site preparation

A few weeks before a site is planted, the landholder or a local contractor ploughs a series of riplines: deep cuts a metre or so into the soil.

Although the ripline closes straight up again, it leaves a weakness in the soil that will encourage the young seedlings to root rapidly and deeply.

It has only a couple of months to be ready to withstand the heat of summer and, if the roots are deep enough already, the tiny amount of moisture remaining in the subsoil will be enough to see it through.

Imported weeds and pasture grasses have been sprayed with herbicide, and riplines cut into the soil: we are ready to plant.

The young tree will have to compete with weeds and imported pasture grasses for water, light, and nutrients.

We can't eliminate the weeds, but by spraying with herbicide a few weeks before we plant, we set the weeds back a month or two and give our seedlings a chance to get established and compete on even terms.

Over the next year or two, other weeds will colonise the disturbed ground but, over time, the natives we have planted will shade them out.

You will see examples on other pages here that show how successful this can be.

On most sites at about this time, the landholder or a contractor will erect a fence to keep sheep and cattle out.

plant selection

The next step is vital: selecting the right mix of plants for the site.

Sites vary greatly in aspect, soil type, and moisture. Plants adapted to the harsh, stony ridges will rapidly die on the boggy flats, and vice-versa.

On a planting day, two or three workers arrive at the nursery hours before the main activity starts (here we see Andrew, Tina, and Wendy selecting plants).

By the time the main planting team is ready, the trailer will be loaded with a carefully tailored mixture of perhaps 40 local species, all well-suited to the particular site.


Before the main team starts the back-breaking labour of the planting itself, two or three early birds do the layout of the tree guards and the plants themselves.

There is more to this than meets the eye.

Correct spacing is important: it needs to be dense enough to achieve good cover, but not too dense — we don't like to waste good tubestock, and we want the smaller and slower-growing species to prosper too.

The layout team makes sure that we have a good mix of trees and shrubs in rough approximation to the way that they grow naturally.

They take special care to put species with particular needs in places where they will grow well.

Even on a small site, there is usually a lot of variation between different parts of it; for example, species like Red Box that thrive on a dry and stony rise will soon drown if planted in the heavy, wet clay near the bottom of the slope where Blakley's Red Gum and the Prickly Tea-tree are at home.

In natural bush, the plants themselves take care of this; seeds are spread more-or-less randomly and the species best adapted to a particular spot are most successful there.

But that process takes hundreds of years and endangered species like the Regent Honeyeater don't have hundreds of years — there is so little good habitat left that we need to recreate the original woodlands and forests as soon as possible.