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Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set) VOLUME 2 Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1890132606
ISBN-10: 1890132608
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Editorial Reviews



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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Product Details

  • 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 x 2.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Munroe on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a graduate of a Permaculture Design Course, organic farm worker and someone generally interested in virtually all aspect of sustainable ag, I found this book incredible. Now, I've only read the first one (about to start on volume number 2), but the quality of information in the first volume in outstanding. Volume 1 is concerned with the theory behind forest gardening, but with a keen eye towards using that information in the second volume (which includes detailed information on actually creating a forest garden). David Jacke does a great job of covering everything from invasive plants to forest succession to what a guild is and how to build one to underground microbes and why we should care about them. Full of informative figures, graphs and sidebars, this book does an excellent job of filling a niche that has been otherwise missed by many permaculture and sustainable ag books - what to do in the more temperate, rainy parts of the world. I'd recommend this book over Patrick Whitfield's great book if you live in the U.S. because it suggests a variety of plants native to the U.S. and has a larger number of useful species for people who live in the U.S. and are dealing with colder temperatures than those seen in Britain. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in creating an edible landscape on a piece of property.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought the books to understand the practical aspects of building a forest garden on my 2 acre land. I started reading the vol 2 because that seemed to contain the practical advice. However, soon after, I became convinced that vol 1 can not be ignored. Now I have read vol 1 and am truly in awe of the authors' clarity of thinking and organizing the vast amounts of material and data. The theory is clear and up-to-date with vast recent scientific knowledge- a rare combination indeed.
My only advice to a beginning reader would be to read the last part (conclusion) of vol 1 before and in between the various chapters in order to maintain motivation and interest in the overly theoretical- but necessarily so- parts of vol 1. That chapter really ties the theory together with your reasons of going into such details as are presented.I found in that chapter my "aha" moment.
Thanks to the authors for these wonderful and helpful books. Are worth their weight in gold- or rich moist forest humus!
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Format: Hardcover
If you are a home gardener who has ever stopped to wonder whether permaculture was useful to you, you need to read these books. If you are an intermediate to advanced permaculturist, you will revel in these books. If you want to understand how a single individual with a garden can make the world a better place, you need to read these books.

Jacke and Toensmeier lay out an incredible vision in Volume I for the potential that permaculture holds for gardeners in the northern US. And they lead the reader through an eye-opening education in the scientific theory which supports that vision. In Volume II, they walk the reader through the process of creating their own unique vision for the reader's own permaculture design. Then they lay out, step by step, how to progress from vision to reality.

Along the way, they range from the theoretical to the highly practical, from how many miles of fungal strands are in a teaspoon of soil from the forest floor, to exactly how to plant a tree so that it not only survives but thrives. And they do it in a voice which is both learned and whimsical, enthusiastic and serious -- and downright fun.

I'm buying a second set of these books. I need to keep one set with me as I build my garden; I learn new things every time I turn the page, knowledge I need on a "how to" level. But I need a second set, so that I can lend it to my friends who would get tremendous insight from reading these books...my order for my second set is going in today!

Full disclosure: I am a very pleased client of Dave Jacke's design practice.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll start by saying that even though this is a great 2-volume set, it scared me away from actually creating a forest garden for years. The first volume gives an extremely detailed and comprehensive overview of the theory behind forest gardening. If you start reading this book and think that you actually need to understand all this stuff in order go and plant a forest garden, you'll probably throw in the towel and never do it. There are a million details covered, and understanding it all to me seems like a daunting task.

I also found it for the most part very boring and even redundant. Based on some of the other reviews, other people seem to disagree with this. But to me in terms of excitement this book is just a shade above a technical manual (except the first section on "Vision," which I found very interesting)

And the thing is, you don't need to know everything in this book to start a forest garden. If you actually want to know what you need to know about making a forest garden, I highly recommend Martin Crawford's Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops. When I read that book, I realized that I already basically knew what I needed to know in order to actually get started and put plants in the ground. Before I read Crawford's book I felt almost hopelessly lost. I had only been reading Edible Forest Gardens, which makes creating a forest garden seem like a superhuman task. Martin Crawford's book puts it on a more human level. In the end, there really aren't that many really key points to consider in making a forest garden. And the rest is mostly practical common sense. (I'm oversimplifying here. . .
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