improvements to our planting technique

Over the past decade we have established a planting technique that works very well, but it would be great to speed up the process and make it easier on people, especially the younger students.

Trials with various planting implements gave some success, but results were unpredictable and mostly poorer. We are still in favour of mattocks to loosen the soil and ensure good contact with the seedling roots. The bottom line is an absolute need to maintain our high success rates!

Thorough ground preparation and weed spraying certainly helps. Recent trials with double ripping 15-20 cm apart were very promising, so we intend to use a twin-tyne ripper wherever possible this coming year.

One significant trial last year had two school classes planting together instead of the usual one group at a time.

The 50 students worked together like clockwork, planting a remarkable 905 seedlings and covering well over ˝ km! The speed of such a bigger scale operation gives everyone a tremendous sense of achievement and we'll take that approach routinely now, whenever we have sufficient adult supervision.

So 2016 promises to be an interesting year, as we work our way through various planting methods, finding foolproof techniques to suit all the different soil types and ability levels.

With more of our plantings sites on the lower country in recent years, we have been confronted by heavy clay soils that are so much harder to plant in. So we’ve encouraged our volunteers to work in small teams to find the most efficient methods and tools to deal with the issue. Last Spring they used a combination of Picks, Hamilton tree planters and Mattocks to make small holes, and imported friable soil from close by to seal the seedling in the ground. The results have been very heartening even in cracking clays and dry weather!

We also needed to change tour tree guarding procedure, as burying guards in the ground would have pooled too much water and killed the seedlings. We settled on 750mm wooden stakes to hold our usual 2 litre cardboard drink containers, and it was a great to discover that the protruding stakes seem to have an added benefit - they're robust enough to deter kangaroos and wallabies from browsing our seedlings!