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A food forest is a productive landscape developed around a mix of trees and perennials. Rooted in permaculture principles, this integrated approach to gardening incorporates a variety of plants such as fruit and nut trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial herbs and vegetables. Food forests can help increase biodiversity, protect valuable habitat for beneficial insects, and promote food security and resilience, all while providing an abundant harvest.
The Food Forest Handbook is a practical manual for the design and management of a home-scale perennial polyculture garden. Simple, straightforward instructions guide the reader through:
• Getting started — site assessment and planning
• Tending the forest garden — maintaining soil health, succession planning, mulching, pruning and more
• The fruits of your labor — crop profiles, harvest, storage, nutrition and recipes.
This timely book makes the concept of food forests accessible to everyone. Focusing on the potential of perennial polyculture to enhance local food systems, The Food Forest Handbook shows the reader how to mix and match plants in unique combinations to establish bountiful landscapes and create genuine self-reliance in years to come.

Where to get it:

New Society

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I give this book 8 out of 10 acorns

The Food Forest Handbook is a handy little book that gives a good overview of the home-scale food forest and how to get started. While it does not give growing profiles of all of the trees and other plants to grow in the food forest, it does give the reader many tips and techniques on how to get started, and a few key plants and guilds.

Table of contents:

Perennial Polycultures: Past, Present, and Future

Food Forest Design and Planning

Food Forest Design: From Concept Sketch to Detailed Designs

A Food Forest Feast: Selecting Plants for Your Food Forest

Tending and Growing a Forest Garden

Propagating Your Food Forest Garden

A Tour of Food Forests in Various Climates

Appendix: Compost Remediation for Lead Contamination

Every practitioner of permaculture does things a little differently depending on where they live, what they have to work with, and what they like to eat, so there are many ways to approach starting your food forest. In this book, Darrell Frey and Michelle Czolba present their experiences of setting up food forests, as well as examples of other food forests around the world. So readers get an overview of the different approaches.

The book is laid out a little awkwardly, but the information presented is definitely useful. There are a few simple recipes, some plant profiles, and lists of plant guilds. The Hazelwood Food Forest, a food forest they set up in Pittsburgh, is their main frame of reference and they give a species list and guilds that they used successfully there. They also do overviews of food forests from around the world.

The book contains information on compost, ground preparation, species selection, guilds, and how to make a liquid fertilizer using comfrey. There is also information on propagation of your food forest plants, including quick overviews of grafting, cuttings, division, layering, and of course starting seeds.  

The authors include a chapter on many delicious fruit trees, berries, perennial veggies, and herbs to grow in your food forest, as well as a few ways to use them. They also share how to have fresh fruit from the earliest in spring to as late into the fall as possible; a yield chart; and ways to preserve your harvest to have delicious homegrown food year round.

This book is a good place to start if you’re a beginner food forest gardener, and it gives a good overview. They make suggestions for books that will take you deeper into the different aspects of creating your food forest. This book is like a checklist of the important aspects to consider when planning your food forest, and will give you a great place to begin your adventure. Enjoy!


The book has many photos, but they are all black and white, and most are not great quality. I would have liked to see color photos in a book like this, or at least better quality black and white photos. I also feel that the information was arranged a little awkwardly, but not enough to make it difficult to follow. All in all it is a fine little book, and will inspire the beginner food forest gardener get started.
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