Friday, 8 October 2010

10th October 2010: A day to think about Trees!

Baobab Seedling in Burkino FasoWith 10.10.10 heading towards us fast, we at TREE AID are encouraging you to plant a tree to help cut your carbon emissions by 10% as part of the global 10:10 campaign. You can plant a tree anywhere: in your garden, in a pot or at your children's school.

But if you can't find the time, or the perfect spot, we can make it even easier for you, we can plant one for you! Check out our gift catalogue for a range of tree gifts which tackle poverty and provide environmental protection in the drylands of Africa. For only £10 you can help plant a tree in an area which really needs one, reducing your own carbon foot print as you go! It’s not just about planting trees though, its about making sure they live for hundreds of years!

We work with villagers to ensure the greatest chance of survival for the young trees. With TREE AID, villagers learn how to set up tree nurseries; to grow, care for and use their trees sustainably. They learn to decide which tree products will sell and how to add value to them to get a better price at the market. So, while money doesn’t grow on trees, TREE AID helps villagers make money from the things that do, like shea nuts used to make butter for cooking and cosmetics. With the income they can pay for food, schooling, healthcare and other essentials. We also support villagers to fight famine by growing tree foods and helping them improve crop yields, so families can thrive and not just survive.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Seeds' day out!

After a busy two weeks the seeds and seedlings had the bank holiday weekend out and about at the Sculptree festival at Westonbirt Arboretum.

18 of the latest batch of Baobab seeds had germinated, so I separated each one out into its own pot. The Baobab and Neems seeds had come in bags of quite large quantities, even for the biggest of windowsills, so I packaged up small bags of the seeds so that visitors could have a go at growing tree seeds too!

Despite the weather there were plenty of interested visitors, and it seems like there will be plenty of seedlings too soon as all of the seeds sold! If you bought some Baobab or Neem seedlings let us know how you get on. This blog has been all about experimenting with what works, and finding out what doesn't, so I'll be really interested to read any comments or find out any tricks and tips for success.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Where are the Shea seedlings?

It's been a couple of weeks now since the sprouted Shea seeds were potted up, and there's no sign of life as yet. It's difficult to tell sometimes if seeds are just taking a while to sprout or whether they've rotted off. It's even more difficult given that I'm still in the territory of the fairly unknown in terms of compost and water requirements with these exotic seeds. So the waiting game continues with the Shea for now.

In the meantime I've planted up some of the Dawadawa and Tamarind seeds that arrived from Africa with Philip. They were given about six hours to soak this time, as the germination of the last sets of seeds seemed to be most successful after 5 hours in hot water. When I opened the flask and poured out the seeds the Tamarind seeds had gone really slimy! They had quite a bit of stringly, clear slime with reddish bits in around some of the seeds. Now if they'd been in to soak for 24 hours or more it would be more understandable as the seeds would risk rotting and breaking down, but is that what's happened after just 6 hours? I guess the only way to find out its to plant them anyway and see what happens, which is exactly what I did. I've planted about 10 of each in total, so hopefully we'll see some shoots soon.

I also planted up a whole lot more Baobabs, hoping tp get plenty germinated to take to Sculptree, the festival of the tree held at Westonbirt Arboretum from the 23rd to 30th of August this year. The germination rate from the last batch was about 1/3, so I've planted 40 seeds and will see how they go in the run up to the festival.

Friday, 23 July 2010

New seeds!

This week new seed have arrived from Africa! TREE AID's new Chief Executive Philip Goodwin has just returned from a field visit to West Africa, and managed to pick up some different types of tree seeds. After finally getting arund to repotting the baobabs and neems into more cartons and larger plastic drinks bottle, it'll be good to go through the fun of the germination process again.

The baobabs are still looking pretty good, and the roots are certainly looking healthy, with fibrous tap roots developing well in most of them. The neems were interesting to repot, as their root network looked a lot more like a non desert plant - much more spread out with no distinct tap root. I've put them in cartons for now, but depending on what they look like next time I'll probably put them in you standard dimension pot.

