We are back at the farm! The Covid-19 quarantine kept us away for more than three months. It felt so good to be back! The farm never fails to surprise us with new things.
Tonji was walking around when he smelt a beautiful fragrance. It was coming from this tree! This is Flueggea virosa. It is a shrub or small tree that will eventually have white waxy fruits! It is known in other countries as a medicinal plant. According to this website , extracts from the bark are lethal to mice. Our caretakers call this small tree Suliak Daga. Not sure if that means lethal to mice.
It’s hard to imagine that back in September 2019 this shrub looked very pitiful and was full of hard brown galls. What a pleasant surprise to see it bounce back from its previous gall-ridden state!
One of the first things I did when I got to the farm was check the seedlings in the nursery. I was very pleasantly surprised to see so many of them were ready to be planted outside.
In June 2019 I planted 18 Taluto seeds that I got from Cel Tungol. I even sketched them. The Taluto seeds were tiny.
One year later in June 2020 we planted 16 Taluto that were almost as tall as me!
This is a low weedy plant growing by the path to the cottage. Even this little plant has a surprise! From the top it is all stiff angles and thorns.
But when you lift it up it has dainty white flowers growing on the underside! This plant is called Canthium pedunculare.
Our trip to the farm coincided with Momo’s birthday. Momo turned 11! Happy birthday Momo!
It was so good to be back, walk around, and discover the surprises that await us.
We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.
1 Label the pots before filling them up. It’s faster and more efficient than sticking tags onto pots filled with soil. Use masking tape and a Sharpie instead of plastic tags that can easily fall off. You will be very glad that you labelled the pots when you discover that a lot of the baby trees look alike!
2 Wear gardening shoes. You are more likely to go outside if you’re not worried about tracking dirt inside the house. I like easy to wash shoes that you can slip in and out off and leave by the door.
3 The first part to grow is the RADICLE. It is the embryonic root. It grows downwards. Don’t be like me, panicking when seeds arrived already sprouted!
4 Tamp down the soil in the pots firmly when you fill them up. Or else the seedlings will topple over! I like to overfill the pots, then tap the bottom on something firm so the soil settles into the pot nicely. I like to fill all the pots first, then make all the planting holes in the soil, place each seed into the hole, then cover each hole. That way you’re not wondering whether or not a pot already has a seed.
5 Use a nice watering can with a fine rose! You want a fine spray of water so the seeds don’t get washed away. It does take longer though for the water to come out of those tiny holes. Patience!
6 Use rainwater for watering the plants. This is especially important if the water in your area is highly chlorinated. Now is a good time to start a rainwater collection system!
7 Make as much compost as you can. There’s no such thing as too much compost.
8 Keep notes. I wanted to have an app where I could put pictures of the trees, their gps locations, and the date when the tree was planted. But I haven’t found that app yet! In the meantime I’m using a notebook for all my tree notes. Each species has a one page spread and there’s an index with all the names and the page numbers. Everything that goes on with a particular species is listed in its page.
9 Join a group like Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts on Facebook to get planting tips and lots of encouragement!
Just do it! You don’t need to have a green thumb. The sooner you start planting seeds, the better! You will learn a lot and have fun. Start small and remember that everything is a learning experience. No matter what happens, you will learn something!
This is our big year for planting tree seeds. In a few short months, we have gone from having a few seedlings in bags to more than one thousand pots with seeds in various stages of growth!
February 2019 – It all started with the free seeds we received from the Horti Fair in Quezon Memorial Circle. The seeds came from members of the Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts (PNTE) and they had tips on how to treat each seed type of seed before planting it. It was fun to follow the different pre-germination treatment instructions for each type of seed and very rewarding to see the seeds grow!
June – We received more free seeds from Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts at another plant show. This time we kept the seeds at home in Alabang instead of bringing them to Batangas.
None of the Buri sprouted. The Taluto and Ipil were amazing! They grew quickly and were transplanted to bigger pots after 7 weeks. After a couple more weeks, they were big enough to move to the farm nursery. The Malapapaya is slow growing. They are in individual pots and are just getting their true leaves.
In June, we also bought 100 Pili seeds that we planted and then discarded by August. They weren’t showing any signs of life and we needed the space for other seeds!
July – We bought 200 Balai Lamok seeds from a member of the Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts group. We were excited to try the germination technique of Ephraim Cercado from PNTE. He in very successful in growing Balai Lamok.
Success! Back in 2017 we bought 198 Balai Lamok seeds and were able to grow only 8 seedlings. Now with the new germination technique we have 135 seedlings!
I think we can improve our Balai Lamok production even more if we decide to try again next season. We waited too long before planting the seeds and some of them got moldy. I think this may have made the seeds weaker. The potting mix was also too fluffy. It should have been packed down more evenly. The seedlings kept toppling over. We also may have been over watering in the early days.
