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The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (Chelsea Green's Master Grower Gardening Series) Paperback – September 1, 1998
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The demand for high-quality, organically grown food is skyrocketing with people's gradual understanding of the health risks and dangers of chemical pesticides and "industrialized" farming, yet good organic apples are still hard to find in many places. Phillips has employed hard work and keen observation of nature to make the best use of our great-grandparents' experiences and techniques. He then examines the latest scientific knowledge of apple pests and their life cycles to produce a thorough guide to growing wonderful, delicious varieties of apples in an orchard that is safe for animals, birds, and children playing under its tree branches. Each chapter has practical advice for the backyard fruit grower, and while this book is filled with useful facts and tactics, Phillips also adds a gentle, Earth-friendly, philosophical writing style that makes for quite an enjoyable read.
Now that organically grown foods are the latest culinary craze, the time has come for the organic orchardist. Phillips, who grows apples without artificial pesticides or fertilizers in Northumberland, New Hampshire, provides instructions on growing and marketing. Selecting the right site (weather, soil, drainage, and proximity to markets are considerations) and understanding the role of micro-organisms are top priorities, he insists. Phillips gives instructions on planting, pruning, and training the trees, and on protection from frost. There are chapters on pests and diseases, organic spraying, harvesting, and marketing. Interspersed throughout the text are tips for backyard fruit growers, a bit of earth-friendly philosophy (Phillips' style of writing is best described as cornball), and lots of black-and-white photographs and illustrations. A valuable basic guide for novice backyard and commercial apple growers. George Cohen
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Even though the book is not facts-in-your-face, it does impart an incredible amount of information. But, you need to re-read since the information you need may be buried in that story somewhere. There are a couple places where more tables and diagrams could have helped. The chapter on pest and disease control for instance could have used a problem --> solution kind of table. This chapter also was over my head in spots, almost like he switched to telling his story to another seasoned organic orchardist and not a beginner like me.
The book really does impart wisdom about orcharding. Stories can contain subtle shades of grey you just can't cram into a table. Mistakes will happen, but after reading this book they won't seem quite so painful. In that sense it is invaluable.
The book is more directed at the commercial organic orchardist, and I am a home orchadist. At first I was a little annoyed at having to read about the commercial aspects, but after awhile the story got so good that I was enjoying those parts just as much as the stuff I needed to know. Also, he does direct some comments at the home orchardist. I expect I will be re-reading this book many times over the years.
As a small grower, I have collected many apple books over the years. Some are purely instructional, some dreamy/inspirational, the ones I like best are both. This is one of that sort.
There is a good mixture of basic science simply explained, apple history and culture, storytelling, how-to plant, graft, prune and grow apples and do peripherals like cider, vinegar and preserves plus helpful tips on small scale local marketing. The whole thing is wrapped together with a delightful humanity and a good number of pictures, diagrams and quotes from the literature of the apple. Also many references at the back on the book although these are all American, forgiveable in an American book I suppose. There isn't a British book like this although I would recommend the new "Apples-a field guide" by Michael Clarke for the English grower, ISBN1-873580-57-6.
I try to grow apples with as little pesticide as possible but find it impossible to do without. Michael is organic, but does not dismiss growers who feel the need to use some pesticide in the desultory and unhelpful way of some zealots. His philosophy is generous.
Anyone who loves the dream of the apple and wants to join in the green conspiracy against the global industry that wants to manage what we eat for maximum profits without regard to taste, heritage or planet should read this.