Ever since I went to the Friends of Grasslands workshop in 2014 I’ve been itching to try my hand at revegetating native grasses, rather than only trees and shrubs.
Of course, that’s not all that easy to do. Sue McIntyre has some good suggestions, but we are mostly forced to deal with weeds where we can, and hope that native grasses and forbs can do all right on their own.
On both farms, my parents made a big effort to “improve” the pasture with introduced grasses such as phalaris, clovers, and lucerne, which increase the carrying capacity for sheep (you hope), but need fertilizer and water to survive. During the “Millenium Drought” from 2001-2008, it was the native grasses that kept at least some coverage on the bare hills because of their ability to withstand lack of water.
I thought that there was some affinity between native grasses and rocks in particular, because that’s where I saw most of the remnant forbs and wildflowers. That was, until we had a visit from someone who’d worked at Esdale in 1970-71 and was very proud of having ripped all the hills he could with a tractor on a dangerous tilt and enthusiastically sowed introduced pastures. The area we fenced for a Box-Gum woodland reserve was one of the ones that was just too steep to plough.
I think the survival of native grasses has been highest on the back hills also partly because the water supply was limited in the hot seasons, so it was less often grazed in high summer when the native grasses are seeding. I’ve been working on making it possible to do more rotational grazing by improving the water supplies (digging a waterhole, adding troughs), but that may mean more summer grazing and less native grass. Just locking the gate against sheep isn’t a great option though, because the land can be quickly overrun with wild oats, saffron thistles and other weeds. It’s all a balancing act.
In the meantime, I had an opportunity to create a new area of native grasses on Adnamira when I had an old dump area covered up and levelled to provide access to one of our revegetation areas. Continue reading
My goal this year was to:
- Check and do some replanting if necessary on last year’s plots on Adnamira and Carkella. My guess was 50 to 80 because I knew some of them had had a hard time with the dry weather.
- plant 30 trees/shrubs in tiny triangles on Adnamira
- 30 trees/shrubs in a small connection plot in the Tank Paddock behind the homestead
- 60 trees/shrubs in a rocky knoll connection plot in the dam paddock on Esdale
- 500 trees/shrubs in a windbreak on Esdale (funded by Local Land Services)
- TOTAL – 670 approx
What actually happened:
- 150 trees/shrubs replaced on Adnamira, Carkella and Esdale – an unsatisfactorily high number of losses, due to the dryness and frost at planting, and a long dry autumn followed by boggy wetness and clay soil in unexpected places. It was however great that we were able to fill in some gaps in old plantations that had no shrubs while we waited and waited for the new fences to be constructed. There are still some gaps at Carkella that we’ll fill next year.
- 30 trees/shrubs in the tiny triangle project and
- 30 in the Dam paddock.
- no Rocky knoll planting. That will need at least 100, and will wait for next year.
- 645 trees/shrubs in the Esdale windbreak, which still needs 100 more in next year’s planting, which will make a total of 745 for the whole area.
- TOTAL FOR THE YEAR: 855 trees and shrubs
There’s a look that weeds tend to have: often spiky like a thistle,;definitely fast growing; pretty flowers perhaps; obviously not delicious to sheep (so still in existence in a paddock);and setting lots of seed for example. Continue reading
It’s that time of year again, when we happily send some young trees out naked into the winter.
The ones that seem large enough have their wildlife and frost resistant covers removed, so that we can recycle them for this year’s plantings. That’s hundreds of covers to be jerked up, flattened and carried back to the truck, then transported to our overcrowded garage for storage. Continue reading
Extreme tree planting
Seed collecting is a new art for me. It requires timing, observation and knowledge of what you’re looking for. Mostly I’m nervous that I’ll just take the seeds off a plant and waste them by not planting them in time. Continue reading
As I wandered outside on my way to bed a few nights ago, I noticed a speck of red light on a hilltop.
A star? I’ve been tricked before by how bright they can be in the bush. A red star? Venus? Wrong direction. Definitely not a car tail-light, on the top of a rocky ridge.
As I dithered, the single speck became two, one above the other. Definitely a fire, probably caused by the lightning storm that played around us all evening, making the tv signal jump and flicker. Still uncertain, I consulted the only other person awake at that time, my brother Andrew. He at least has had some experience with fire fighting.
“Definitely a fire. Definitely too wet to do any damage.” The rain was still pouring down. “Go to bed and look at it in the morning.”
Okay, useless consultation over. That ridge is at the back of my Box Gum woodland planting area, full of long summer grass and baby trees. No way was I going to leave it until morning. Although the ground was wet now, a few hours of wind would dry it off to a flammable state. We had a similar lightning struck tree three years ago that smoldered for two days, then took off, burning about forty hectares before it was put out, needing several trucks and firefighters. Continue reading
Just before the weather began to turn cooler, a stranger came flapping through the garden.
It was large enough that you could expect to hear the wings beating.
Once we’ve got our trees planted, we usually walk away for several months and hope for the best.
But eventually we come back and check on them.
On the Easter weekend we had a whole crew of helpers to strip remaining covers from the 450 trees and shrubs planted in May 2013 near the cattleyards. Also known as “Georgia’s Patch”. Some of the wattles are now pretty tall and visible from a distance. That’s great for being able to see them when you drive past. The eucalypts have also taken off since the last time we looked at them in January, although the apple boxes (eucalyptus bridgesiana) tend to flop about when they’re released and disappear into the long grass. Continue reading
The Easter Bunny this year brought friends and excellent company – and the planting of 182 trees and shrubs
Generally, our method of planting trees and shrubs requires lots of water. We pour on 10 to 20 litres per tree to give them a head start in our dry landscape. We add mulch and a stout pink corflute plastic cover to help preserve the humidity, among other things. Then we walk away and hope for the best. We give them more water if the temperature goes over 40 degrees celsius (that’s 104 in Fahrenheit for people on the old-fashioned measurements).
