For the past couple of days a few questions, I have been getting repeatedly, are from people who are greatly interested in afforestation but don’t how to put up forests. The major problem is that they don’t have either money or adequate land. Occasionally when they have a plot, there are already many shady trees in it. These issues cropped up in response to my earlier video, where I had called upon all of you to create Miyawaki forests in your plots before World Earth Day (April 22). A few individuals even wondered whether such forests would attract creepies and crawlies. This video is to address these issues.

World Earth Day is only a couple of days away, and there is no time to create a Miyawaki forest within that deadline. But let’s do it before World Environment Day that falls on June 5.  We have one-and-a-half months at our disposal. At least 10,000 of you may succeed in planting a forest by then. If possible, we at crowdforesting will bring up some scheme to incentivize those who put up the best forests. Prizes will be given after we examine your forests next year, and evaluate their worth. I shall share the details later.  In the meantime, please share this video with as many people as possible before June 5 so that they too can join in the effort.

In this video, I shall demonstrate how it is possible to create a micro forest in a tiny patch. This bit of land, close to my house, covers two cents and accommodated a kennel. It was not used optimally, and has all the problems that you face. There is a host of trees all around – jack, mango, cashew, a huge banyan, Indian kino, which has sprouted many new branches after its top was cut diagonally, and star apple. This patch of land is less than half a cent, and already has two water tanks and a kennel. That leaves a quarter cent there and a similar bit here. In short, all I have is a 150 sq. ft piece of land. But it is still possible to plant a lot of saplings.

I have selected ten or twelve very good varieties, bought from Homegrown, each at the cost of Rs 350 or Rs 400. Among them, Syzgium densiflorum has begun to fruit already. The rest of the saplings were nurtured here itself in grow bags. It is difficult to accommodate more than a dozen trees in this tiny patch of land. I have a watery rose apple tree. And a few flowering plants too in order to attract honey bees and butterflies to ensure pollination. A few vegetable plants as well, most of which have a lifespan of merely three months. During this period all the plants will get sunlight, grow to a height of four feet, and cause crowding. In my earlier experiments with vegetable forests, I had got excellent results.

This one is close to my house. So I will be able to monitor it personally too. I have planted more than 100 saplings here, at the rate of one sapling within one sq. ft. They are bread fruit, curry leaf, poison gooseberry, Indian blackberry, tomato, crown flower, a big watery rose apple, sweet flag, mango sapling, mango tree behind it, rambutan, firecracker flower, Indian coffee plum, guava, telegraph plant (which is good for attracting butterflies), brinjal, small guava, cluster beans, another guava, fringed rue, another guava, a plant that belongs to the coffee senna family, watery rose apple, crape jasmine, jungle geranium, guava – I think it has been eaten by pests – Malabar tamarind, jungle geranium, rambutan, watery rose apple, mango sapling, Pergularia,  lemon, Spicate eugenia, green chilly, blue plumbago, a flowering plant that belongs to the Jatropha family, a variety of spinach – which I am told will stay for a year – white jungle geranium, small guava, another flowering plant, gooseberry, cashew, star apple, hibiscus, crown flower, gardenia, a basil plant used in making salad, drumstick, guava, red frangipani, another flowering plant, tomato, wild geranium, another big spinach, simsapa, Indian kino – which was there already – and green leaf holy basil.

Today morning, I had a whatsapp message from a person who said he has asked his wife to choose good plants for a forest in their half-cent plot. He has requested for a list of flowering plants that can be included in it. I have drawn up a list. I have most of those plants in my own Miyawaki-model flower forest that you see behind me, within one and three-quarters of a cent in front of my house. There must be more than 150 plants here, and most of them are in bloom. I have a reason for showing you these visuals.

One of my previous videos featuring a fruit forest had provoked very sharp remarks like:  “Why don’t you plant all the saplings in one single pit?” “None of them are going to bear fruits” and so on. I won’t blame the sceptics because I would have passed worse comments four years back, and categorically dismissed it even. Back then I had no clear idea about its effectiveness. Besides most of these flowering plants in my forest, I have trees too – mango, jack, champak, Ashoka, Florida fiddlewood, rudraksha, three-leaf caper, and so on. The reason for including flowering plants in a fruit forest is that they will attract butterflies and honey bees, and thereby cause pollination.

