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Source: ChelseaGreen
Publisher: Chelsea Green


The authors take the reader down a specific path of design: that of plant guilds, and polycultures. Guiding the reader from observation of natural guilds to designing them, with specific tools as spacing and most of all companionship observation. We often speak in the permaculture movement of polycultures but how much have we actually grasped of the complexity of something that naturally occurs? this book can help us understand what we should keep in mind when designing stable, perennial systems. The book has shed some light on the subject, its up to the reader to move along the path they trace, and take our knowledge to the next milestone.

About the authors

About Wayne Weiseman

About Daniel Halsey

About Bryce Ruddock

Where to get it?
Chelsea Green

Related Videos

Related Podcasts

podcast 057 preparing a food forest
Episode 31, Top Plants for Temperate Climate Permaculture with Bryce Ruddock
Episode 1477: Integrated Forest Gardening with Bryce Ruddock

Related Threads

forest garden forum
raspberry guild
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Plant Guilds by Bryce Ruddock of Midwest Permaculture

Related Websites

Southwoods Ecosystems Ecological Design
The Permaculture Project
Wayne Weiseman's blog
Bryce Ruddock archives
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Location: Italy, Siena, Gaiole in Chianti zone 9
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I give this book 8 out of 10 acorns

First things first. The title: “the complete guide to polycultures and plant guilds in permaculture systems”. Really, the complete guide? Come on. Yes I know three things the authors don’t have a saying on are: price, cover and title. But come on we’re speaking of publishing with an editor that’s not a mega corporation that doesn’t listen.

I’ve read through it and I must say I brought it nearly a year ago, when I was starting to read about the subject. I guess I was as a youngster caught by the title, and sort of felt left down by it later, having read through the book, and not having found what was written on the cover. But could I find the complete guide? No I was naïve to think I could.

What did I get from the book? Well not as much as one would expect from a study on polycultures and plant guilds. Their description and explanation are quite quick and simple, not that it had to be deep and difficult, but given the experience of the authors, the reader could expect to find something more.

Polycultures are something we try to understand and think of a lot, that’s our starting point against monocultures and for building sustainable systems. So I guess we should go a bit more to the bedrock of the subject.

The book is well written and edited. It’s a good read for a beginner. Probably if you’ve never taken a PDC it can be a starting point. It gives a quick view of design and the importance of climate and all the pallet we use for designing permaculture systems, but even here it doesn’t go deep on the subject. And neither should have, because the book is on a specific aspect of design, polycultures and plant guilds in forest gardens, so we’ll go deep in that, one assumes, but no. The reader gets a lot of good information, nothing new really, and this is what disappoints.

I always try to see every book, even on same subjects as handing on something new, a different perspective, a glimpse on a variation. This I didn’t find.

Even in the last section where the authors share fifteen type of plant guilds, as case studies, we miss something. There are no photos just drawings of the design phase, ok its interesting but are these guilds theory or have they been grown? The last section reminds me of the free e-booklet written by one of the authors for Midwest Permaculture on plant guilds. Yes that was a free e-book, guess we would think something more could have been done by now and in a more thorough work as this is.

All in all I give the book 8 acorns, even though I’m not fully convinced. I’d like to hear from others maybe I lost my path here.
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I give this book 7 out of 10 acorns.

I think that Lorenzo does a pretty good job above explaining why this book just doesn't quite seem to deliver. One could probably fill an entire book the size of Integrated Forest Gardening dedicated to one specific guild so it should have been obvious that the title was perhaps a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, the book is talking about permaculture and it does have nice illustrations and photos and what can I say, I'm a sucker for permaculture who had an extra $15. Did I mention I bought it used?

This book would have done better in my eyes if it had been billed as an introductory book that touches on the basic permaculture concepts and includes some examples of guilds, something for the beginner that really just wants to get out and plant something. While the information in the book is sound, I found myself wanting more detail than the book presented.

With the beautiful illustrations and the specific "plant this with that here" style this would be a good book to add to your collection with its purpose to be lent out to people that might be on the fence about permaculture but are expressing an interest.

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I give this book 8 out of 10 acorns.

When I bought this volume, I expected a complete and useful textbook, containing information presented simply and very dryly. (I wanted lots of information in order to really know what I was doing in establishing forest garden guilds this year, but without having to pay for the Jacke/Toensmeier compendium!) Expecting a facts-only textbook, I was very pleasantly surprised by the feel and flow of Integrated Forest Gardening: it is complete, as I had hoped, with a vast amount of information, but yet the book is alive and reading it feels as if you are sitting down with three friends who are talking about what they have seen and experienced in forest gardening in their own lives, and musing on the delight and wonder of it all. It felt like I was part of their ongoing conversation as I read this book. Another simile: it also felt like getting 3D glasses on and getting a vivid, multi-dimensional look at a panorama of what Permaculture does in nature, not just in abstract theory. I absolutely love rereading Toby Hemenway’s books, but...they always leave me feeling a little bit at sea with the vast scope of the information and possibilities for applying Permaculture principles to every aspect of human living. However, this book shows what Permaculture does particularly in the natural setting of an ever evolving forest garden system. Better, it shows what things can be done with ever-evolving forest garden systems in your own yard or situation, and it paints word pictures of the bees humming around you and the beetles busy in the ground cover doing their things, all in an interrelated, awesome, cohesive whole that each person can help facilitate and foster. It's exciting!

In many of the pages, specific plants are named as examples of things that can be done with plants, which is a bit of a shock to a modern city-dweller!  I really liked how many interesting and useful facts were included about each plant. I didn't know until I read it in this book today that pecans were a kind of Hickory. The inset about George Washington Carver was really fun to read as well. That man was an absolute genius! I wish that we heard more about him and his legacy in our culture. There was a helpful listing of plants that can be used to purify our indoor environments near the beginning--did I mention that this book feels really complete?

There are just the right amount of illustrations, which make the text more attractive and relevant, and the illustrations of useful and wonderful guilds are true to the saying "a picture is worth 1000 words". This book is a how-to, and a very inspiring how-to, meant to spark ideas as well as get people confident in starting their design process with helpful checklists and map mock-ups for guidance. The book is very quotable as well, but if I quoted all the great stuff the authors muse about, this review would go on forever. Because of its tone and content, the book teaches you how to begin setting up guilds, but also really how to develop into an ecological thinker.

I liked the way the authors emphasize that nothing about nature or your food forest is static: you are making plans of course, and making them happen, but your plans must be ever evolving as the natural guilds are. That's one of the hardest things to understand about Permaculture for me, but I know it's true and it sounds like it can be exciting, too. This is a really good book for those new to Permaculture, and I give it a high rating!
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