design concepts, this is not really the book for you. If you're looking for an enjoyable read that will inspire you to pursue AF a little more, this might be the book for you.
And if worse comes to worse you can donate it to your local library.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2008
This book is among the top three books I've ever read because it gives hope. Although I have a great deal of education, it's admittedly light on science which is probably why I was able to overlook what my very-scientific mother called "new age attitudes" (that prevented her from reading more than two chapters) and another reviewer called propaganda. What I read was a thoughtful, informative, well-presented story about how lifestyle choices can repair the damage done to the earth, with the emphasis for me being on the fact that damage can be repaired. That's a completely new idea for me and it gives me the hope and enthusiasm to take on all the demons I've tried to ignore for fear there's no winning: agribusiness, food policy and lawn-worship.
I loved the multidisciplinary and autobiographical aspects of the book. By other reviews I was well warned not to expect a how-to guide about permaculture, and I found it much more accessible than David Holmgren's very pedantic book about Permaculture. As a Unitarian and environmentalist, I'm accustomed to working around the parts of others' beliefs that do not match my own, so I failed to even notice a sense of propaganda or new-age attitude. I encourage you to try this book especially if you're new to the idea of permaculture.