Planting trees carefully will help ensure that your tree will live up to old age. (Photo c/o Treehuggers.com)
As promised, I will be writing more posts to help you in your participation in the The meiLBOX 5+1 Project.
An important question that may come into one’s mind when planning to plant a tree is, “How do I ensure that my tree will survive?” In fact, this question is sometimes taken for granted. I have heard of well-organized tree planting activities that eventually ended up being wasted because most of the trees did not survive. It is certainly easy to plant a tree but to do so without serious preparations increases the possibility of your tree not making it on his 1st birthday.
Therefore, I am sharing here some useful tips and guidance in ensuring that your tree will survive in the long haul. However, before we discuss the tips, let us first mention the importance of trees and why must we all do our share in ensuring that more trees are going to be planted in the Philippines and elsewhere.
We all know that trees support life itself, our core survival–we need the oxygen that is released by trees and other plants. Picture this: two fully-grown trees can provide enough oxygen for the needs of three to four persons. Therefore, if your household has 8 members, it is a good idea to plant at least 4 trees in your backyard! Of course, we have other activities beyond breathing so you can well imagine that we “owe” the earth more trees per year. (The Save the Amazon Rainforest has estimated that a person needs to plant 30 trees in a year so he can compensate for the carbon dioxide that he emits. Others may not agree with this figure but the principle still remains: we ought to give back if we continue to extract.)
Related to this is the issue on climate change. We all know that trees are important in reducing global warming. Trees help remove carbon dioxide from the air by capturing and storing them and then releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. This natural process is considered as a form of “carbon sequestration.” (To know more about carbon sequestration, you may visit this link.) Experts agree that one acre of trees removes about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide per year. That is a significant amount of carbon dioxide, right?
The next important role of trees is in preventing soil erosion and flooding. Because trees have elaborate root systems, they are able to help in holding the soil, soil particles, and water in place. The more trees we cut, the more of those root systems are eradicated from the ecosystem, the more chances are for soil erosion and eventually, flooding. Remember Typhoon Ondoy? It is likely that the floods will still happen but if there were more trees in and around the affected areas, the impact would have been lesser in gravity and scope.
Finally, trees provide us with water, food, shelter, medicine,and other materials. Look around you as you read this post and you will see that almost everything around you is sourced from or had been created with the help of plants and trees. Hugging a tree may really be a good idea after all!
Now that we have the basic information about trees, let me then give you some tips in ensuring that your trees will grow beautifully into old age. (I will not be writing here about appropriate types of trees for particular settings/locations because I will also devote a separate post for this equally important topic.)
1. Ensure that the hole for the tree is not too deep nor too narrow. Digging too deep will make it difficult for the roots to have sufficient oxygen; digging too narrow will limit the ability of the root system to benefit from the nutrients of the soil. A narrowly-planted tree will also have limited “anchor” in the soil, making it easy to break down or fall.
2. Ideally, the diameter of the hold should be 3 times the diameter of the “root ball” or container or the spread of the roots of your tree. This will provide enough space for the roots to establish itself. In the same principle, ensure also that the tree will not be too near another tree/s. The future foliage of your tree will also grow well if your tree is adequately “spaced” from the other tree/s.
3. Ensure that water will drain well in the hole. You don’t want your tree’s roots to drown in too much water so ensure that the water can easily drain. You can prevent this by raising the center of the bottom (of the hole) a little bit higher than the surrounding area so that your tree will “stand” higher in the middle of the hole. Do not “smoothen” the surface of the soil around the bottom and the sides of the hole because such will make it difficult for the water to drain well. Aerate the soil enough so that the water will easily pass through.
4. In the same principle cited in No. 3 above, do not compress the soil too much or the water will not reach the roots well.
5. If you are planting a tree which was originally grown inside a container (e.g., plastic bag), it is better to spread the roots well prior to planting (after removing the tree from the container/plastic) so that the roots are not compacted with the soil particles. You can free the roots by loosening up the soil through the use of your fingers or a blunt object (but do so with care so you will not hurt the roots). This procedure is important because if the roots are compacted, they may not grow well enough and the tree may eventually die. Remember to prune dead or damaged roots.
6. Return the backfill soil (combinations of peat moss, composted manure, topsoil, etc.) in the hole surrounding the tree using your hands and compress the soil adequately, avoiding too much pressure though so that the roots and soil can still breathe.
7. Water the tree at the time of planting. The tree can be watered once a week or more if in the middle of summer. It is important not to overwater your tree or it can also die. If you cannot visit your tree more often, ensure that other people/organizations will care for it. (However, it is nicer to find the time to visit your tree every now and then!)
8. Mulch (a combination of materials such as bark, wood chips, and other organic materials) of about 3 or 4 inches deep around your tree can also help in keeping the moisture of the soil. It may also be a good idea to add fertilizers in the soil but it is better to consult a plant/tree specialist first so he can advice you on the best approach.
9. Decide if your young tree can stand on its own; if not, build stakes around it for support. Just ensure that the stakes will not be too tight or too loose (e.g., the tree should still be able to sway with the winds. It may be unavoidable that the tree will touch the edges of the stakes if winds will blow so you can lessen the damage to the tree’s skin by wrapping the contact points with soft and “airy” cloth). The stakes should also be removed at a time that the tree can already stand on its own.
10. Avoid pruning your tree at such young age. If pruning is needed particularly for damaged/broken branches, do so with extreme care so that the other healthy branches will not be affected. Do not also prune the top of the tree as this will affect the growth and structure of the tree.
For more information and tips on tree-planting, you can also visit this link. You can also contact the Manila Seedling Bank for availability and pricing of tree seedlings. If you have other helpful tips, please also feel free to share them with our readers by emailing me through firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch out for my next post about appropriate types of trees for particular settings/locations.
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