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Time to grow your own tree - Deccan Herald
Time to grow your own tree
Surabhi Johri, Bengaluru,
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Spacing: Small trees can work in a clearance of three to five feet around each other.
While urbanites may be starved for space, there are tricks to plant trees in the minimum available space. So then, why are we not doing this, asks Surabhi Johri

Bengaluru is lamenting over the constant loss of green cover, the greenscape that makes it the cool city. Literally, one can feel the difference in temperatures near buildings and those around lung spaces. Nothing comes close to rich tree-lined roads that have been sheltering vehicles, public spaces and fauna.

It’s always a respite to drive on these roads or walk on those footpaths. Very calmly it takes away a whole lot of stress of commuting without saying a word or asking anything of you. Therefore, loss of these long standing silent guardians is a very serious debate and is completely relevant.

Unfortunately, trees do not have a marketing machinery that can feed minds constantly about how much they are needed for our holistic well-being, especially in a city with shooting stress levels. I can’t help but think what we can do in our individual capacities to keep the greenery close to us.

I do see a huge untapped possibility and one that can redefine the urban landscape. Individuals can be homeowners, individuals can be land and building developers, individuals can be those who define and design the structures. The scope and the urgency to adopt the change have to be acknowledged and tapped. If you feel the urge to do your bit, here, I equip you with enabling information.

For starters

As homeowners, you can choose to grow significant green screen in the form of trees, shrubs, vines etc. Places can be, of course, on the direct ground, but lack of that does not close your options. If you decide to choose action in your capacity, then, explore open spaces in and around your house. If the neighbourhood allows space for plantation, examine the clearance from building and structures etc. Larger the clearance, bigger the tree can be.

Trees have a natural capacity for size and based on that, the category should be determined. Generally, sizes fall under small, medium, large and very large. Small trees can work in a clearance of three to five feet around each other. Large and very large trees must be planned and spaces should be provided for ahead of construction. If clearance is less, consider planting shrubs and vines.


For those who do not have direct ground, explore the space and light situation on your terrace and balcony. There are shrubs and small trees that can grow well in large pots. If sunlight is ample, the range of choices is even greater. But low light spaces also have saviours. Roof terraces have tremendous scope for green island in the City where concrete and glass radiate the heat. With apartments and multi-storeyed offices taking up the skyline, can you believe the difference one small tree per balcony can make!

It has the capacity to transform the cityscape. Also, larger the balcony, bigger the possibility. Buildings growing green on their roofs will be a great solution to quite a few problems. Ideally, it’s best to provide structural requirements during the design and construction phase. But there are options even post construction.

Generally, all standard constructions can take the weight of some potted trees; especially if light weight media is used, there should be no worry about the weight bearing ability. Working with growing plants on soil-filled beds on terraces etc is definitely something to be considered right at the design stage due to structural requirements.

Serious matters

As a matter of policy, greenscaping should be made mandatory. For commercial buildings, it should be mandatory to grow a certain volume of large-sized green correlating to the energy consumed and radiated by them due to facade choices.

Depending on the purpose of the premise, certain number of in-ground trees, rooftop planting, balcony planting etc must fall under building guidelines. It must be understood that it’s not quite possible to substitute a full-grown tree that has been axed down.

While growing saplings is a fine option, it has a lifetime to survive before it becomes a tree, and there is a lot of uncertainty about its future (whether it will fall prey to infrastructure in future). And certainly, what sense does it make to separate human environment and greenery.

It’s us humans, who need trees and greenery, plant life actually is very well-off without us tampering with it. We need to protect and plant not for the sake of the tree itself, but for ourselves and our generations to come. Just imagine how much we invest in securing our future After all, how much does planting and adopting a tree in relevant spaces is going to cost?

Give growing your own tree a chance. To grow a large size of a plant, always start with the largest size pot your space allows. Instead of heavy concrete, prefer pots in low weight material. A light-weight cocopeat vermicompost growing mix works wonderfully for the trees growing in Bengaluru climate.

Sludge is also a good source of nutrients and is very economical. Adding red soil in equal quantity does no harm. In high wind situations, it adds to stability. This light-weight design helps in easy manoeuvring and management of the plants. Cocopeat retains moistness and provides aeration. All you need to ensure is a regular feeding either of organic nature or DAP - diammonium phosphate.

There are also a few small trees that can grow in pots. Most of the palms, curry leaf tree, ficus varieties, felicium, black burgundy leaf, lhea coccinea, araucaria, certain bamboos, plumeria, angel trumpet, vines like bougainvillea, sweet potato vine, shankhpushpi; shrubs like hibiscus, nandibatlu and many more do very well in large pots.

Vines do a great job of draping over the structures and all the aforementioned plants give a good feel of tree on a reduced scale that works for balcony or terrace top planting. For larger plantations, drip irrigation can be planned.

Why can’t we adopt the practice of having at least one tree form in our surrounding? The collective effort in any community is bound to make the impact. It’s just a matter of one success before you will be hooked to create your own green oasis. And that will open a whole world of possibilities.

(The author is with True Nature Advisors)