Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Of spades, seeds and saplings.

"Take care of the land and the land will take care of you."
~ H. Bennett.

What if I told you that you can participate in an environmental initiative to plant rainforest trees, right here in the city? What if I told you that you could volunteer any weekend you please, and still have time for your other activities and commitments after helping out for a few hours on a Saturday morning? What if I told you that can carry out a corporate social responsibility project for your office or department at the said location and for the said project, without much hassle or expense? Would you be interested? Would you think it is a dull idea, or something worth exploring?
There is an ongoing initiative by our MNS Head of Conservation Mr. Balu Perumal to plant Merbau saplings from seed at a nursery set up at the MNS Urban Community Forest. Merbau trees are endangered due to logging and deforestation. The Merbau saplings grown at the MNS nursery will be replanted in forest reserves, parks and other places upon request from schools, park management bodies, societies, and volunteers.

So far I have requested and received over 70 saplings for replanting at the Kota Damansara Community Forest for Green Living's events, so I felt it was only fair to organise a "Give-Back Day" to get volunteers to assist in planting the seeds and saplings and sprucing up the nursery. This took place on 28th May 2016, which also happened to be the launch of the MNS Urban Community Forest Project. Around 18 volunteers turned up to help, and a few who showed up for the Urban Community Forest launch also stopped by to render a little assistance. It was most encouraging.
Our MNS Head of Conservation Balu Perumal explaining the conservation status of Merbau trees to us.
Merbau seeds look like pebbles, don't they? They are hard and need to be soaked before they can be planted.
(Photo credits: Sunrise Seekers Sayli)
Hello, Little One! Aren't you a beauty!
Merbau saplings, around 2 months old.
The Merbau saplings in the nursery are arranged according to the month they were planted. Some need more sunlight than others.
The students were absolutely fascinated by the Merbau seeds. "They look and feel like pebbles!!" the excited children exclaimed.
All hands on deck!
Rearranging the 2-3 month old saplings so they receive more direct sunlight.
This young man did everything with so much joy that it made all of us laugh.
Fitting the plants together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The youngsters helped us loosen up the soil and fill each polybag halfway through with loosened soil.

Carefully digging out each sapling for transplanting into the polybags in order that we can transfer them to planting sites more easily. After a certain stage (around 3-4 months), the saplings would no longer be easily transplanted and moved. Also, the bottom substrate of the nursery is concrete, so the growth of the roots would be stunted after a certain stage.
Digging up the 3-month old saplings for transplantation into polybags, to free up space in the nursery for new seeds.
Jungle plants being cultivated in our little shed behind the Urban Nature Centre.
A group photo of some of the volunteers who had worked hard all morning in the nursery. So grateful and touched by the civic-mindedness of the schoolteacher, Cikgu Aminah, who drove all the way with her students to come and volunteer because she wanted them to learn about the environment.

I will be sure to come back on other Saturdays morning for which I have no other appointments or plans. I stand to learn a lot from Sonny and Balu, our Science and Conservation guys, and it feels great to dig in dirt.

To make an appointment to visit or volunteer, or to request saplings for transplanting, please contact the MNS office at 03-22879422 and ask for Mr. Balu Perumal or Mr. Sonny Wong. Balu tends to the nursery and plants every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

To find out more about this intiative, please visit and click 'Like' on MNS Urban Community Forest's Facebook page at:
To learn more about Green Living's objectives, ideas, events and activities, join our Facebook group here, and visit our blog here.

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