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Book Review: Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford

Mother Tree
Posts: 11657
Location: Portugal
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Book Review: Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford

I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns

This is a review I wrote two years ago, as part of this thread.

"I gave in to temptation and ordered the new Creating a Forest Garden book by Martin Crawford. I actually really like it, but it's definately aimed not so much to the permie market but to the UK gardeners market. It's a nice bigish, glossyish book full of colour photos and lovely silky paper, obviously designed with christmas presents in mind, and I'm certain that pretty well *any* keen gardener in Britain would love to own it. And bearing that in mind, I think it's going to be highly effective in promoting the idea of forest gardening within the UK.

The plants listed seem to be chosen mostly for warmer parts of UK and include things that I would never even have considered in Wales but discount things that need really hot summers, so it's not a perfect guide for me now I'm in Portugal even though the winter temperatures here aren't much different to the warmer bits of Britain. The book is very nicely written and presented, nothing too technical and not preachy in any way, just presenting the information you need to design and plant up a nice forest garden and make you feel nice and glowy inside because your new garden style is also 'green'. There were loads of native plants included, to the extent that reading it was a bit like taking a virtual tour back to the UK and I went all nostalgic remembering days spent collecting samples and seed from hedgerows and persuading them to grow in my old garden. I even managed to figure out a few which would also grow here, hopefully, so there's a few seeds on order now.

I find it hard to read anything 'heavy' these days but this book was really easy and I read it cover to cover in one day and then went through all the plants again happily making lists and then hitting ebay for seed supplies.

Is it the definitive book on forest gardening? Well, I could actually afford this one, just, wheras I never managed to scrape the money together for Edible Forest Gardens so I can't compare, but I suspect that it's going to be the definitive guide for the UK, and being a Brit myself, I can see that most Brits would believe that would also make it *the* definitive guide. We are a little insular after all."
Posts: 1459
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Well I'm not a Brit but you have me convinced - I think I'll have to look this one up. I like pictures. I can read a description all day long but give me a picture and I can take it from there. Thanks for the review.
Posts: 47
Location: Western Upper Peninsula MI
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Creating A Forest Garden: Working With Nature To Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford

This book was like walking into a delightful glade in a summer forest with the breeze ruffling the leaves, bees buzzing around you and a basket in your hand full of the bounty just hanging around you on all sides. Even more, it made it easy to see how this could be yours in the place you already live, large or small, rural, suburban, or urban.

Clearly, Martin is passionate and dedicated to passing on the lessons learned by himself and the progenitor of "forest gardening" Robert Hart. He does it with style, clarity and true approachability.

Unlike some of the other permaculture tomes, Martin communicates the essence of permaculture design in a practical and accessible manner, focused on the food forest approach. He also is very clear about his frame of reference and the plants that he knows and recommends relative to the locale and climate. So even though he is specific to the UK, his observations, design approach, and overall strategy can be seen in detail and applied in any climate.

My perspective is one of broadscale, with existing forest, clear cut 20 years or so ago, with large areas of fallow pasture, so I found his approach to be one that suited me very well. It gave me direction on the design elements to focus on initially, as well as the longer term view. A real plus was his detail on coppicing, along with his observations on creating fencing from trees/shrubs, both major items high on my list.

While other permaculture texts may be more oriented to the reference level or to achieving design certification for the reader, this is one that eases the reader into an understanding of the interrelation of the forest in way that truly helps the reader to see BOTH the forest AND the trees (along with the brambles, vines, ferns, and mushrooms)!

One subject that could have had more depth, and indeed, the topic that most permaculture authors begin with, is the treatment of water, water movement, harvesting, and storage in the food forest.

The appendices are packed with great information and detail and are certainly a great reference in and of themselves, with propagation, application, beneficial insect attraction and many other characteristics detailed.

So overall, the book gets an 8 acorns.

For those just beginning their journey into permaculture, it gets 9 acorns.
Posts: 809
Location: Italy, Siena, Gaiole in Chianti zone 9
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I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns

This is the book that sums up most of Martin Crawford's lifelong work in forest gardening in cool/cold temperate climate. When Martin took his PDC in 1992, he visited Robert Hart's forest garden and probably that is the day he was struck by this never ending story of interacting with natures untold rules, and the day he devoted his life to forest gardening in a scientific way. The book is a recollection of extensive work he has done in the past twenty years at the agroferestry research trust. Martin Carwford has published a lot of his work in small pamphlets divided by plant specifics, they are visible on the site of the agroforestry research trust, here the link to the useful plants booklets: useful plants
But in this work he recollects all these single pubblications in one volume of enciclopedic value.
The book is intended for the designer of a forest garden but can be easily read by the home gardener, and found inspirational.
The author takes us through a walk in a forest garden, starting from the design basics, and then hopping through the layers of the forest garden, listing the plants that go in each layer: canopy, shrub, groundcover and herbaceous, and annuals, biennials and climbers. Every list has then its section on designing the specific layer.
There is then a section on extra design elements ans paths, clearings and fungi. I reckon this work as a useful companion of Dave Jacke's and Eric Toensmeiers book, Edible forest gardens. The work of Martin results in being more accessible and direct, maybe less in depth on all the possible plants we can fit in a forest garden, but very thorough and clear on the plants it lists.
The book has 336 pages in full color, and this really makes the difference. The great boxed info for every plant is well edited, the reader finds a quick reference on plant specifics: Deciduous/Evergreen, climate zone, Sun/shade preference, Shade tolerance, Performance rating and Fertility. Then we get into the descritpion of size, width and height as an adult, uses, harvest and storage secondary uses, etc.
There is the nice info on how much in good condition one can harvest from a single plant for many species, and thats the sort of info I really appreciate.
The book is a must fr those interested in forest gardening, even if not based in UK. There is a good list of resourses and links to nurseries and seed sellers that have online shops that isn very useful.
He puts the "turd" in "saturday". Speaking of which, have you smelled this tiny ad?
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