Book Review: The Food Forest Handbook

the food forest handbookThe Food Forest Handbook: Design and Manage a Home-Scale Perennial Polyculture Garden
by Darrell Frey & Michelle Czolba
229 pages
Published 2017

Another book in my permaculture research, this in-depth guide is definitely going on my To-Buy list. (I always check these out from the library before spending money on personal copies.)

There is SO MUCH information in this book. Unlike some of the other books, there’s no big spreads of full-color, glossy photos (which can be useful, I’m not digging on those); The Food Forest Handbook is mostly text with a few black-and-white photos tucked in. There are spreadsheets and diagrams and lists, sidebars of useful information, how-to walkthroughs and case studies of specific plants. I’m not sure how they packed so much into a little over 200 pages, but this book is a treasure trove of permaculture strategies.

The book starts with a chapter on why permaculture is important; they explore past examples of permaculture, some present food forests, and why it could be useful to us going forward. The second chapter gets into designing a food forest to fit your needs – scoping out your site, determining what resources you have, all of the planning aspects. Then we have a short chapter on putting all that knowledge together and going “from concept sketch to detailed designs” – how to refine your research and plans into something you can work off of. Chapter 4 is about selecting the specific plants; going from “okay here I want a fruit tree and a nitrogen fixer” to “a peach and comfrey.” Plant varietals are discussed here, as well as the different needs of tree guilds.

The rest of the book gets into maintenance, harvesting, and propagating the food forest, and the last chapter is on a tour of established food forests in various climates, to see what’s possible.

This is definitely a book I want on my resource shelf; it can get a little dry at points, but there is so much knowledge here. One thing I really liked was the diagram of tree shapes – if one tree says it has a conical shape when full grown, and one has a pyramid shape, there’s a diagram that shows what exactly the difference is.

Overall an excellent, information-packed book, if a little difficult to read straight through.

From the cover of The Food Forest Handbook:

A Food Forest is a productive landscape developed around a mix of trees and perennials, helping increase biodiversity, protect valuable habitat for beneficial insects, and promote food security and resilience, all while providing an abundant annual harvest.

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. Authors Michelle Czolba and Darrell Frey bring years of experience building and maintaining food forests to provide this practical and accessible guide to creating your own food forest landscape, whether you’re urban, suburban, or rural. 

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