The Forager's Garden

Linda Gruchy | Friday, 16th April 2021
A useful guide for beginners and experienced gardeners, offering an accessible method for creating a Forager's Garden.
Author: Anna Locke
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2021
RRP: £9.95

When I saw a request for reviews of this book on Facebook, I jumped at the chance of an advanced review copy because this is exactly what I am intending to achieve in my own garden. I am reassured to find that starting out by staring out of the window and daydreaming is the correct strategy, because I seem to do a lot of that. Having read the book twice through, I know I’m doing the right things and have some new ideas.

This is a book that will suit anyone with a new garden, or indeed, repurposing a garden they already have, regardless of whether they are familiar with the concepts of permaculture and forest gardening or not. I feel that sometimes these terms can be daunting, yet by turning the concept on its head, Anna Locke has made creating a garden which is ecologically beneficial and full of food accessible to everyone, from the smallest garden upwards.

Anna Locke takes us through the basic ideas of how to instil resilience in our gardens through copying the strategies found in nature, but without overwhelming the reader, which is especially important for those not that familiar with permaculture.

This book was written when the pandemic was overshadowing our lives, making the concept of The Forager’s Garden more important than ever. The pandemic showed an upsurge in people wanting to forage, and of people wanting to have an allotment. The initial stages of the pandemic showed starkly that our supply chains are fragile, and that we have allowed ourselves to be lulled into a reliance on centralised supply, a reliance on other people and even other countries, and an addiction to fossil fuels. This is something we have been warned about for years, but which has, largely, been easy to ignore until now. That the supply chains sorted themselves out is good, but we must learn the lessons of this pandemic, and think about building resilience in our food supply, and this starts at home.

Those who took up foraging for the first time found that, in reality, foraging can only be relied on to supplement our meals. We can’t survive on foraged foods alone. It takes time to walk to a foraging site, and someone might have beaten us to the harvest. The increase in numbers foraging might also put strain on natural resources. Far better to create those resources at home, where we know what has gone into the soil, far better to fill our gardens with useful foods that we can forage for easily and in a time-conserving manner.

The other advantage of using permaculture techniques and creating a Forager’s Garden is that it makes for a low input - high output garden; important when we resume our old, busy lives. This book, therefore, is both timely and important.

I enjoyed reading it, particularly from Chapter 2 onwards when the author hits her stride, the narrative becoming more personal and hence more enjoyable. Personal experience rather than hypothetical instruction is important to me. I found the book uncluttered, easy to read, and to the point. It acts as both an instruction manual and inspiration. I liked the flexibility of the concepts; in ‘forest gardening’ there seems to be a reluctance to plant annual vegetables, but Anna Locke is happy for these to be included in the overall design. I think this will suit the average garden owner better, because it will allow us to grow some of the more traditional veg without feeling that we are somehow betraying the principles of forest gardening – perhaps this is one reason Anna Locke has called it the Forager’s Garden. It takes Permaculture and Forest Garden principles and tweaks them so that anyone can adapt their garden to be more resilient and more bountiful.

The illustrations by Katherine Reekie are charming. Some photos, such as the rosemary in flower and the garlic mustard by the edible hedge, were delightful. I would have liked to see more photos and illustrations, particularly ‘in the field’ at the sites where Anna Locke has designed the gardens.

This is a gardening book rather than a foraging book. The reader might find supplementing their reading with foraging books useful in deciding a plant list personal to them, but this book is great for inspiration, design, and the plant finder at the back gives a useful starting point.

I think this is a very helpful addition to anyone’s bookshelf, be they an experienced gardener or, more particularly, if they are just starting out.