The adventures of an amateur tree planter
Planting in late April is by all accounts slightly silly; Summer is upon us in full force and the chances of vital rain to support the seedling growth is very small. Nonetheless, I pushed ahead against the advice of almost anyone with the knowledge of tree planting.
The date was set for 28 April. The following week was ruled out due to Philippine elections and the week after I would be travelling for a month with an exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show. It had to be that weekend; I wanted to test all the systems that we had set in place, I wanted some data to enter onto the website database and above all else I wanted our core group of volunteers to get the experience they need to head the intensive seedling planting program during the 3 months of rainy season.
Preparations pushed ahead. Our truck was converted to provide seating on the flatbed for volunteers and an iron canopy was welded in place to provide shelter along the way. Tents, gas stoves, water dispensers, lamps etc were bought so that we could camp near the site. White coated tires for the row markers, bamboo slates for the tree markers, trowels, hats for the volunteers and of course the seedlings and the all important chicken dung. Petty cash flew out the door faster than sand through the hourglass!
The day before departure, Monet from the PENRO office came to the studio to give us all an orientation; useful information on how deep to dig the hole, how much recess to allow (so that rain water pools inside the recess) what to do and what not to do with weeds etc. Meanwhile Charlie, our point man for the preparations, travelled down to the site to oversee the site preparation; 10 locals laid out the rows and dug the holes. Our group left the following afternoon at 3pm arriving at Oslob at 7 where it was decided that, with darkness having fallen, they would sleep in Danny’s house, a driftwood collector, so the tents and different paraphernalia had to await another day to be used.
We set off at crack of dawn, Sunday morning. Our truck chugged up the steep switch-back lane with our volunteers hanging on for dear life, experiencing the equivalent of a roller coaster ride in slow-mo. By 6:30, we had split ourselves into pairs and the tree planting began in earnest. Friendly banter passed back and forth among the rows and the more competitive of our volunteers pitted themselves against one another in an effort to do the better job.
By 10:30am 500 seedlings were planted, 10 tire row markers were painted with row data and the job was done. Jhoi, our mass communication graduate who has agreed to join the tree planting admin to head the project, shot over 300 images and managed to keep track of the data for future upload to the website.