Month: December 2017

Tree Establishment

by John Marriott

 

John Marriott (left) and and OAN Peer Group Mentor,  Matt Armstrong discuss Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) progress on John’s farm near Ferguson

Successful tree establishment is no different to the establishment of any crop, and the essential ingredients are:
• Planning well in advance – up to 12 months
• Early ordering of seed or seedlings to ensure supply of  appropriate species
• Good and effective long term weed control.
• Secure fencing and effective tree protection.
• A ‘flooded root system’ at time of planting for tube stock.
• A ‘moist tilth’ and warm conditions for direct seeding.
• Heat treatment of acacias in the seed mix.

Planning in Advance:
For 2018, planning should begin NOW. Measure up the site,  calculate the number of seedlings for the particular site, and then discuss the appropriate species with your local nurseryman. This means you will be guaranteed (almost!), well grown seedlings that are not root bound, or, if you intend to direct seed, locally collected seed that can be picked as it ripens, to ensure adequate supplies.

Plantation width or woodlot size will be another consideration.  Fencing is a major contributor to cost, so there is little point in putting a single row of trees between two fences, quite apart from the opportunity loss for environmental and biodiversity considerations.

Species selection and planting configuration will depend upon:
a) The effect that you want to achieve
b) The topography of the site –top of a slope & dry or bottom of a slope & wet.
c) Aesthetic effect of the area
d) End use – stock shade & shelter, biodiversity, long term timber production, harvesting firewood

Effective Weed Control:
After the autumn break in 2018, spray 1.0 to 1.5 metre strips with an effective knock down herbicide at the recommended rate. A ‘blanket spray’ of the total plantation area (assuming it is a plantation!) is  fine, but I consider it unnecessary. This should be followed up in late August/early September with a second spray, but this time add an effective residual herbicide to the knock down herbicide, once again, using the recommended rates.

Secure Fencing and Plant Protection:
Secure fencing is an imperative, and beware putting a new fence alongside an existing old fence to create a plantation. Stock will push hard on an old fence to gain access to the fresh growth within the plantation, and the damage can be extensive. Gates and associated end assemblies into plantations are an unnecessary expense, and a section of fence that ‘lies down’ is far more secure if periodic access is anticipated. Similarly, rabbits, hares, wallabies, deer etc., can cause extensive damage to fresh seedlings unless they are adequately protected.

Planting – Tube stock:
Various tools are available for tube stock planting, and by and large they are excellent. It should be remembered though, that these tools were primarily developed to minimize soil disturbance around the area where the tree is planted, thereby optimizing the effect of the residual herbicide.
Early to mid-Spring is by far the best time to plant tube stock. (I’ve never understood why National Tree Day is held in mid-Winter!!), but you do need to be wary of dry northerly windy days. It is  therefore imperative that the seedlings are dropped into a trough or dam for 30 minutes or so prior to planting, to thoroughly flood the seedlings root system and exclude all air pockets. You then need to ensure that the seedling is transferred to the planting site, as wet as possible, and properly firmed into place. If weed control and site preparation have been effective, rarely are dry conditions a problem. Too wet is a far greater problem than too dry! Again, if weed control and site preparation have been effective, it will not be necessary to water trees post planting. In fact, post planting watering only encourages the root system to stay near the surface, rather than encouraging the roots to search for stored sub soil moisture as a result of your effective weed control spraying. Post planting  watering is expensive and time consuming!

Plantation Width & Design:
As mentioned earlier, there is little point in establishing a very narrow plantation, but it is amazing how many people worry about ‘losing valuable grazing land’. Consider the following: Assume a 25 ha. paddock that measures 500m X 500m and carries 300 dse (i.e. 12 dse./ha)

If you establish a 20 metre wide plantation on 2 sides of  he paddock (say west and south sides), you have now reduced the grazing area to 23.04 ha (7.8% of the paddock is now in trees). If you were to put the same 300 dse’s back in the paddock, you have now raised the stocking rate to 13 dse. I don’t believe anyone has their stocking rate that finely tuned, and in any case the benefits of shade & shelter, lamb survival and biodiversity etc. far outweigh the bare paddock. The other alternative is to keep 24 dse equivalent at home!! And of
course, the bigger the paddock, the less effect on stockingrate.

© Otway Agroforestry Network 2017

Eds Notes:

  1. This is an abridged version of John’s article published in the winter 2017 edition of the Otway Agroforestry Network’s newsletter. 
  2. The opaque green tubes shown in the above photograph are designed to protect tree seedlings from wallaby attack.
  3. The article in general applies to arable land. Planting riverbanks, escarpments and stony rises requires some tweeking of the methods described in the article. 
  4. Ferguson is slap-bang in the middle of the Otway ranges, not far from Weeaprorinah.
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Christmas meeting well supported

Thirty members attended the annual Christmas dinner meeting on a sublime Wednesday evening, with the setting sun lighting the adjacent Barrabool Hills in an impressive array of colours and shadows.

There was an extensive lineup of offerings for the bar-b-que and 3 pavlovas to finish.

Hosts, Mark and Heiki Dunn, very generously offered their newly restored bluestone home for the event and led conducted tours through it for those interested.

President, Kaye Rodden, briefly addressed the gathering. She commended all those members who contributed to a very successful 2017 for the Group. Highlights included the cooperative development, publication and launch of the “Flora of the Hills” booklet, with the students and staff of the Gordon TAFE.

“The launch of the new web site and Facebook page will vastly improve our communications with the entire Barrabool Hills community,” she said.

“The most popular events of the year were the Community Tree Planting day at Merrawarp Road and the photo competition.”

“The rabbit harbour destruction program and a robust discussion on climate change at the AGM rounded out a busy 12 months.”

” Next year is shaping up well at this stage with a major Rabbit Management field day. The imminent release of the K5 calici virus strain into the Barrabool Hills and the Mapping project.”

She wished everyone a merry Christmas and happy New Year.

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