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Garden Book Review: "The Holistic Orchard"

About "The Holistic Orchard"

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review of the holistic orchard by michael phillips

In The Holistic Orchard, orchard guru and author Michael Phillips explains the principles of "beyond organic" holistic orchard practices. Phillips not only covers holistic methodology, but provides chapters for the most commonly-grown tree fruits and berries, including apples, pears, quince, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, blackberries, blueberries, currants, and raspberries. If you are looking to start an Earth-friendly home or small-scale orchard, this book is definitely worth a look.

Review: "The Holistic Orchard"

Holistic fruit growing is nothing more, and nothing less, than understanding and using basic biology (rather than chemicals) to grow healthy, productive fruit trees and bushes. Growing fruit comes with its share of challenges, from pests and diseases to crop failures and blossom drop. Phillips brings together the principles of soil science, permaculture, holistic health and traditional fruit growing to help home gardeners and small orchardists care for their orchards in a more effective, Earth-friendly way.

This is a large book, and it is just bursting with good information. Topics covered in The Holistic Orchard include:

  • The Orchard Ecosystem (understanding orchard biology and holistic health)
  • Orchard Horticulture (choosing varieties, learning about rootstock and grafting, planting, soil fertility, pruning, pollination, and thinning)
  • Orchard Dynamics (organic health management, bugs, diseases, deer and other pests, equipment)
  • Pome Fruits (apples, pears, quinces)
  • Stone Fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums)
  • Berries (bramble, bush fruits, shrub fruits)
  • The Orchard year (a timeline of tasks to complete at certain points during the year)

One of the most intriguing parts of this book are Phillips' recipes and instructions for applying what he calls "the Four Holistic Sprays of Spring." Basically, he recommends applying different organic sprays at different stages of plant growth during the spring for optimum plant health. Those of us with home orchards (or just a tree or two!) would probably do well to give them a try.

If you have never read a single article or book about growing fruit before, you could simply read this book and have a thorough education in the art and science of growing fruit using organic, Earth-friendly methods.

Quotes from "The Holistic Orchard"

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Holistic Orchard:

  • "Soil health and forest-edge ecology are what make good fruit possible, not chemical sprays."
  • "Tree health is integrally tied to soil health, which in turn flourishes with the health and diversity of biological organisms in the soil. These dynamics lie at the core of an orchard ecosystem, whether we are talking about a multi-acre commercial orchard or the trees and berries you've chosen to grow in your yard."
  • "Starting small is better than going for the gusto. This has always been true of the better home orchardists I've known. Experience brings understanding as to when things need to be done."
  • "You will quickly discover that your relationship with the orchard becomes a year-round affair. All sorts of wonders get revealed by visiting your trees often. Nor is this simply about looking for problems. Paying attention to how buds grow, when roots are in full gear, and what tree health looks like deepens your understanding as a steward."
  • "Insect consciousness begins with paying attention. Seeing early signs of chewing on the edges of a bud or a light-deflecting pinprick (indicative of a feeding sting or and inserted egg) on developing fruit should put you on alert."


I highly recommend Michael Phillips' The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way to anyone who is intimidated by the idea of growing organic fruit. This book not only proves that it can be done, but that it should be done, for our health and for the health of the planet.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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