red anther wallaby grass

WATCHING GRASS GROW

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.

PB030862Of 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.box-gum-lower-planting-2-june-2014
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