Trees at pointReturn

If one were to fence off a wasteland and walk away, in a decade or so, nature left undisturbed, would have restored a balanced environment in the land. But when man actively attempts to restore land, as at pointReturn, the design deviates from what nature’s might have been because man works within a more modest time scale. It must however be one’s conscious effort to stay close to the arrangement that most benefits a stand of trees. In essence, the success of any plant depends on three things: nutrients available to its roots, water to carry the nutrients up and sunlight to convert them to various plant materials.

At pointReturn, I began by first ensuring there was enough water to take care of the plants. The pond and the windmill do that. It is worth noting here that water used at pointReturn is well below the total water harvested from rains. To ensure even distribution of sunlight, I set out East-West lines using a compass. Several of these run parallel, 15′ apart. On each EW line, pits were dug, again 15′ apart. The idea behind this approach is to cancel out the shadow effect that one tree has another. Also the space between EW rows will be lit by the sun for quite some years, making them usable as growing areas.

Nutrients,the third need of a plant, remains. This was the only input -apart from money and labour- that was brought in from elsewhere. I added a good volume of rotted manure, vermicompost and oil cake in each pit . That should feed the plants for about a year after which fresh inputs need to be made.

Factors that governed species selection were as follows: variety, nativeness, hardiness and utility. The 36 species planted at pointReturn offer enough variety. None of them is exotic; they are well adopted to native geography. Hardiness is a useful quality when deployed in a totally abandoned and neglected soil. Finally, the selected species will have utilitarian value, in a sustained way, for the community that will eventually inhabit pointReturn. The list at this link, includes species names [including the scientific], links to images and some notes on their utility.

It is easier to visualise the pointReturn site with the aid of this drawing. [I apologise for the many details cluttering the sketch.] All the action has so far been in grids G1 and G2. There are four grove areas, shaded in pistachio colour. [1] is a small stand of Casuarina. [2] near the top of G1, is a grove of 60 bamboos. Grove [3] was planted in 2008 and Grove [4] planted in Jan. ’09. Total number of trees now being reared is 533.

7 thoughts on “Trees at pointReturn

  1. Hi DV,

    I’m excited by your new project. It appears you’ve discovered…or at least are in the process of discovering…the spiritual strength of trees. They are, without a doubt, one of the strongest objects on this planet to ground a person when life is getting out of hand. They are alive with power. Spiritual…mystical…and magickal…they possess the wisdom of The Old Ones, and whisper this knowledge through their leaves to anyone who is in tune with the Earth. As always…I admire and applaud your effort to make this world a little better place for those who walk the path behind you. Well done, my friend. May the Gods be with you.


  2. This was a heartening read. Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration.

    We are in the process of planting 8000 trees in our 10 acres. I found the book ‘Reaching for the Sun’ by John King extremely useful.


  3. Hi DV,

    I have been reading your blog for a while and your description of pointreturn brings it alive in front of our eyes. Publishing is diff business. Farming is equally tough for an urban convert. doing both at the same time and that too from a wasteland is commendable.

    Well done. I shall visit pointreturn when i visit chennai next vacation.

    Ram, London.

  4. dear sujatha…
    like you say, drumstick and curry leaf plants are ‘common’ household plants. i thought it trivial to list them. yes, they too are growing at pR

  5. dear sir,
    though i rarely write to you,i eagerly wait for your articles and reading them always gives me a lot of peace and one of the readers said,when i didnt find a new article for quite sometime,i.too.was starting to worry about your i was both relieved and happy to see the new article.
    in the place,i stayed earlier,i was blessed to have a garden with many trees.the sun shining through the fresh green leaves,the birds chirping around them,the gentle breeze with the leaves rustling are sights and sounds i can never forget.i have spent so many blissful moments just gazing at all this.apart from this ,the trees also benefited me monetarily because they helped me cut down my electricity bedroom was surrounded by trees and they kept the room so cool that very often ,in the middle of the night,i had to switch off even the fan – this,when all my neighbours and friends had to use ACs to keep them cool.
    just out of curiosity,i would like to know why you didnt plant curry leaves trees and drumstick trees – 2 common trees in south india.
    i hope i can visit point return when i visit chennai in july/aug.
    with warm regards,

  6. Its been an extremely happy read. I myself come from a near-desert region, and the sight of a big green tree is one of the happiest sights in life.
    I will make my way to pointreturn some day.

  7. Dear shridharan ji,
    it was an end of long waiting, which was giving rise to some fear and suspicion about how things were going at point return and i had also started to worry about your health.
    i have gone through the letter in one breath, thank you. i missed the pictures of our trees grove, may be next time you will post some recent pictures of new growth and development.
    list of trees and their description with net images was great.too much to learn.
    if ever i come to tamilnadu to come to pointreturn will be like pilgrimage. why do you not allow any work on Sunday, knowing that it may lot easier for volunteers to contribute on sunday .
    bye for now, i have to go through the list of trees and learn to recognize them.
    take care of your health.
    rakesh ravi

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