The Planting Site:
Know where you will be planting and why.
The main land degradation problems facing us in WA are:
- Increasing soil and groundwater salinity
- Wind and water erosion of our meagre topsoils
The main reasons for planting trees are:
- Wind erosion control
- Salinity control
- Wildlife corridors
- Using excess water
Several of these elements can be combined in a multipurpose planting. It is essential to know where you will be planting and what the planting is trying to achieve, or all of your time, effort and money will be wasted. Hopefully every property you go to will be systematically planting to a whole farm plan, to be implemented over several years.
- A windbreak should ideally be planting at right angles to the most damaging winds. It should consist of under storey species planted in 3-4 rows.
- Salt presents a special problem. It is important not to plant to close to a salt scald as the groundwater table is likely to be too saline to allow the trees to grow to maturity. Choose the site to start your tree planting carefully and ensure that groundwater salinity has been checked.
- Fodder reserves are becoming very common, especially on fragile soil. These reserves provide fodder for the farmers’ animals during the “autumn feedgap”. Species vary according to the conditions, i.e. Saltbushes, Acacias and Tamarisks for saline areas and tagasaste for deep sands.
- Wildlife corridors link up pieces of remnant bush and should have understorey plants included. These corridors can sometimes also be used as a windbreak, or included timber or other productive
Important things to take into account when choosing species are:
- The average amount of rainfall the area receives
- Soil types.
- Groundwater table –levels and salinity
- Rainfall– this is used as a general species selection guide only. For example, most species from low rainfall zones can go to higher rainfall zones, but not vice versa.
- Soil types– this is also very broad. Most species are very flexible, but most prefer certain soil types to grow to their potential.
- Groundwater table– be careful of sites that become inundated for any period of time. Species for these sites must be carefully chosen as not all species can be tolerate waterlogging.
Planning for survival:
The prospects for a good survival rate will be greatly enhanced by good planning. Species selection based on the farmers requirements (i.e. ornamental, salinity or erosion control, Windbreaks, etc.) and matched with compatibility of those species with soil conditions and rainfall in the area to be planted is essential.
Fencing: Newly planted seedlings need to be protected from grazing stock for several years. For this reason permanent fencing is probably the best option. Assistance may be available according to the type of project-check with the Department of Agriculture, The LCDC or Community Landcare Technician.
Rabbit eradication and control: Rabbits and seedling do not mix. Well ahead of planting time, rabbits must be eradicated from within 500 metres of the plating area and subsequently controlled over the same area. Contact with the local Agricultural Protection Board may be appropriate.
Weed control: More seedlings are lost in the first year due to inadequate weed control than through any other reason. Total freedom from weed competition is crucial for the first year. Your Community Landcare Technician or the Department of Agriculture will be able to advice you on appropriate methods.
In the south west and wheat belt, planting can commence on well drained sites once late autumn (May) or early winter rain has thoroughly soaked the soil profile and follow-up rain is reasonably assured. Under these conditions, planting should commence as early in June as possible, usually straight after crop seeding.
On waterlogged sites (but not saline), it is possible to plant slightly later I the season but planting onto mounds is still essential.
On saline waterlogged sites, it is important to allow some rains to leach the salts from the mounds before planting.
It is the survival rate that counts- not the number of seedlings planted.
Deep ripping: It is essential to rip to a depth of one metre, this is as important in sandy soils as it is in heavier soils. In extremely heavy soils, multiple rip lines may be needed. For a planting density of 625 stems per hectare (4m x 4m), the rip lines are spaced at 4m apart. Preferably ripping should be contour (at the same elevation) to prevent erosion down the slope.
Mounding: On waterlogged sites, mounding is essential, often combined with drainage or water diversion woks. Mounding raises the seedlings above the saturation level for the duration of their first winter.
Fertiliser: Land which has been previously farmed often has a level of residual fertiliser. Virgin soils, particularly leached sands, benefit from an application of suitable fertiliser (always check the package label first!) usually placed in a hole about 150mm (6 inches) from the plant, just below the surface.
Non-wetting soils: Some sandy soils may be water repellent until well into winter, inhibiting development of the seedling’s roots. Soil should be furrow-lined, whereby a shallow trench is created into which the seedlings are planted. This allows water to pool around the base of the seedlings.