Let me read out the list. The native flowering plants that attract butterflies the most are jungle geranium and hibiscus. You can also have crown flower, white orchid tree, gardenia, peacock flower – that comes in a variety of colours, here itself, I have pink and red – pagoda – that is commonly found in garden plots, the flowers are red in colour and the leaves are round like those of hill glory bower, now it is not flowering season for this species -  firecracker flower that comes in orange, pink and blue colours – globe amaranth, purslane – there are no flowers now – chrysanthemum, Malabar melastome – which attracts a lot of bees – bandicoot berry – which also brings in a lot of flies and bees – changing rose which changes from white to pink and further to red as the day advances, a lot of foreign varieties like Jatropha, borage, garden balsam that stands in layers, telegraph plant, rattle weed – whose seeds I’ve only just sown, its seeds rattle when you pluck them, hence the name – curry leaf, and lemon, all of which attract a lot of butterflies. Then I have a lot of climbers and creepers – that produce blue, yellow and white flowers – golden trumpet, another one which puts out flowers in huge clusters – I can’t recall its name – and so on.  All these  have been planted close to one another.

One peculiarity of this plot is that there is no shade here. But there isn’t much of direct sunlight where I’ve put up a vegetable forest. So, my plan is to prune the jack and mango trees just before the rains come. That will help the plants grow better. I have not used any kind of chemical fertilizer or pesticide. If certain plants die naturally, certain others will sprout in their place. All this is part of a natural pest management system.

Let me give you two interesting instances of this phenomenon. We had a spell of rain here in the morning, and soon this place was full of flies. After some time I noticed that a spider was making a meal of one fly. If we spot a spider inside the house, we run in fear. When I see one inside mine, I spray soap water on it, and it dies. But a spider outside has its uses. Many flies fall into the water. The fish eat them up. Most people worry that plants will attract mosquitoes. Yes, they will. But they will lay eggs in water and when they hatch and become larvae, the fish will gobble them up. We can manage all these problems by leaving them to Nature. I shall keep you posted about the progress of my experiment here.

What you can do is this – create a Miyawaki forest before June 5. The total cost will come to only less than Rs 20,000.  That is because we purchased saplings, each worth Rs 350 or Rs 400. If you go for cheaper varieties, the cost may come down to Rs 10,000. Let me now come to where we began – the problem of lack of space. What you saw here was a plot that could contain only three hen coops. If you look hard, you’ll be able to identify a bit of land that can hold at least two coops. That will come to a quarter cent, sufficient enough to plant 100 vegetable-and fruit saplings. Vegetable plants will wither after fruiting. The rest will remain.

As for the other problem – lack of money – if you plant a forest in a tiny area, you don’t need to set apart a huge sum. It was because I chose a high-end variety that twelve saplings cost me Rs 3,500. If you put one ton of cow dung, coir pith and rice husk in your quarter-cent plot, you will get adequate returns. If you source goat pellets locally, the total cost of manure will come to Rs 8,000. As for the mulch, you can collect dry leaves and twigs from your own plot or outside. You can grow many saplings in pots or grow bags too for three months and then plant them in your site. In a quarter-cent plot, you can manage them for Rs 15,000.  You can’t have it cheaper than this because, without manure, the plants cannot grow or give you fruits. Rs 15,000 is not a big sum, these days. If you spread it over several months, you’ll need to spend only Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000 per month.

The third problem – inadequate sunlight – can be solved by pruning the overhanging branches of the nearby trees. What you just saw is an experiment. Our hope is that it will be successful. We shall update you on how it works out, be it a success or a failure.

On June 5, we celebrate World Environment Day. Please try to put up a micro Miyawaki forest before that. We have a plan to give away prizes for the best specimens. The details are yet to be charted. Meanwhile please share this video with as many people as you can. If one lakh individuals see it, at least a thousand will put up a micro Miyawaki forest in one cent of land. This will come to ten acres of forest. Let us have those many more trees in Kerala as the World Environment Day dawns. I sign off in the hope that this plan will take wing.