As summer gets hotter, we remember trees again. And it’s not just about planting them around our homes and neighbourhoods. Hema Vijay looks at how best we can look after them
Don’t choke them
These days, the sight of a tree trunk choked all around by concrete or pavement has become a common sight. We see it happening in some apartment complexes as well, only because residents don’t want leaf litter.
How can we expect our trees to survive if we leave just its trunk unpaved; naturally its stability will be compromised. “We need to leave at least one and half to two feet of soil space open all around every tree”, says D. Narasimhan, associate professor, Department of Botany, Centre for Floristic Research, Madras Christian College. By leaving the soil exposed to the sky, you also allow rain water to seep in and recharge your ground water resource. And remember, leaf litter is a beautiful and valuable thing; It can be easily swept and collected to be composted, and be used to manure plants.
Rather than allowing slender trees to grow tall and face the risk of falling during very heavy winds, periodic pruning should be undertaken to keep their height at the level that suits us. This kind of pruning also makes these trees sturdy and strong, and stand firm in the face of winds, says Professor Narasimhan.
Dig deep pits
Many of us have forgotten the right way to plant saplings. Most of us dig a one-foot deep pit to plant saplings. But actually, whatever be the species of sapling, we need to dig much deeper pits to ensure that the growing tree gets a good grip into the soil and stays firm against lashing winds. “We need to plant the sapling at a depth of 2.5-3 feet. For instance, if the height of the sapling is about four feet, we need to dig a three feet deep pit, place the sapling in the centre of that pit and cover it up with soil up to such a height that there is about half to three fourth of the pit left uncovered. This space can be used for periodic manuring. Slowly, the pit can be filled and brought to the soil surface over a period of 4 months. This allows the shoot and root system of the trees to develop well and for the sapling to grow into a firm and stable tree”, says Hariesh Krishnamurthy.
The right choice
Some tree species innately more stable than others. Two factors operate here. In some tree species, the root systems stay at the surface. “For instance, trees like the trumpet tree and the gulmohar are not deep-rooted, and are vulnerable to heavy winds and rains”, says Narasimhan. This is why he recommends planting of trees like pungam, vennangu, valsura, neem, palmyra, etc, which can stand up to the impact of wind and rains, if space isn’t a constraint. If it is, of course, go for smaller trees like nochi, bauhinia (mandarai), creteva (mavalingam), shrubby cassias, ixora (vetchi) trees, dwarf mango, dwarf, lemon, and pomegranate trees, etc.
However, there are other reasons that can cause a tree to topple too. If a tree develops too thick and vast a canopy disproportionate to its trunk, it bears the risk of falling down under the impact of its own weight. So ensure that your tree isn’t being bogged down.