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A baby, or a nest, are not essential for tree-planting, but they help.

We’re in our third season of tree planting at Yarnauwi now, working to revegetate sections of the property for habitat, shelter and timber. We’ve planted about 1,000 plants a year, from groundcovers to future woodland giants. Once they were guarded from marauding roos, we’ve necessarily had a philosophy of leaving the plants to survive without too much intervention. Even in a dry year such as 2014, we had a modest 60ish percent survival rate, but with El Niño tipped to recur in 2015, we’ve tried to further refine our approach to give our trees an improved chance of survival. Of course, there are absolutely no guarantees it will work, or will work for everything, but it’s worth a shot.

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The bunyip water level: bringer of contoured joy to young and old alike.

This year, we’ve also planted our first, experimental, woodlot of river oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana) in an awkward corner of the farm. The paddock was too small and inaccessible to deep rip, so we began by marking contours with a bunyip water level, an essential DIY tool for measuring and marking slope (see Brad Lancaster’s guide to bunyip construction and usage here). 

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Tireless tree-planters keeping one eye on the weather while marking and digging holes on contour.

We then marked and dug holes every three metres along the contour, with the rows three metres apart. We also offset the tree spacings in every second row by 1.5 metres, as an attempt to maximise each tree’s future root zone. In our planting process, to reduce weed competition we slashed and scraped out a square of top soil for each tree, and dug a hole. The homegrown seedlngs we dipped in mycorrhizal inoculant in order to cultivate fungal symbiosis and enhance their access to water and nutrients. We then patted them into position and watered them in with a little bit of seaweed solution. The trees were then bedded down with some (cheap) mulch from the local dump, and guarded with mesh guards. For VIP trees such as the river oaks, they might also get a busted corflute guard draped over them for a bit of wind protection, and a few follow-up waterings to help them get established. Despite having a few extra stages, we’ve found that this process doesn’t add substantial amounts of time to planting, so virtually all of our plants will receive a version of this treatment this year. With a bit more rain to help them settle in, let’s hope it sees them through this summer, and many more to come.

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Step 1: weed cover cleared, hole dug.

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Step 2: seedling dipped in mycorhizzal inoculant, ensuring contact with exposed roots.

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Step 3: Seedling planted (and watered in with a little seaweed solution).

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Step 4: Mulch-a-rama

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Step 5: Mesh-a-rama (and optional subsequent addition of spare corflute guard if the tree is especially precious to you). Grow well little one!

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