In this book, Martin Crawford describes how to go about growing a wide selection of perennial vegetables. He talks about how to start them, what care they will need, how to propagate them, potential problems the plants may have and more. The book reads like a field guide, where the beginning describes perennial plants in general, why they are good, and other general information, before moving on to an alphabetized list of perennials with specific details about each.
On to my next book review. I figure I will write up one of these for each of the books I read which I think will benefit people to read.
This one is a how-to on growing over 100 perennial vegetables in a cool/cold temperate climate geared towards people who are mostly unfamiliar with growing perennial vegetables. Definitely useful to read for those who are just growing annuals and would like to move into growing perennials.
Crawford starts this book off by making a case for growing perennials by showing how they are less work, are better for the soil, and extend the harvest season. A nice little summary to get you into the mood for learning about perennials.
Next Crawford goes into talking about perennial plants in general and their different types, like trees, shrubs, bulbs, climbers, etc. Different planting beds, patterns and setting up perennial polycultures right up to forest gardens. He goes into each of these things briefly just to lay out the basics for those first getting started.
Before getting into the lists of plants, Crawford describes caring for perennials. He talks on planting nitrogen fixers and nutrient accumulators to keep the soil fertile and the role of mycorrhizal fungi. He mentions disease and pest control before going into plant propagation. Throughout he has lists and tables of relevant plants to preform these tasks. The propagation section is quit good with a decent information on different types of propagation strategies.
Now the book gets to it's meat with the listing of the perennial vegetables. Each of the entries are listed in alphabetical order with nice colour photos. Each photo is followed by a description of the plant, it's edible parts and hardiness zone. Then Crawford goes into how to cultivate the plant, harvest it and propagate it. Next he lists culinary uses and maintenance and potential problems.
These sections are all quite detailed and straight forward. Following the directions under each plant should allow anyone to grow that particular plant assuming the conditions are appropriate.
Overall this book is a great introduction to growing some perennial vegetables. This book doesn't cover all perennials, but will get you on track and in the garden trying these plants out. Some of the plants covered in this book have marginal use for eating and won't produce very much useful product, but some are also great. This book briefly covers some major topics, like forest gardening, which you can get other books with much more detail on once you get hooked on growing perennials.
Check this book out if you want a quick guide for getting into growing perennial vegetables.
Martin Crawford is one the most prolific authors on cool/cold temperate climate forest gardening that I know of. This book is a quick reference guide to growing perennial vegetables in a forest garden or in a polyculture way in our gardens.
Many that already are into this sort of field work maybe will find the book not so complete, extensive, but for beginners its a very useful book, or simply gardeners that are not setting up a forest garden intended in the complete classic way . It's quick, starting with a brief presentation of how perennial vegetables fit in polycultures, and how to design the beds where they will fit in, to end on how to grow perennial vegetables under existing trees, so moving on to what it would be like to do the same work in a forest garden.
So the reader must not be misled on this point this is not a book about forest gardens but about a part of what goes in forest gardens.
This book is published after Martin Crawford's more extensive work on plants for forest gardens: Creating a forest garden. The author has tried to give the home gardener a more accessible book that goes less into depth maybe on specifics of forest gardening, but starts to put order on the subject of perennial vegetables and there importance for the ecosystem and our diets.
This book being about vegetables is concentrated on the plant, ground cover and root layer of a forest garden. And being this way it is intended for those that may not have to design a forest garden but just transform their existing annual garden to a more sustainable system.
Perennial vegetables are more nutritious rich in vitamins, minerals, etc.
The nice thing about the book is that it has a long list of plants that the author has personally experimented in his lifelong work on forest gardens based in England, at the agroforestry trust.
The plants list is well edited, a drawing shows what parts are edible, the plants are described, the reader then gets to know how the plant is propagated, cultivated, what are it's shade or water necessities, and culinary uses.
I really think for the home gardener as a starting point towards perennialising our gardnes this a useful book. I've already written in my review of Anni Kelsey's book, Edible Perennial Gardening, that these two books in my view are good companions for a bookshelf guild, they integrate each other even if not written with that intention.