How to grow a for­est out of weeds

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Down On The Farm -

A BEAU­TI­FUL FEA­TURE of this block is its planted na­tive for­est. The 2ha area of bush is now un­der a QEII covenant, but it only ex­ists be­cause of a de­lib­er­ate and ma­jor un­der­tak­ing that the Shack­le­tons be­gan in 2003.

Where the land dropped off down to the Waitapu Stream, San­dra and Eric de­cided to cre­ate a na­tive for­est to sta­bilise the slope and re­place the thickly grow­ing gorse and tobacco weed.

Eric and a friend ini­tially cleared a criss­cross pat­tern through the gorse and planted along those lines, so the small trees had pro­tec­tion from the weather.

The couple then em­ployed lo­cal An­dries van Zwi­j­dregt for the next two and a half years to grow seeds, or­gan­ise all the plant­ing and con­tinue de­vel­op­ment of the bush block. A couple of ex­tra helpers were brought in as re­quired, all paid.

"It was im­por­tant to us to em­ploy lo­cal peo­ple, to make a dif­fer­ence,” says Eric.

The tree seeds were all lo­cally-sourced, grown in trays, pot­ted on and then planted out. They grew 1695 po­hutukawa from seeds gath­ered from one lo­cal tree. A large num­ber of kauri were res­cued from a load of un­sold seedlings which had been left a bit too long in their pots. Th­ese were nursed back to health and many of them now stand tall on the hill­side.

Manuka branches with seed cap­sules at­tached were laid on the ground and seedlings grew up un­derneath. Now they're fill­ing in spa­ces where some trees didn't sur­vive, or where slips have cre­ated gaps.

"A lot of peo­ple bring us trees, so we just plant them in,” says Eric. “We've thrown a

lot of seed around."

Weed con­trol re­quires reg­u­lar at­ten­tion, with the usual coastal cul­prits in­clud­ing yel­low-flow­ered bone­seed, pam­pas and al­ways gorse, al­though that will even­tu­ally be shaded out by the bush.

A well-formed gravel track tra­verses the bush slope with steps where it is steep and a hand-rope all the way. Here and there are wooden carved signs with the com­mon and botan­i­cal names of par­tic­u­lar plants, crafted by An­dries. The trees in most places now form a thick canopy over­head.

At the low­est point on the track we step down through a gate and out into the open to look up at the wa­ter­fall, a loud and steady flow af­ter re­cent rain.

Eric es­ti­mates the for­est project has cost up­wards of $100,000 by the time wages are taken into ac­count.

"But isn't this some­thing we've done right?” he asks. “You know, we've cre­ated some­thing out of noth­ing. We've done some­thing for the com­mu­nity and for our own per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion and it'll be there for­ever."

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