Our Philippine Teak produced seeds for the first time. We collected them and tried different planting techniques. We were told that Philippine Teak is difficult to grow from seeds. We may possibly have one seed that grew. Or it might be a weed!
August – Our biggest month for seed planting so far! We bought 4 kilos of seeds and gathered fruit and pods from 3 kinds of trees in our subdivision.
We gathered Banaba from flowering trees in our subdivision. We experimented on which pods had viable seeds. The pods that were brown and dry and still on the tree but slightly open did the best. The seedlings from pods that were not planted immediately were undersized.
We gathered Mabolo fruit from two fruiting trees in our subdivision. Some of fruit practically fell on our head while we were standing under the tree. We were able to eat those and enjoy the creamy apple flavor. The other fruits on the ground were spoiled, but the seeds were good for planting. All 91 seeds sprouted!
We bought 1 kilo of White Lauan seeds and 1 kilo of Red Lauan seeds from Bukidnon. When the seeds arrived, most of the Red Lauan already germinated! Lauan are from the Dipterocarps family. Their seeds have wings and germinate readily but are only viable for one or two weeks. And many Dipterocarps only have seeds every 5 or more years.
We bought 1 kilo of Anang seeds and 1 kilo of Tail-leafed Panau seeds. Anang is the same family as Mabolo. It also has black wood. Tail-leafed Panau is a Dipterocarp. Most of the Tail-leafed Panau were germinated when they arrived, with very long roots. The Anang hasn’t sprouted yet.
Tonji noticed a good looking tree with pods in the village. It turned out to be Bani, a beach forest tree that grows quickly and can produce seeds in 3 years. We planted 35 seeds and are waiting for them to sprout.
All these seedlings from seeds that we bought and gathered are like our little babies. They have taken over the front steps of our house, the side garden, and one section of our lanai. We check on them every day, sprinkle them with rainwater, and pick out the hairy caterpillars that like to eat their leaves. When they get bigger, they will move from our house to the farm nursery and then eventually get planted on the ground.
The next stage of our seed collecting and planting will be collecting seeds from the Philippine native trees in our refuge that we have a lot of and that produce a lot of seeds. Trees like Banato, Alibangbang, and Akleng Parang. Then we can distribute them among the tree-loving members of the Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts group so that even more people can learn to enjoy planting the seeds of Philippine native trees!
This year we are trying to be more organized and systematic with our tree planting and seedling production. We enjoy buying trees and seeds a lot and hope to do better at taking care of and keeping track of all the things we’ve bought and planted.
There’s an excellent guide to reforestation called “How to Plant a Forest: The Principles and Practice of Restoring Tropical Forests” by Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University. We hope to incorporate many of the practices mentioned in that guide at our project. The guidebook used to be available on their website as a free download. Their website doesn’t seem to be working anymore, so I’ve put a downloadable copy here!
According to the guidebook, these are essential features of a tree nursery:
shaded area with benches for seed germination, protected from seed predators by wire mesh
shaded area for potted seedlings, with removable shade for hardening
work area for seed preparation
reliable water supply
lockable storage for materials and tools
fence to keep out stray animals
shelter and toilet for staff and visitors
We converted an old unused piggery that the previous land owners built into a new nursery.
The tables are a great improvement! The seedlings are now easy to see and organize. In our old nursery, the seedling bags were on bare ground. The roots of some seedlings would go through the bag and into the ground! It is hard to extricate the seedlings from the ground once this happens.
There are a lot of nursery practices described in the book that we want to incorporate into our nursery. Things like keeping better records, how to harden off the seedlings before planting them, and using root trainers.
According to the guide, these are the basic steps in tree planting:
Stake out the area where you will plant the seedlings. Mark the spots with a 50 cm stake. Space the seedlings randomly or 1.8 meters apart.
Distribute the seedlings among the people planting. Use baskets to carry the seedlings.
Dig the planting hole using a hoe. The hole should be 2x the volume of the container. Clear the weeds in a 50 to 100 cm diameter circle around the planting hole.
Remove the seedling from the bag making sure to keep the root ball intact. Slash the bag if necessary.
Plant the seedling. Make sure the root collar is level witht he soil surface. Fill in with loose soil. Press down with the palm of the hand to make it firm.
Cover with mulch.
Water the seedling.
Replace the stake.
Clean up the site and remove the plastic bags.
The bamboo stakes and flags make it much easier to see where the seedlings are planted. This will help a lot in keeping track of the newly planted seedlings. Another option to making flags is to paint stripes on the stakes.
These simple improvements have made something that was already fun even better!