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Noel Passalaqua

Jayfields, Clifton Mail via Wagga Wagga, NSW

Tree establishment for lands in southern NSW is becoming an integral part of farm and land management. The benefits of tree planting are well covered elsewhere in this Proceedings, and so some practical experiences in tree establishment are discussed in this paper.

Our farm is situated 25 km north of Holbrook. The area is 656 hectares (1622 acres) and has a rainfall of 700 mm. Soils range from heavy red clay loams and sandy clay loams, to shale derived soils with shale stone on the ridges.

Approximately 150 hectares is subject to waterlogging during winter with the balance being well drained. We have 100 hectares of untouched native bushland, and a further 60 hectares of native timber in blocks, belts and along ridges and gullies.

With this diverse soil, topography and vegetation, it has given us an insight into the need to select species carefully to suit the site. We commenced planting trees on our own farm in 1986, at first with varying success but improved over the following few years. In late 1987 we started setting up what is now our tree nursery, propagating native trees for farm tree plantings.

In this year of 1991 we will plant on our farm 3200 trees, of which 2400 will be Grevillea robusta (Silky Oak), the Grevillea being for high value timber production (current market value $2130/m3). On other farms our tree planting service will have planted 43,000 trees on a contract basis.


DO - plan well in advance of the tree planting program and consult professional advice if need be.

DO - rip the ground to be planted in late summer/autumn prior to planting on soils not prone to waterlogging. For waterlogged soils and fine textured loams, we have proven it beneficial to rip or cultivate the ground, if dry enough, just prior to planting in the first week of September (assuming that you are able to get on the country). The reason for ripping other ground as described in summer/autumn, prior to a spring planting, is to obtain a good shattering of the soil profile before the soil becomes too wet. Ripping wet soil will only slice and smear.

DO - control weeds by any means that works. I recommend a knockdown/residual combination as being the most effective.


A residual herbicide such as simazine applied at the correct rate (depending on soil type) will provide near weed free conditions for up to six months.

A newly planted tree will NOT TOLERATE COMPETITION, it must be able to establish itself without competition to survive the forthcoming summer.

With adequate weed control minimum or no watering is necessary.

DO - choose species carefully. If we consider that many of the endemic species live for hundreds of years, it is important to select the right tree for the right conditions. The wrong choice may not be obvious for 5-10-15 years, thus wasted time.

DO - study the area; observe the existing flora endemic and introduced (native and exotic) and evaluate each species on its own merits, i.e. shape, size, aesthetic appeal, type of root system (fibrous, shallow rooted, deep tap rooted), ability to withstand insect attack, flowering times. Compare the site to be planted with other similar sites and observe their vegetation.

DO - purchase healthy fresh stock, look for active growing points (buds) in the leaf axil and apical shoots; more importantly the leaf axil. If these are absent the tree has shut down and is largely inactive. When planted it may not start to grow for some months which by then it is too late.

Most Eucalypts have a lignotuber at the base of the stem. This is used to store carbohydrates, and when it appears swollen on the tubed seedling it is an indication that nutrition has run out in the tube and the tree has stored the last remains of food in this tuber. It then sacrifices growth above this point, so that it may survive until food is again available to be drawn upon. A so-called "well hardened stock" is generally a stressed out, overgrown plant that has simply run out of puff.

DO - eradicate vermin and protect trees if necessary. Cockatoos, galahs, rabbits, hares, sheep, cattle, all love decimating your new plantation, especially the birds, and just for fun. DO - aim for maximum benefits. Consider farm forestry. With more and more pressure coming to bear on the profitability of traditional farm commodities, I believe we should create a more dynamic farm enterprise, speciality timber production being an activity with huge potential.

DON'T- only plant endemic species. Species distribution woldwide is a natural phenomenon. Many original plant species can no longer cope with our changed environment, so I believe plant what performs best, considering all attributes as mentioned previously.

DON'T- neglect plantations, keep an eye on them, watch their progress.

DON'T- rush the job, trying to get everything done. Spraying, etc, the day before planting rarely succeeds - plan the job.

DON'T- purchase tubestock until ready to plant. Too often plants are left on the verandah or the landing of the shed and forgotten to be watered.

That is a brief guide based on my experience, and if these measures are followed a successful tree establishment should be obtained.

Fertiliser: an application of an NP (nitrogen/phosphate) fertiliser will increase growth in the first 8-10 months by up to 60%. Some people argue that by artificially feeding trees they get top heavy and blow over. I dispute this as I believe the root system will match the increased biomass above the ground, and I have not seen any evidence to suggest that fertilised trees blow over any more than those unfertilised. Also, it is commonly believed that all natives don't like fertilisers. Many love it, and respond well to fertiliser. Some such as the Proteaceae family do not tolerate phosphate; they include most grevillea, hakea and banksia. Also Acacias can be sensitive to phosphate. This is probably where the belief arose.

Many species tolerate insect attack better than others. Silver or blue foliage plants with an ovate shape leaf quite often suffer defoliation by leaf eating caterpillars such as the Autumn Gum Moth. Blue Gums have juvenile foliage that suffers this problem.

Know what you want

- A fellow arrived at our nursery a few weeks ago and promptly commenced to tell me what trees he wanted - "one of those", he said, "and a few of them. What are they?" he asked. "Eucalyptus polyanthemos or Red Box", I replied. "No", he said, "I don't want any Eucalypts, give me some of those Red Gums, I like a bit of colour!".

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