Wind and frost protection guards: Various types of guards are available but tend to be expensive and time consuming to install. Some protection may be obtained from an adjacent crop or stubble or from trees planted in previous years.
Watering: It would be helpful if all seedlings could be watered in at planting time but subsequent watering should not be necessary providing the right species have been selected, deep ripping and weed control have been undertaken and normal winter rainfall has occurred. If all these factors have been taken care of a good survival rate can be expected.
Mulch: Undoubtedly a mulch comprised of any of the many suitable materials available will be considered benefit in conserving moisture and suppressing weed growth, but is generally impractical on large sites. Where it is used, care should be taken to ensure that the mulch is kept away from the seedling stems to avoid damage by abrasion or collar rot.
Community planting sites are to be selected with an agreement confirmed by letter between the land holder (and responsible authority) and the Society detailing the responsibilities of each party. Usually, the landholder is responsible for the ground preparation, fencing and is requested to buy or make a donation for the seedlings. The Society is usually responsible for coordinating the planting, selecting the species, growing the seedlings and organising volunteers to plant them on the nominated date.
The agreement should also nominate the party responsible for aftercare, especially weed control during the first spring after planting (this aspect is critical to achieving a good survival rate). The standard of land preparation and after care required is summarised in the MOTT document “Land Preparation and after care Guide for Tree Planting”. The agreement is best discussed during an on-site visit with the landholder at least six months prior to the planting season.
Planting Coordinator are encouraged to check the standard of land preparation two weeks prior to the nominated planting date, and if not done or totally inadequate, advise the planting may need to be called off unless the land preparation can be improved. It is not the number of seedlings planted that counts- it is the number that survive and thrive!
It the planting is on a road or rail verge (and especially if the planting involves children), then the agreement should include the safety measure to be employed. On the day, both parties are responsible for the safety of the volunteers attending.
- The role of The Men of the Trees (the society) is to plant and protect trees, especially where those trees are to save the land from desertification.
- The society favours the propagation and growing of trees for production purposes.
- Where production forestry is to be carried out on already cleared land, particularly where that land is at risk from erosion, salt, or other forms of degradation; and where that land is less suitable for agriculture, then the Society would regard plantation forestry as perhaps the best use of the land.
- In general the Society favours the use of indigenous over exotic trees, though it respects the choice of exotics for certain production purposes. In Western Australia the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and the Radiata Pine (Pinus Radiata) are both considered exotic.
- The Society favours the inclusion in all plantations diverse and complimentary species in order to soften some of the problems associated with monocultures.
- Where Eucalypts are grown as a plantation though should be given to making, for instance, every fourth row a mixture of acacias, Casuarians and other local indigenous forest species. In particular Nitrogen fixing trees should be considered.
- The Society applauds every effort being made to retain all our remaining native forests and recognises that the establishment of plantations to meet specific industry requirements forests and soft woods is the best way to reduce the pressure on our wild forests.
- The Society does not condone the clearing of native forest for the purpose of establishing production plantations, even where those plantations are to consist of indigenous species. The Native forest has many values beyond those of our present economic calculations and is to be given the highest preservation value.
- Even where the native forest is considered to be inferior, though former selective cutting or through disease or other damage, the Society considered that there are other management options available which are preferable to clearing for production forestry.
- The Society respects the rights of landowners of follow their own, carefully thought out strategies and trust that they may come to conclusions to its own.
- The Society does not take action to restrict the development process in any way but hopes that its positive actions may persuade all to adopt sound Earth care principles.
- The Men of the Trees is a voluntary group dedicated to assisting in the restoration of the tree cover in the State. It is a completely non-political, non-partisan society which does not become involved in social issues but whose whole raison d’etre is to propagate, grow and plant trees.
- The prime function of the Society is to plant trees, to raise tree awareness among all people, and to encourage everyone to plant and care for trees.
- The Society maintains an impartial stance in involving forest clearing and tree felling carries out for business or industrial purposes feeling that these matters are best dealt with by other groups such as The Campaign to Save Native Forests and The South West Forest Defence Foundation.
- Believing that money should not be an obstacle to planting trees the Society does not sell trees but makes freely available so far as its resources allow. As a general rule trees are not supplied for garden planting but for providing public amenity, shade or shelter and to prevent soil degradation.