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We reviewed the first volume of this two-volume set in September 2005 HortIdeas--in fact, we were so impressed by it that we devoted that month's Book Reviews section entirely to it. Until Mycelium Running--another amazingly important and well-done book--appeared, we were considering doing the same this month for the second volume of Edible Forest Gardens, which is much thicker (by more than 270 pages!) than the first volume. The shorter length of this review certainly does not reflect the relative importance of the volumes--we recommend that anyone interested in experimenting with temperate-zone "gardening in the image of the forest" should study both.
Although Volume 2 ostensibly emphasizes "practical" information building on the "theoretical" ideas in Volume 1, it is clear that both volumes are essentially theoretical. That's because (as we discussed in our review of Volume 1) nobody has yet convincingly shown the viability of forest gardening (relying heavily on perennial crops) in temperate areas as a sustainable alternative to conventional gardening (based mainly on annual crops). Jacke and Toensmeier are, admirably, attempting to disseminate ideas gathered from a variety of source that might enable such viability. Ultimately, at this stage development of temperate-zone forest gardening techniques, virtually all approaches are experimental and in need of validation. We simply do not currently know their limitations.
Understanding that knowledge on "nest practices" for temperate-zone forest gardening needs to be established experimentally can be exciting for those willing and able to adopt the scientific attitude: no matter how they turn out, the results of an experiment, performed appropriately (meaning especially that adequate control treatments are provided), are never "bad." In other words, we think that would-be temperate-zone forest gardeners who are sincerely interested in helping to establish this novel form of agriculture should proceed by trying to test some of Jacke and Toensmeier's numerous design, site preparation, species choice and establishment, and management guidelines. We view Volume 2 of Edible Forest Gardens not as a recipe book for what works but rather as a compendium of possibilities for what could work--an invitation par excellence to experimentation instead of complacency. Right on!