Book Review: How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield

An old book now, How to Make a Forest Garden was first published in 1996 and last revised in 2002. It is still relevant, clear and easy to read. It is full of Whitefield’s practical country ways and knowledge and his style is very grounded and comfortable to read.

The book starts with a sweep around the various reasons why you might choose to make a Forest Garden (FG) in the first place. He goes on to describe in considerable details the components of a typical FG, what he calls the “Forest Garden Community”, especially the 7 layers: Large trees or overstorey, smaller or understorey trees, shrubs, herbaceous, groundcover, roots and climbers.

Over the following 3 chapters, Patrick deals with the basic relationships and how things work together: light & shade, access, microclimates, nutrients, water, mulch and pests.

The next 4 chapters deal with choosing plants and give descriptions of the “The obvious”, the “less obvious”  species and some surprises for trees, shrubs and vegetables with detailed lists for each. These are very useful if, like me, you’re not very knowledgeable on varieties or specifically on perenniel plants. The chapter on shrubs includes a section on “Growing a native shrubbery”. Brilliant. I found these chapters particularly enlightening and will, indeed, return to them again when I come to planting up my field.

All in all, I found this a ‘friendly’ easy-to-read book. It’s in A4, soft cover format and just fels right in the hand. I felt I was in the company of a grand-father like character, with all the wisdon of the old ways at his fingertips. Of ccourse, old ways still work in the garden!!


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