Planting Trees: Part 1, “First Steps”

Environment and climate changeTrees and agroforestry

Notes to broadcasters

Information on this topic was requested by DCFRN Participants in Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Kenya, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Uruguay.

It is suggested that, before using this information, you read the notes at the end of the item concerning other related DCFRN items.

1. This item (Item 2) is the second of three items in this Package on the subject of farmers planting trees.

2. Before using the information in this item, please read it over carefully. If seedling trees are available to the farmers you serve, from a local forestry agency, you may decide only to use some of the information in this item. For the same reason, information in Item 3 may not be relevant to your farmers. If it is relevant, however, please use these items in the correct numerical sequence.


We at this radio station are part of a world-wide information network that gathers farming information from developing countries all over the world. It’s the Developing Countries Farm Radio network, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, Massey-Ferguson and the University of Guelph.

Through this network we bring you information on ways to increase food supplies for your family, or to sell — ways that other farmers have used successfully.

Today, let’s talk about planting trees — the first things to think about. Here’s George Atkins.

I want to begin by mentioning some of the things that farmers use wood for. — For many, the most important use is for firewood. — Then there’s building material, fences and fence posts, wagons, boats, farming implements and tool handles and many many other uses. — Most farmers need wood!

Of course, wood comes from trees, so really farmers need trees. — And think of all the other reasons for having trees around. Many trees produce fruits, nuts and leaves for food; they provide fibres, oils and liquids of different kinds. Tree roots underground and leaves on top of the ground prevent soil erosion, and trees provide shade, shelter and beauty. Those are just some of the reasons why you may have decided you want to plant some trees where there aren’t any now, or to replace some that you have cut down.

So what kind of trees should you think of planting? If there’s a forestry or tree planting service in your area, their extension people will advise you and may even supply you with seedling trees. If there is no such service, it would be best to plant the kinds of trees that grow naturally in your part of the country.

You’ll be planting young trees; and remember, they’ll grow up to be big trees, so before you plant them, look at full grown ones of the same kind nearby to see how big they’ll get. If you do that you won’t be planting them in the wrong place. For instance, you might not want a great big tree right next to your vegetable garden that would prevent the sun from shining on your garden, but you might want one or more trees

planted by your house to shade it from the hot sun or protect it from strong winds.

But what about the trees you will be planting? If you can’t get seedling trees from a local forestry agency, two agroforesters, David Coyle and Andy Kenney, may have some good advice for you. They both worked at Kanye in Botswana, and when I met them I asked Andy if a farmer like you could get seedling trees in a wooded area where young trees are already growing. Here’s what he said:

Certainly that’s quite a good way of doing it. You’ve got the trees growing right away without taking the time to develop those trees from a seed. You, of course, have to be very careful of how you dig the tree up so that you don’t damage the roots.

There are, of course, other aspects such as — who owns those trees. You don’t want to be taking trees to transplant that you have no right to take. But, assuming that the trees are available to you, — that’s a very good way of getting trees to plant.

If you are transplanting trees out of a forest, try and take them in the resting period. — If they don’t have leaves on them, that’s the best time to move the, — before they start leafing out again.

Something else you should consider too, — perhaps if you’re going to be planting the tress in a very open area, it’s best to take the trees from the edge of a forest.

On another program we’ll talk about the best way to transplant those small trees. Right here, though, let’s not forget that there are other ways to get trees started. With some trees, for example, when you cut down a big tree, new shoots come up from the stump, — and all you have to do is to trim off all but two of them on opposite sides of the stump. After they’ve grown up 2 or 3 metres (6 to 9 feet) high, cut off the weaker one and you have a fine young tree growing where the old tree used to be.

Then there are other kinds of trees that are also easy to get started. You probably know of the kinds that will grow from a short piece of wood cut from the end of a branch that you just stick into the moist ground 10 or 12 centimetres (4 or 5 inches) deep. David mentioned how long these pieces should be.

About 30 centimetres (12 inches) long or as long as your foot.

And the time to collect those pieces, — those branches — should be when the tree is not growing, — during the dry season (in winter time) when there are no leaves on the tree; keep them from drying out and wait to plant them until the rainy season begins.

Mostly, however, young trees that people plant are grown from seeds. The best seeds are the ones that form at the top of the tree or at the ends of the side branches; and another thing, — it’s best to collect seeds, not from old or from young trees, but from middle-aged trees that are producing lots of seeds.

Now, you might want to plant the seeds as soon as you’ve gathered them. If you do that, they may not grow right away. Why?

Well, nature usually works in a way that seeds have to rest. They have to go over a period of time usually in the soil before the seed starts to grow. So if you’re going to be picking seeds directly off the tree, or seeds that have fallen recently onto the ground, you’re going to have to provide that period of rest so that you can get the seeds to grow.

There are things you might be able to do to help the seeds get ready to grow. For different kinds, however, there are different things you can do to start them growing. — So you might have to try out different ways. Here are some of them:

Some ways would be spreading the seeds on a sheet of metal or even just on the ground in the sun and letting the seeds dry out; — and if they have a husk, the husk will crack and you can peel the husk off and then those seeds should be closer to being ready to plant in the nursery.

You might also try putting the seeds just in water and watching them to see if the outside covering will start to crack or open up. There are so many seeds that have such a very hard cover that you have to break that cover before the seed will germinate (sprout). You could even use a hammer or a stone or rub it on a rough stone to just crack that cover enough to allow the seed to grow.

— And there’s one more way you might try for starting your really tough tree seeds to grow. Carlos Kalil in Bogota, Colombia, says you can put the juice from a green papaya in a container and soak the seeds in it for 2 days. — That’s all.

So now you know that because the seeds of different trees are different, you’ll have to try out different ways to get them to start sprouting.

Serving “Agriculture, the Basic Industry”, this is George Atkins.


Interviewees: David Coyle, c/o Kantor Bappeda II, Watampone, Kabupaten Bone, Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia.

Andy Kenney, c/o Department of Environmental
Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
N1G 2W1, Canada.

Information sources

* For Information Sources see Notes of Item 1D.