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Tree Planting

PlantingEach year, with the monsoon rains, we plant around 15,000 young trees on the slopes of Arunachala, from a selection of more than 70 indigenous species. The work progresses in two phases. First, as stoon as there is enough rain to soften the the ground, we begin pitting. The men work in pairs; using a crowbar, one of them loosens the soil and levers out the many stones, while his partner to scoops these out with the mattock. The pit must be at least 45 cm deep, to give the roots enough loose soil to grow into. It's hard work in the rocky terrain and there may be up to an hours climb to the planting area. Each pair of men is able to dig around 50 pits in a day.

plantingPlanting time is a real frenzy of activity. Up to a hundred people are involved in the rush to get the trees into the ground as early as possible. There is no chance to water the trees through the summer months, so early planting gives them the best chance to establish well, and then to survive the long summer. After planting, mulching the ground around the young sapling increases it's chances further, as does creating a small catchment bund to collect precious summer rains. Attention to soil quality, to aspect, altitude and exposure is also important when selecting species for any given location.

plantingIn addition to our work on the hill, over the years we have planted trees in various different situations in and around Thiruvannamalai. These include roadside planting, the campuses of local schools and colleges, private farmland, and on village, municipal and temple lands.

On the slopes of the hill, the survival rate of the trees varies greatly due to a number of factors. Probably the most crucial of these is the timing of summer thunderstorms, and the arrival of the south-west monsoon. If there is no rain in July/August, the incessant dry winds that are a feature of that season can be more damaging to the plants than the heat of April and May. However, after 2 years the survival averages around 50%, which we feel is extremely positive.