After reading several very good books on basic permaculture theory, I have been looking for something that goes a little more in-depth into the design and science of plant guilds; something with some examples and practical ideas. The creative use of planting guilds is one of the things that makes permaculture so fascinating. It is also something that is complex and hard to find information on, at least it was hard for me to find useful information on, without spending hours combing through internet forums and google searches. All I wanted was some basic “nuts and bolts” information (in one place) without spending lots of money on a permaculture course. When I saw that this book had 15 plant guild examples within its pages, I got excited. With Chelsea Green’s reputation for quality permaculture books, I sent off for a copy. I wasn’t disappointed.
Integrated Forest Gardening is well laid out and full of information that I have not found in any other permaculture book. It is touted as “the first, and most comprehensive, book about plant guilds” and delivers on that promise. The book is 310 pages and includes chapters on plant guild structure, plant selection, trees, species integration and project management. The last chapter is 66 pages long and takes a fairly deep look 15 different plant guilds. For each guild there are diagrams and a detailed plant list that includes all pertinent information, such as ecological function and human uses. Guilds included are fruit and nut, pawpaw, four vines annual-perrenial, poisonous plants, asian pear polyculture, ginseng/sugar maple, boreal forest berry, salsa garden, dwarf cherry tree polyculture and ruddock guilds (cider, pawpaw floodplain, persimmon wood, wild rice pond and hedge wall).
I have been interested in permaculture for some time but have felt as though I was stuck in a rut. I had the basic theory, I had some rough idea of guild plantings, but I didn’t feel at all confident enough to try to implement any of it on our farm. This book has given me the tools and information I need to to actually try some of this stuff! Although I probably wouldn’t want to sit around the table discussing politics and religion with the authors, I am very glad that they got together and wrote this book. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a better understanding of how plant guilds work and wants to understand polycultures in more meaningful way. Truly a treasure trove of useful information.