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Kangaroos: so cute, yet so merciless.

One of winter’s most exciting prospects was the chance to get some trees in the ground. Our strategy for revegetation has been to try to build islands of vegetation in the most vulnerable areas, with the view to expanding them outwards until they connect up. We were aware that the kangaroos would take an interest, but just how much of an interest we were unprepared for.

Our first planting season was always going to be an experiment. We’re still learning how the landscape works, we have minimal fencing, and swung between being thorough (marking and planting along contours) and haphazard in our plantings in an effort to see what might work best. From browsing the internet and chatting to neighbours, we heard a number of ideas for protecting trees from kangaroos, many involved guns, some suggested removing the growing tips when planting as this is the most delectable part of the plant, and others suggested using prickly plants such as Acacia paradoxa as nurses for more vulnerable seedlings. The most consistently suggested method was building heavy-duty mesh tubes, a metre or more high, fixed in place with a pair of star-droppers. However, given the cost involved and our hope to plant up to 1000 plants a year, this wasn’t really an option for every plant.

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Freshly-planted revegetation area (aka. kangaroo smorgasbord), using green corflute guards. Happily, this particular area has so far remained almost completely untouched.

We started out by using the standard green corflute triangular guards with single hardwood stakes, augmented by white corflute vineguards. When planting we joked that the kangaroos would use the guards as a napkin and the stakes as a toothpick for their seedling meal, without realising how close to the truth this would end up. We later also developed guards made of 90cm high tubes of chook wire, cable-tied to a hardwood stake with a vineguard placed inside for wind protection.

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White corflute vine guards: individually, they’re too small, but zip two together into a hexagon and hold in place with two stakes and they work ok. No match for wind or deer however.

At the end of the winter, and after planting about 400 plants over several days, we have about 150 left. In some areas the hit rate was high, with 47 out of 50 plants eaten or pulled out. Exposed areas that had been slashed seemed to fare the worst, perhaps because the new growth after slashing attracted grazing in the area, and the constant winds loosened or removed guards making it easy for the roos to finish the job. Areas in gullies, on slopes or, interestingly, near piles of junk, generally fared much better.

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Improvised chook wire and vineguard option. Apparently easier to destroy than they look.

While the green corflute still seems to be the best all-rounder, in exposed areas we would have spent at least as much time collecting wind-blown guards from fencelines as we did planting. The vineguards proved to be no match for the weather or the roos. All but one or two of the chook wire guards have been removed and trampled. Even a heavy-duty-mesh-and-star-dropper combo had been body-slammed almost out of the ground. But then, we noticed a new player has arrived on the scene: the mud at the bottom of the gullies was peppered with the fresh tracks of fallow deer, and little survived their attentions.

While everything has copped a nibbling, the species that fared the best thus far are Kangaroo thorn (Acacia paradoxa), Prickly tea-tree (Leptospermum continentale) and Seaberry saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana).

By next planting season we hope to have fenced the main reveg areas, providing an additional deterrent. We’ll use the survivors as nurse plants where we can, plant densely starting on less accessible terrain, and use the heavy-duty-mesh-and-star-dropper-combos for selected plants that we want to form a canopy or wind protection for future growth. The survivors have got through a winter of torrential downpours and driving winds and evaded the jaws of roos and deer, all they need to do now is survive six months of desiccating heat. Grow well little seedlings!

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