'Narua', Downside NSW
Although there is not much joy to be found in agriculture these days, I still get a great amount of satisfaction from our tree planting program.
My grandfather settled at Downside in the late 1800s and spent his life clearing the land - he was very good at it! We were left with many a paddock with only one or two trees. I mean no disrespect to grandfather as he was only doing what he thought was right and the Government of the day encouraged him. "Go forth and plant wheat, young man" was the slogan of the day.
This is why you must convince yourself of the need for trees. Don't plant trees because the "experts" tell you to, or because it's trendy. Your heart won't be in it.
We've been planting trees for two generations, but it's been a very slow evolution from the odd shade tree, to windbreaks, to where we are now with a fully integrated whole farm plan.
A lot of mistakes have been made along the way - that is why my advice is to ask the experts before you start or, if you have started a program, stop and analyse it. You may get conflicting advice on how to plan and plant trees, as there are many "right" ways of doing so! Some may advise the use of a lot of chemicals, but if you don't like using chemicals that is not a problem as there are plenty of techniques that avoid them.
I planted the wrong species in the wrong places for 19 years before I was convinced of the error of my ways.
Give consideration to the whole farm as you plan your plantings. Ask yourself "why am I doing this?" Is this a wind break? a woodlot? a recharge planting to control dryland salinity? a gully stabilisation exercise? or maybe a commercial timber planting.
Also consider differing soil types - why not fence them out? Don't just plant a line of trees around each fenceline. It certainly looks good, but is cost inefficient and can create problems. For example - your east/west rows when they mature will give continual shade to the south and no grass will grow. Also think about the size of the mature tree - it may look good in 10 years time, but in 30 years time will it be pushing a shed over, or dropping all its leaves in the guttering? How many driveways do you see that looked great a decade ago, but now the car won't fit?
People have made the comment, "I don't want to give up good land to tree planting!". I believe there are many benefits in doing so, however most farms would have a problem spot that could be made into an asset by planting trees - a wet spot down by the creek where the cow gets bogged or a rocky knoll out of sight where you can't see the sheep.
Our farm plan aims for 3-row north/south windbreaks strategically across the farm, stock shelter areas, woodlots, recharge plantings (with natural revegetation), discharge plantings of salt tolerant species and, hopefully, commercial plantings.
We plant using 4 Ps as our guide:
• Plan: using our scaled farm plan it is easy to calculate quantities of trees, fencing material, etc. Soil types as indicated on the plan dictate species used.
• Prepare: ground is deep ripped 12 months prior to planting, 3 rips per line. Fencing is done. (Never put the trees in first). Fallow either chemically or conventionally.
• Plant: using a "hamilton" planter.
• Protect: we usually use plastic "grow tubes" which serve the dual purpose of keeping vermin away and creating a mini-greenhouse. Spring plantings are mulched with either paper or straw, but autumn plantings are not. We don't normally water the trees at all.
Our latest development is the growing of our own stock from seed collected in the area. This is very rewarding and has the added advantages of ensuring the trueness to type of the species and being a saving in costs.
We now use predominantly trees that are growing well locally, but because our remnant vegetation is so thin we have to use some introduced types. The danger is, of course, that while they may grow well in the short term, you can't guarantee their longevity.
If you do decide to undertake a tree planting program, or you already have one, take the time out to wander through the area as it matures. You may be amazed at what you see. The variation between trees (even of the same species), the bird life, the insects, the change in wind velocity - all these things, and more, are good for the soul!
We as Australians need to ask ourselves what is wrong with us as we have a huge country with a relatively small population and yet we import 500/1000 tonnes of eucalyptus oil from places like China, Brazil, South Africa and Spain. We import timber and paper products and all the carob meal used in imitation chocolate and yet carobs grow well here!