From the time of planting trees to the time of cutting trees can be a number of years. Because it’s such a long term effort, it might be worthwhile for you and your neighbours to talk about why you are planting the trees, where you are going to plant them and who is going to take care of them after they have been planted. Weeding, for example, is essential and takes a lot of time. You might also talk about who is going to be able to use those trees after they’ve grown up.
Maybe you can involve the children from the beginning. They could collect the seeds, help with the planting, and later look after the growing trees. In that way, when they grow up, they will have a habit of planting trees. They will also appreciate the time and effort that has gone into those trees and will understand their value. Every time there is a special occasion, children could plant a tree in honour of that day.
In fact, trees are like children. We have to look after them until they are big enough to get along without our help. What should we do for trees right after we have planted them out as seedlings? Should they be watered? If the tree is planted during the rainy season in well prepared soil and if the tree is planted carefully, the tree should grow on its own. But, if there is no rain in sight, it would be a good idea to water the tree. Give enough water to soak right down to the roots. Protect your trees from drying or cold winds if necessary.
You should also protect the trees from goats or cattle or other animals that could eat the branches or bark. Strong fences will protect young trees. Fences must also keep chickens away from the young trees. You can build strong fences out of wood, perhaps branches with thorns on them, or you can use other materials. In China, some farmers use tall baskets around trees. In other places, trees are protected with stone fences. In Northern Ghana, farmers build mud walls 20 centimetres or more in thickness. The important thing to remember is that goats and cattle are strong, so whatever you use to protect the trees must also be strong and securely attached to the ground so it can’t be moved by the animal.
You can protect young trees from poultry and animals another way. Have you noticed that animals won’t eat anything that has their manure or urine on it? Applying animal waste to your trees is very effective but you have to keep doing it season after season.
In Ghana, farmers mix fresh manure from the animals with water to make a soupy mixture. They leave it for three days to ferment. Then they paint this thick, strong smelling liquid on their seedling trees.
On an island in the Eastern Indian Ocean, some farmers mix fresh goat, chicken, and cow manure with a bit of mud and diluted urine. They paint the trunks, branches, and twigs, even of bigger trees, with this mixture. They also apply it lightly to leaves and buds. Even during the rainy season, the trees are safe from goats. The farmers always paint the trees again after a month, however, because the heavy rains will eventually wash the mixture off the trees.
You also want to protect the small trees from weeds. The better the weed control in the first few months of growth, the better the chance of survival. So try to keep weeds from getting started near the trees, at least until they have grown up above the weed cover.
The young trees will also do better if fertilizer is applied regularly at least once a year or more frequently.
Once your seedlings are planted, you could start growing more trees so you have a supply of them in your nursery. Then, if some of your trees die, you’ll have extra trees to put in their place.
- This script was reviewed by Bob Morikawa, Agroforestry Consultant, Toronto, Canada.
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