- Hardcover: 1068 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; VOLUME 2 edition (November 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1890132608
- ISBN-13: 978-1890132606
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 2.8 x 10.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set) VOLUME 2 Edition
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We reviewed the first volume of this two-volume set in September 2005 HortIdeas--in fact, we were so impressed by it that we devoted that month's Book Reviews section entirely to it. Until Mycelium Running--another amazingly important and well-done book--appeared, we were considering doing the same this month for the second volume of Edible Forest Gardens, which is much thicker (by more than 270 pages!) than the first volume. The shorter length of this review certainly does not reflect the relative importance of the volumes--we recommend that anyone interested in experimenting with temperate-zone "gardening in the image of the forest" should study both.
Although Volume 2 ostensibly emphasizes "practical" information building on the "theoretical" ideas in Volume 1, it is clear that both volumes are essentially theoretical. That's because (as we discussed in our review of Volume 1) nobody has yet convincingly shown the viability of forest gardening (relying heavily on perennial crops) in temperate areas as a sustainable alternative to conventional gardening (based mainly on annual crops). Jacke and Toensmeier are, admirably, attempting to disseminate ideas gathered from a variety of source that might enable such viability. Ultimately, at this stage development of temperate-zone forest gardening techniques, virtually all approaches are experimental and in need of validation. We simply do not currently know their limitations.
Understanding that knowledge on "nest practices" for temperate-zone forest gardening needs to be established experimentally can be exciting for those willing and able to adopt the scientific attitude: no matter how they turn out, the results of an experiment, performed appropriately (meaning especially that adequate control treatments are provided), are never "bad." In other words, we think that would-be temperate-zone forest gardeners who are sincerely interested in helping to establish this novel form of agriculture should proceed by trying to test some of Jacke and Toensmeier's numerous design, site preparation, species choice and establishment, and management guidelines. We view Volume 2 of Edible Forest Gardens not as a recipe book for what works but rather as a compendium of possibilities for what could work--an invitation par excellence to experimentation instead of complacency. Right on!
Plants and Gardens News--Patricia Jonas, Brooklyn Botanic Garden-
But even if you grow enough organic food to feed yourself, are you doing what's best for the ecosystem? "Many drawbacks of modern agriculture persist in organic farming and gardening," Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier write in Edible Forest Gardens, because they do not "mimic the structure of natural systems, only selected functions." Even Quail Hill Farm members are still harvesting mostly annual crops grown in plowed fields. Jacke and Toensmeier offer a radical vision for stepping out of the conceptual continuum of conventional agriculture and organic farming. They point to the productivity of temperate forests--which is twice that of agricultural land in terms of net calories--and take that as their design model. Building on Robert Hart's classic book, Forest Gardening, and incorporating permaculture practice, Jacke and Toensmeier propose a garden where many species of edible perennial plants are grown together in a design that mimics forest structure and function.
Edible Forest Gardens is an ambitious two-volume work whose influence should extend well beyond ecologists and permaculturists and, in the best of all outcomes, reach into the mainstream. Volume one lays out the "Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture," and it also includes a very useful analysis of existing forest gardens (one only 50 by 90 feet) and a tantalizing 30-page appendix of "top 100" species. As of this writing, volume two, which focuses on practical design and maintenance considerations, is just being released, but on the evidence of volume one, I have no doubt the set will be an indispensable reference for gardeners and farmers for decades.
"When people have food gardens," the authors write, "they usually are tucked out of sight and out of view of the neighbors. They rely on external inputs of energy, nutrients, insect and disease controls, and water and are based primarily on annual plants. For some reason, growing food is considered unsightly, unseemly, possibly antisocial, and in some towns and cities, illegal! The tremendous infrastructure we have built in our cities and towns reflects a culture and horticulture of separation and isolation." The consequences of such attitudes about growing food have been disastrous, and each of us can contribute to the repair effort. Jacke and Toensmeier say that the principles of forest gardening can be applied even in a tiny urban yard or on a rooftop. Containers of edible perennials and annuals on a rooftop are not most farmers' idea of agriculture, but I grow nearly 20 percent of the authors' top 100 species and intend to look for ways to take this small start much further.
And what about chocolate and oranges? Clearly there are foods that cannot be grown in a temperate forest. "We do not expect forest gardening to replace regular gardening or the foods we know and love," the authors admit. "Just how far we can take forest gardening in supplying food for ourselves is not yet determined." Finding the answer may be the most optimistic work gardeners and farmers can do.
