Creating a Forest Garden - Working With Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford
Written by Treacodactyl
At just under 400 pages Martin Crawford's latest book contains a wealth of useful information. It is arranged in three parts which are in turn broken down into very approachable chapters, making it suitable both for reading from one end to another or to dip in and out of, perhaps as your forest garden progresses.
The book starts off explaining what forest gardens are, the role they can play in the UK and some basic concepts of forest gardens. It goes on to cover designing a forest garden, from ground preparation and raising plants before taking us through the various forest layers from canopy to ground cover. This section contains details of hundreds of plants that can be used, covering them layer by layer.
The final part covers extra design elements and maintenance. The end of the book provides some very useful tables listing out and summarising details such as propagation treatments of various seeds.
Throughout Creating a Forest Garden you'll find plenty of informative illustrations and inspiring photographs. Much of the important information is laid out as bullet points which makes the detail easy to understand and summary tables help refresh your memory, which I bet will prove very useful in future years.
As you will learn, the term forest garden doesn't mean you will need vast amounts of room and the book is applicable to people with small gardens and not just large sites. I particularly liked the fact much of the information and advice is based on Martin's personal experience, even if he doesn't get round to following it himself when he runs out of time!
Although, like others have mentioned, the idea is not new to me, Martin still provides plenty of useful and thought-provoking information, including designing for wind protection, a discussion on native vs non-native plants, making your own rooting liquid, and some more complex ideas such as grafting. I found the chapter on fungi particularly interesting, especially the comments about how fungi might pass nutrients from one plant to another.
If I could ask for more I would like further information on many of the plants listed, and more background on Martin's research, but then the book would have been much bigger and probably less approachable. Happily, the resources section points to some useful organisations and books for those who want to explore particular topics in more depth.
So, in summary, I think this is an excellent book which I think many people would find interesting even if you don't have plans for planting a forest garden - although I'm sure you could squeeze a few of the useful plants in somewhere!
More details about the book and a DVD introducing Martin's own forest garden can be found on his site: http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/publorders.html and a preview of several pages of the book can be viewed in this PDF: href="http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/CFGblad.pdf