One excited family headed towards Gansbaai in the Overberg to participate in a bumper tree planting weekend in the ancient indigenous Platbos Forest. We were to join the Platbos Reforest Fest to help Greenpop restore the forest towards its former glory.
It was time to get my hands into the soil and help heal Africa’s southernmost magical Platbos Forest. Our children – young eco warriors – were so filled with enthusiasm, keen to learn the art of restoring and caring for our mother earth. As gatekeepers of the Earth, they need to understand the significance of nurturing nature during this time of catastrophic natural disasters and instant gratification. What a joy for them to discover the joy of planting young saplings, and trusting nature to do its best, with the assistance of the rain.
Rising early on the Saturday morning, after a healthy breakfast, we were divided into planting groups to begin our special task for the day. Platbos forest combines Coastal Thicket and Afromontain Forest. It is a magnificent area of rare and endangered vegetation with Milkwoods, Wild Olives, White Stinkwoods, Hard Pears, Pock Ironwoods and Bladder nuts. The alien vegetation, predominantly Australian Rooikrans, had been removed by the local communities prior to our arrival, leaving behind the larger trees, or ‘nursery shrubs’ to protect the new young trees from the harshness of the elements.
Alien chips provide the nitrogen
Our team leader, Zwai, demonstrated the correct way to plant. We dug a large rectangular hole, about 100cm deep, filling it with mulch, made from chippings of alien trees that had been allowed to decompose for just over six months prior to this greening festival. As Rooikrans is a legume and thrives in the area’s sandy, low nutrient and low moisture retention soils, it supplies the central nitrogen in its chipped form to assist new plantings.
The children jumped on this mulch, compacting it. This pit provides the nutrient for the growing saplings, which are planted in a dense half circle close to the mulched pit. When the rain comes it falls into these little “dams” creating water for the sapling clusters, planted like scales, off centre to each other, to maximise the catchment flow of rainwater.
10,002 trees over two weekends
This system was researched extensively by forest ecologist Professor Coert Geldenhuys. The aim for the day was to plant 3000 trees. Once the pit was finished we created a wall around the back of the plants to catch the rain. Then smiling diggers tackled another pit, getting to know one another along the way. The rehabilitation moved from the healthy forest edge towards the forest road, to ensure no pedestrian traffic happens in the freshly planted area.
The day ended with many tired, but very happy green friends returning to camp for a quick clean up. Having planted 3001 trees was a wonderful victory for our Green mother earth. We celebrated with a talent concert and colourful forest storytelling presented by the enchanting Zoe and the younger children. A prize recognised two children from each planting group, for their enthusiasm and dedication to helping restore Platbos Forest.
Greening is fun and popular
This year the Greenpop Reforest Festival, over two weekends, planted 10 002 trees. To date they have planted over 40 000 trees in 286 locations with 3478 volunteers, in 3 and a half years.
Greenpop is a social business that believes greening and sustainable living can be fun, popular and accessible to all. They believe in inspiring a greener, more conscious, inclusive movement and they do this through tree planting projects, green events, education, social media, voluntourism and activating people to start being active.
“If you go to the dessert, you will hear this mysterious voice: Be wise protect your forests!” Mehmet Murat ildan
Story by Robyn Morris
Photos by Robyn Morris and Sarah Isaacs