Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

The Apple Grower: A Guide For the Organic Orchardist — Book Review

Book Review

The Apple Grower - Book cover

Espe­cially rec­om­mended for those seek­ing to grow a small-scale com­mer­cial organic apple orchard.

Title: The Apple Grower: A Guide For the Organic Orchardist

Author: Michael Phillips

Strong points: The Apple Grower real­is­ti­cally cov­ers the goals of grow­ing a small scale com­mer­cial organic orchard. It both points out the chal­lenges of grow­ing organ­i­cally and pro­vides solid options for deal­ing with those chal­lenges.
It is very evi­dent that Michael has spent much time shar­ing expe­ri­ences with other small-scale apple grow­ers in regions all over the United States. He shares many of their obser­va­tions and tips through­out the book.
This is not just a pie-in-the-sky, dream of grow­ing with­out chem­i­cals, book. Michael has cer­tainly looked into the exten­sive sci­ence behind grow­ing apples and includes many foot­notes and bib­li­o­graphic sources. If you want go directly to the research find­ings for your own read­ing, the notes through­out the book will help take you there.
Although this book is aimed at the com­mer­cial organic grower, there is much here that the advanced home-garden apple grower can apply equally well to a small plant­ing of trees.

Weak­nesses: If you are look­ing for a quick, easy, how-to-get-started primer, this book is prob­a­bly not it. Much of what you will find in its pages requires some in-depth under­stand­ing of the com­plex orchard ecosys­tem and all that it entails. If you are look­ing to gain that under­stand­ing, how­ever, this will be a worth­while guide.

Green thumbs rat­ing

Book Rat­ing:  

Michael Phillips is cer­tainly a mod­ern day Johnny Apple­seed for the organic apple grow­ing move­ment. He not only “talks the talk,” but obvi­ously “is walk­ing the walk.”  In The Apple Grower, he shares not just the tri­umphs of organic grow­ing (many of which were, in my expe­ri­ence, fre­quently over­stated by early organic grow­ing mes­sen­gers); he also acknowl­edges his many tri­als hon­estly. In read­ing this book, you will walk along side Michael as he shares his phi­los­o­phy, in-depth obser­va­tions, and per­sis­tent cre­ativ­ity as he labors to keep his orchard envi­ron­men­tally and econo­mi­ally viable.

Michael Phillips has an abid­ing respect for the farmer and all the very hard work invested in that voca­tion. One of the first lessons, Michael points out, is one of eco­nom­ics and its neces­sity in sus­tain­abil­ity. Indeed the first chap­ter is heav­ily devoted to the influ­ence of eco­nom­ics and pol­i­tics of food pro­duc­tion in this country.

The writ­ing style is poetic; keep­ing the sci­ence from get­ting too dry. The author cer­tainly has a pas­sion for his voca­tion and an appre­ci­a­tion for all that the apple pro­vides in sus­tain­ing us all.

ISBN: 1–931498-91–1 (trade paper­back)
# of pages: 343 pgs.
Pho­tos: Yes
Illus­tra­tions: Yes
Appen­dix: Yes, 4 — Orchard Tasks, Sup­ply Sources, Recipes, and Bib­li­og­ra­phy
Index: Yes
Pub­lisher: Chelsea Green Pub­lish­ing Com­pany, PO Box 428, White River Junc­tion, VT, 05001
Pub­li­ca­tion Date: 2005,revised and expanded edi­tion
Price: $40


Dis­claimer: This title is pub­lished by Chelsea Green Pub­lish­ing Com­pany, who is also the trade  dis­trib­u­tor for my own titles. The review is in no way pro­vided due to this ongo­ing rela­tion­ship. If any­thing, it may have made me that much more dili­gent in scru­ti­niz­ing the book in order to avoid any appear­ance of con­flict of inter­est. I chose to review this book solely because I gen­uinely believe it has merit for gar­den­ers seek­ing to become com­pe­tent organic apple growers.

As a great com­ple­ment to The Apple Grower and for all you need to know about grow­ing apples and other fruit trees, buy The Back­yard Orchardist: A com­plete guide to grow­ing fruit trees in the home garden.