Our truck mounted fire and tree watering pump plus 800 litre tank
But out new plants have the best chance of doing well if the general ground moisture is good and there’s regular rain after they’re planted.
Ground moisture when we planted this Easter – nil. Continue reading
We regularly see mistletoebirds (Dicaeum Hirundinaceum) around the house and around the hills. They’re a flowerpecker with a taste for mistletoes.
Mistletoebird (Dicaeum Hirundinaceum) photo by Leo from iNaturalist.org
Mistletoes grow all over the world, not just at Christmas for romantic kissing purposes. Unlike the area north of us, near Lake Burrinjuck, however, our eucalypts have few mistletoes. I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re too widely spaced. It’s probably for the best given all the other stresses on them. Parasitic mistletoes are a big drag on a host tree’s resources.
Eucalypt with many mistletoes, Wee Jasper Road near Yass
It’s puzzled me what the mistletoebirds are eating around here.
Meanwhile, Lesley Peden and I were jolting around the paddocks looking at the sites I want to use for tree-planting this year. Continue reading
Mum and I were having a walk around the garden checking out all the growing things when we passed the callistemon bush that grows on the edge of the lookout. I’d been seeing the flowers from a distance but it wasn’t until we were up close that I realized it was amazingly alive with insects feeding from the cascades of pink blossoms.
For the third time in three years, many of our trees are looking like ghosts of their former selves.
The immediate, obvious, culprit is the Christmas Beetle (an anoplagnathus species of scarab), a bit of seasonal joy in a shiny suit. If the weather’s right, it digs its way up from underground in November or December, munches its way to February, then dies.
Their larvae are called “curly grubs” around here and can be found pretty much wherever I’ve tried digging – from high up on hillsides to the sandy soil along the river, under the casuarinas. They don’t seem to lay their eggs where they feed, necessarily. Beetle bodies lie thickly under our eucalyptus nicholii peppermint gums that they don’t eat at all.
I hoped that meant that peppermint gums poison them, but I think they just like the shade. The shade that they remove elsewhere by eating the leaves of the Blakeley’s and Yellow Box gums. Continue reading
Nick and Nick’s Patch aka K2C Exclosure 4
Last autumn we planted up five mini enclosures to provide protection for small native birds and to re-establish a corridor from the Mullion Creek down to the Murrumbidgee River. It turned out to be a great way to get a lot of connection done without a massive amount of time spent planting.
At the time I was glad to see a lot of native speargrasses and scattered clumps of native bluebells (wahlenbergias) among the introduced grasses and weeds.
WHAT WE PLANTED
The numbers in brackets show how many of the enclosures include that species.
I’m really happy to have this list as I sometimes lose track of what I planted, and it’s a long hike uphill to check. In the heat of the moment I also sometimes make some odd choices. Putting river bottlebrushes on the top of a ridge, for example.
After we were done planting, Rainer Rehwinkel and Lesley Peden from the Kosciuszko to Coast Foundation came out and paced back and forward in each little area recording all the plants they saw. It was early in the season, so many of them were very tiny.
I looked up and made links on the names for many of the plants that interested me or I didn’t know well. I chose sites that had good information if I could, including the Atlas of Living Australia. There wasn’t one site that covered everything well. Some were fascinating, such as EattheWeeds.com Continue reading
In my short career as a radio journalist for 2XX in Canberra, I had precisely one news scoop.
That was, tah dah, the discovery of a new species of wildflower, weirdly called the “button wrinklewort”, at the Queanbeyan Municipal Dump in 1983.
It seemed sort of cool that someone had found a new flower, even if it was rather modest-looking.
And located in a dump. Continue reading
What an excellent idea, lilies that smell like chocolate.
Or vanilla, or caramel, depending on your sense of smell (or lack of it, in my case, thanks to allergies).
Something to make you smile, anyway.
When I saw the first glimpse of purple in the long grass, I thought it was Paterson’s Curse ( echium plantagineum), a European exotic which we’ve been working on controlling because it’s toxic and invasive. Continue reading
Seeds are such hopeful things.
The propagation days have started for the season at Murrumbateman Landcare. I usually go on the Thursday evenings, but this time I went on a Wednesday morning.
The seeds all look so enticing in their carefully marked plastic jars. I love the fact that there are neatly printed label for every possible thing we might sow. Continue reading
Things are blowing and banging around here. Trees lean over, the grass on the Adnamira hills ripples in patterns reminding me of a sandy sea bed. The hatch for our new guinea fowl house clatters every time a gust comes through. The irises in the garden flutter, no wonder they call them “flags”.
Somehow, it’s remarkably irritating. Tiring also, on the eyes and the ears.
Spring is the windy time of year here. At other times of year we often get still mornings and a breezy afternoon, but in the spring we can get day after day of wind whipping up the river valley from the northwest.
Although we had a millimetre of rain last night, there’s no sign of it. The ground is dry again and baking hard where there’s bare dirt. There’s nothing like wind for taking away soil moisture. The hills are turning from green to yellow almost as I watch, first the northwest facing slopes, and the ridges, then the more protected sides. Continue reading
Snowy River Wattle Acacia boormanii
After the long chilly winter, it seems that finally we’ve got flowers again. The wattles as always make a show of golden baubles at the very end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Up on the hills and down to the river the Early Nancies (Wurmbea Dioica) have been flowering for a few weeks.