Thanks for all the great advice found on these pages! There's much to learn for a novice like me
We've recently bought an exposed, gently sloping plot of land with clay soil in Northland. Now the goal is to establish shelter & privacy as fast and economically as possible.
After studying plant requirements, I've narrowed down a list of native trees and shrubs that seem to cope with both clay soil and wind. Some are 'pioneer plants', others could do with a bit of shelter.
My question is: what is the best method forwards when planting?
- Bulk buy 1/2L pots or cell28 sized plants and plant them out using 300mm high triangular plastic protector things (comes with stake and mat for $1.95 each when buying in bulk).
- Buy a selection of 1.5m tall trees and stake them with one stake each, placed on an angle pointing towards the prevailing wind.
- Plant it all, nurse them well and fingers crossed, there'll be a beautiful "shelter bush" in 3-5yrs time!!!
But...should I rather:
- wait with the taller trees until the 'nursery plants' have established?
- is it waste of money to buy the plastic protectors? (I've seen pukekos, possums and rabbits already and I don't trust them...)
- buy taller bulk plants and no protectors?
Your replies are much appreciated!!!
When you say clay soil I take it you mean clay with little or no topsoil on top?
1. Don’t trust possums,rabbits, pukekos or the neighbours’ stock reaching through fences and eating plants so the sleeves, weedmat and stake for $1.95 is worth it. I used old plastic bags around vulnerable plants instead and wind cloth on about 300m of neighbouring fences which has all been worth the effort four years later, as 90% of plants have survived and the tallest are 3-5 m tall.
2. Make sure you “Roundup” spray a 1m diameter circle in which to plant, several weeks before so that plants don’t compete with weeds for water and nutrients.
3. I planted three rows of various staggered, native root trainers as they establish their roots better in the ground than bigger plants.
The taller native shrubs or trees were in the middle with the wind and drought tolerant plants either side to protect them.
4. Don’t plant flaxes near fences as mine grew too big for the space and are now needing regular trimming so as they don’t touch the electric fence (such a pain, so they will likely be dug out when we get round to it.)
5. Water? I had to water 300 plants using a tanker on a trailer for two drought summers then the drainage field pipes from the septic tank took over for the next two years after that and they grew three times as fast.
Create a basin around the plant when planting to serve as a catchment for water otherwise water runs down the hill, also very annoying.
Photo 1: Shows root trainers after 6months
Photo 2: Shows 4 & 1/2yr old plants enclosed along fence line.
I know you said "natives, but our experience with NZ natives has not been that wonderful. We planted large totara and quite a number sulked and died. NZ pittosporums, ditto. We have had very good success with some Australian natives on clay soil. Bottle brush are really thriving, don't mind exposed sites and the tui and bees love them.
If planting in a high wind zone, large plants are a waste of money as they will be too top heavy so will suffer root rock from the wind and not do as well as small plants
The reason why many natives will fail is that they are often planted on a site like yours with insufficient shading or shelter when conditions are harsh. Although they do grow in harsh conditions, the young plants need nurturing and planting in conditions to ensure survival
Wind tolerant natives include Karo, Flax, Coprosma robusta, cabbage trees basically. These are the nurse plants that you need to get established before planting your other natives
1.95 for protection is grossly overpriced. I bought green plastic sleeves for about 10c each if you buy 100 and hold them in place with two little bamboo sticks
Mulching around the trees will stop pukeko, they are just digging to get to the nutrition in the root zone but they wont rummage through the mulch to get to the plants
Get good possum traps and set them up well before planting
Thank you for your reply iSor.
I got instant shelterbelt-envy looking at your images
Yes, you're right: there's very little if any top soil. The grass grows happily though, which is a somewhat good sign. Pre-planting spraying would definitely be needed.
That's a great idea with the 'basin' around the plant, just to let the water stay for a bit longer. I can tell from your first image how you've done it.
Hi Muri. Thanks for your reply.
The larger plants have now been crossed off my list! The species you mentions are luckily already on my list, so I'll probably increase the numbers of these and patiently wait (..argh!) for shelter and shading before going ahead with other species.
Good point with the plastic sleeve + bamboo stakes. I'll rlook into that. At least I now know that it's worthwhile investing in something to guard the plants. I'm already creating mulch, so that's ticked off the list
I have a large north-facing clay batter, which I've been planting over the last 5 years with shrub trees. It's exposed to wind, heat & drought, and driving rain.
The best tree survivors have been koromiko, pittosporum, and kowhai in the (slightly better) sheltered parts. There are also quite a few camelias which are doing well, though they don't grow quickly.
I planted everything with a half teaspoon full of silica gel at the roots, to form a small water reservoir for each tree. It's worked really well, I can recommend it. And if I can, I keep small trees potted for at least six months, again with gel in the pots, before I plant them out.
That's great to hear another success story! Phew. It IS possible!
I've been dreaming of planting Kowhai but had started to doubt whether it'll be sturdy enough. I'll definitely add a few now, in the right spots.
Gel sounds interesting. I'll look into that. I do hope that I have the chance to water the plants on a fairly regular basis.
Native plants are exceedingly site specific, so look at your close neighbourhood to see which grow well in your area. You can be fairly sure that if there are not any or many of what you want then they won't grow for you. As an example, in our proximity totaras are a rampant weed, come up everywhere, and are easily transplanted. Some of ours have even been successfully planted in Dunedin. But beech will not grow - the soil is too wrong for them here. But 20 km away totaras won't grow and beech will.
When planting, I would suggest that you loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole another 30 cm or more, to allow for root penetration and drainage. A layer of leaf litter or compost at the bottom of the hole might also help.
If you have a reserve with natives close by have a look at what is growing well. There is a school of thought that if you can get some leaf litter/mulch from under a local native bush site you can use it to "seed" your plantings with beneficial fungi and bacteria which will introduce the correct symbiotic soil organisms.Even wood chip tree mulch around the planting will be great for the soil.
I took on your advice and drove around in the area at low speed, scanning people's properties for species. That gave me some really good pointers -and luckily noone pulled me up asking what kind of robbery I was planning
That's a super good idea Anakei! I've read somewhere about the importance of fungi and bacteria to ensure healthy plants and growth. I think our soil would really benefit from this. I wonder if occasional fertilising with worm juice would help this as well?
You might have looked pretty suspicious trying to carry big specimen trees away!
AM wrote: Thanks LongRidge.
I took on your advice and drove around in the area at low speed, scanning people's properties for species. That gave me some really good pointers -and luckily no one pulled me up asking what kind of robbery I was planning