On to the new seeds! I'd asked for some different seeds before Philip left for Africa, and he brought back two new types. I've got Dawadawa seeds (Parkia biglobosa) and Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) too. These trees are often grown in drylands Africa and have many uses as nutritious foods, bee forage and ultimately income generators. They will need the same treatment in hot water as the last batch of seeds, so I can't do anything with them today as I'll need to get them soaking the day before.

Interestingly though, Philip also brought back some Shea seeds (in the picture above) which weren't inteded for planting but just to show where shea butter comes from, which is a valuable product for earning cash to pay for healthcare and schooling. On the way back though, three sprouted in the bag! Seizing the opportunity they were whipped out, and potted up straight away so that they didn't dry out. There's no sign of green shoots yet, but it's early days so we'll see what happens there!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Why am I growing tree seeds?

Anna Noali watering tree seedlings in Burkina FasoThe question isn't one of despair (!) or philosophical musing, but one that seems to be more relevant as the seedlings get bigger. Having salvaged one of the seedlings that had been looking a bit off, with plans to try a repot on the other two, and with all of the plants still growing and in need of another repotting next week I figured it's about time I thought about why I'm growing and looking after the Baobabs and Neems.

Now it's been good to do some research and remind myself of words like cotyledon, and the novelty and entertainment value has been pretty good too; certainly if you're someone who enjoys seeing things grow. Novelty and entertainment on the other hand are most likely not the most important consideration of people living in rural, drylands Africa who use these trees and their products in every day life. People like Anna Noali, from Nagre in Burkina Faso, will be growing and caring for large batches of seelings. They will plant them around their villages and farm lands so that they and their children can develop long term sources of food, fuel, medicine and shelter as well as looking after their soils and land.

I, of course, have none of this sense of urgency. I suppose that in the same way as growing carrots in your garden or allotment, growing the tree Neems and Baobabs from seed has given me a better and more tangible understanding of what it might be like to take such practical steps to providing for your future. And more practical steps are urgently needed next week - namely sand, compost and another round of improvised pots!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Not enough water, or too much?

For maybe two weeks now three of the Baobab seedlings have been looking, to varying degrees, a bit under the weather. As you can see from the picture, some of the leaves have gone yellow, and are very soft and floppy. The rest of the plant has also stopped growing.

Now yellow leaves usually mean that something's wrong in the water department; either the plant is getting too much, or not enough. The only thing that has happened in the past couple of weeks water wise was that Morag, who is in the office all week and looks after the watering, was off on leave for a week. Now as we know, our seedlings are dryland plants, and so one might think that they would manage ok with missing a watering. The thing that is more strange is that only these three plants have been affected, whilst there are the five healthy Baobabs that I potted up last week, and two of the delicate looking Neems still going strong.
Two of the seedlings do look pretty much past saving, but the third might be salvageable. It'll be a case now of making sure that these do get enough water, seen as that seems to be the most likely thing to have changed, which could either be the kill or cure. What's really interesting to me is that plants that are ultimately treated in the same way have different success rates - a fantastic example of the 'survival of the fittest' principle and evolution in constant progress!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bigger Baobabs and Blue Peter pots

It's been a good few weeks since the last repotting of the Baobabs, and they've been growing well, doubling in size really. Having seen last time that the roots went so deep relative to the height of the plant I thought it was time to give them a bit more space again.

Based on the roots I needed to make sure that the depth of the pot was prioritised over the width. Now very tall and narrow pots do exist, but they're not easy to find and not necessarily worth the outlay. Especially when people have wonderful ideas for reusing day to day items instead! The environmentally and financially considered idea of using empty juice and milk cartons seemed like the best and most colourful way forward.

After cutting the very tops off the cartons (carefully!) I made five holes in the bottom - just big enough to push a pea through. This round of repotting showed that the roots hadn't grown as much as I might have expected, and were just a bit longer than they had been before, and are now only half the size of the rest of the plant. There were also far more lateral roots, although they're very delicate and short.

I think the cartons look quite good in their different colours, and the Baobabs themselves are looking quite good too really, with new leaf growth. The Neems are doing well with leaf growth too, and I think look really pretty with their feathery leaves. We'll see how they go in the next few weeks, and maybe get them out in the sunshine!