Wednesday, 21 April 2010


“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” - Chief Seattle

Millions of people around the world will celebrate Earth Day today, especially so this year, as 2010 marks its 40th anniversary. The idea behind the day, celebrating our planet and all living things that inhabit it, began during the early 1960s hippy movement, as Earth Day bloomed into a grassroots cause that eventually culminated in the first USA observance in 1970. The first Earth Day in 1970 brought more than 20 million people out into the streets to protest against environmental destruction and changed history.

Senator Gaylord Nelson of the USA was instrumental as the driving force behind the establishment of Earth Day and this link explains how it occurred to him in his own words. As all ideas that are ripe for their time do, Earth Day took root, grew and blossomed into the “greening” movement that is now part of the way that we live.

Presently, in many parts of the world there is a move to extend Earth Day celebrations for an entire week thus increase awareness of greening, recycling, better energy efficient communities. In 2010, there is major campaign in a Billion Acts of Green to help to get the entire planet involved in recycling, planting a tree, saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions or any other action to better the earth.

One of the symbols of Earth Day is the “Earth Flag”. This uses an image of the earth as taken from space and it highlights the fragility of our “spaceship earth” in which all of the living creatures on the earth’s surface share its limited resources and depend on each other for survival.

Seeing that I planted two trees at the weekend, my pledge is to plant a few more until the end of the year. Here are the instructions on successful tree-planting:

•    Select the right time of year for planting the tree. Do not plant in late spring or summer because the heat will stress the plant and may cause it to die. The best time to plant a tree is fall (autumn) or early spring.

•    Check to see if there are any local requirements concerning digging deep holes if  you need to dig near telephone and other cables (for example, in urban areas).

•    Choose a suitable tree for the region, climate, and space. It is best to choose a tree native to the region where you will plant it. considering, including how quickly and how large they grow, how much clean-up the need, and their tolerance to diseases, drought, and pests. Be sure you know  the growth habits of the tree you will plant, the shape and size that your tree will have when it is mature.

•    Select a healthy tree. If there are leaves on it, look at the condition of the leaves, but remember that the best time to plant many deciduous trees is when they are dormant.

•    Decide where you want the tree. Many people forget that trees will grow large, so in addition to arranging it according to how you want the area to look, think ahead. Will it shade other plants? Will its branches affect power lines or neighbours’ property? Will it cause or be affected by flooding?

•    Once you’ve decided on the tree and location, take a suitable shovel and dig a hole. The size of the hole depends on the plant, but always dig it a little larger so that your plant ‘s root ball will easily fit . Dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the root ball, not just enough so it will fit. This allows good root growth. Water the base of the hole and let the water seep through into the surrounding soil.

•    Put a mixture of charcoal chunks mixed with sand and spoil in the centre of the hole so that it forms a pedestal on which the root ball will sit. This encourages good drainage.

•    Prepare your tree for planting by taking it out of the pot or cutting the hessian around the root ball if it is a larger tree.

•    Place the tree into the hole gently. Be sure the hole isn't too deep or too shallow. The ground level of the plant in the pot should match up with the ground level after you fill the hole in. Do not bury over the crown (where the stem changes to root) or leave any roots exposed.

•    Add fertiliser only after the hole is dug. All plants need fertiliser to thrive, but too much and you will burn the leaves or kill the plant (more is not better!). A good choice is slow release fertiliser, available from nurseries. Use some compost or composted manure instead of fertiliser if you have some. Compost or composted manure is essential if you are planting fruit or nut trees.

•    Pack the soil and compost firmly around the tree and water. Allow settling, backfill the remaining soil, and water again. This will eliminate air pockets. Water 4 litres for every 20 cm of tree height.

•    Cover the planting hole with 5 cm of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch to keep water in and most weeds out. Do not put mulch against the trunk or it will rot. Mulch out to the level of the tips of the branches.

•    After the planting is finished come back in about an hour and water one more time. You may need to stake the tree also so now is a good time to do it. Drive the stake beside the tree, hammering in until it is strong and stable. Tie the tree loosely around the stake so that the tie does not dig into the bark and damage your tree.

•    Water regularly until the tree is established. The stake can usually be removed after the first year.

•    Enjoy your labours, and as an old Greek proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.


  1. I am a tree-hugger. They give us oxygen for goodness sake, and I am sickened by the chainsaw's whine.
    Whenever I am driving in the country and see a great row of mature trees, I always think of the hard work the planting was, and how the planter missed what I love to see.
    is that 'palnt' of yours deliberate?

  2. Thank you for doing the proof-reading Ann ODyne! A slip of the finger made my "plant" into a "palnt"!
    All corrected now!

  3. What a beautiful post, Nicholas! Happy Earth Day to you too. I have printed out the tree planting instructions because my folks are going to plant a couple of trees in their garden. I'll study it and impress them!!!!