"These will be the benchmark works in the field for many years. The level of scholarship and meticulous footnoting is unsurpassed by anything I've seen in permaculture literature."--Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden
"A tree de force! A must-have set of books for anyone serious about polyculture, integrated organic garden and landscape design, permaculture in the temperate zones and, of course, food forests. The charts of condensed information alone are worth the price of admission. The best book on these topics in years Keep these books within arm's reach at all times!"--Robert Kourick, author of Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
From the Publisher
"...this book will define the intellectual territory of its subject for at least a generation...Dave Jacke has knit an indigenous practice at once ancient and renascent with the mainstream of scientific exploration. He has given us legitimacy and by us I mean all the ecological agricultural explorers of the epoch and a cogency that will now be impossible to denigrate or diminish...An excellent and essential reference, brilliantly conceived and passionately written, Edible Forest Gardens should be on every permaculturist's reading list for the year ahead." --Peter Bane Publisher, The Permaculture Activist magazine
"...But the book I will be keeping by me for the seasons ahead... is Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier. In its way this book--the first of two volumes--is a sequel to the wonderful Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture (1929) by J. Russell Smith.... Edible Forest Gardens offers a vision of the garden that reaches well beneath its aesthetic surface and into its ecological depths. It reminds us that whatever gardens are an oasis from, they can never be an oasis from the natural world or our own underlying economic needs." --Verlyn Klinkenborg The New York Times Book Review June 5, 2005
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I compare this book to the second edition of North American Agroforestry by H. E. Garrett, which I read before I started to wade into these prodigious volumes (honestly, like probably everyone else, I didn't read the whole thing, that would probably take a lifetime and require the patience of...an...oak). NAA shows many photographs and they are a setting size where the meaning is evident. Here is a photo of a row of pecan trees growing in a pasture, here is a photo of a row of black walnuts with some ginseng growing down the row, here is a picture of a riparian buffer planting, here is some alfalfa growing between rows of trees loblolly pines, etc. In other words, actual evidence that the theories are worthwhile. Granted, NAA is oriented towards real farmers and written by a real agronomist from a real university. EFG seems oriented towards dilettante (not a pejorative, meaning people who don't rely on their efforts in the endeavor to make a living) property owners who want to establish edible and unique landscaping.
The sheer amount of information, and the incredible complexity of the relationships among the plants and environment, etc. in this book makes me wonder if people are even capable of forest gardening. It's hard enough to get people to grow simple annual crops well, and we are always learning new things to this day. If typical farming or gardening is driving your car to the grocery store, then Forest Gardening seems like take a trip to the moon....or perhaps Alpha Centauri (because, we've actually made it to the moon and have pictures to prove it). For all the discussion of design in Volume II, I am not sure that I really learned anything that I could definitively apply and have a reasonable expectation for a particular result. It's just so vastly complicated, site specific, and there are so many variables. I almost get the idea that if Vulcans (like Mr. Spock) were farmers in the 24th century, they would probably have a book like this that every Vulcan would understand and be able to use. I just don't think I'm there yet, or, for that matter, if anybody is there yet.
I would say that if you can check this book out from a library it is worth browsing or perusing through, depending upon your interest level. I certainly would not recommend them for any practical endeavor. There is practical information in them, but at $100+ you can find this information for free all over the internet. Check out Agroforestry Training Manual from the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry (sorry can't put the link...well...because Amazon says so). Or just pick up some catalogs: Fedco and Bountiful Gardens both have interesting plants you can buy that are suited to forest gardening.
Volume 1 Vision and Theory is not fluff with the first part providing a well-paced introduction. The case studies are nice, with very high level of detail that help those following a PDC to envisage the outcomes of design decisions. Part 2 delves into more actionable detail and the information on plant spacing really helps as tree catalogs rarely expect the trees to be used as part of a food forest ecosystem. Soil interactions are well covered as are multi species interactions. Chapter 5 “Structures of the underground economy” is solid coverage of the below ground system from mineral to roots and all between. The material on succession helps with the temporal aspects of design.
Volume 2 is my favorite – the diagrams are so clear and the is knowledge to be had at each turn of the page. The plant species matrix is very helpful.
The pair of books teaches an enormous amount, but is written in such a way as it is also general leisure read. Additionally, it is packed with such detail as to be an essential reference. That’s 3 for the price of 1 function stacking. The book does contain huge amounts of information on how to do things, but us not structured as a “how to” book, so it you are after “how to” you will have to work a bit harder to extract the info which is there.
It is not a vague wishy washy call to action with no substance.