It was great to watch people carrying different types of plants to put them in their gardens. Last week almost everyone in our village was busy in this process; some children too were helping their elders by carrying spades for digging pits for new conifers and evergreens. It is the first task of the New Year for agricultural people to rejuvenate themselves and start their new agricultural year. This is soon followed by the task of spraying and fertilising plants. The women carry lunch to the nursery-gardens if the male members of their family remain busy all day in removing the plantlets. The saplings of different varieties of plants – Poplars, Walnut trees, Apple trees, Pears, Cherry, and many other species – are first grown in nurseries and then transferred to the specific gardens/fields. Those who don’t grow these trees themselves can readily find them in the market. Also many growers cultivate big nurseries as a source of income. Many cultivators, in search of healthy plants, keep looking for plant-nurseries from one village to another. Other than traditional plants, the hybrid breeds, available in Agricultural Departments, are now also grown. The hybrid breeds of Walnut trees remain dwarf-size compared to the much bigger traditional walnut trees and give a generous amount of nuts too. Apple varieties of Golden Delicious, Gala-Mast, Jonica, and some other varieties remain short and give good fruits, but the preference is for traditional type of trees because of their quality fruits and longer age of plants. The Kashmiri Poplars are grown in open fields and some grow them in their gardens too; the Russian poplars are not planted anymore as they have been banned previous year because of the infection/allergy it causes by its pollen.
The season of planting new trees begins at the start of Spring, usually in March and early April, but this year it ushered in too soon. Climate change is proving a serious challenge here. We are witnessing hot weather early this year, even from the month of February, which has resulted in an early Spring. People, particularly those in rural areas whose livelihood depends on agriculture, began planting new trees earlier. Previously people would wait for 21st March, Nouroz, for every new vegetation. Nouroz is the first day of Spring and is a new year celebration for the Shia community. To counter climate change and due to deforestation which has resulted in the reduction in the forest cover, government and other NGOs every year launch many planting drives to raise awareness of the need to plant more trees. Some of the plants planted last year have dried while others endured and are growing; the less snowfall and untimely rains have made it difficult for Apple and other trees to survive in our hilly gardens. We will have to wait to see what will become of the trees that were planted this year.
Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com