CREATING your own seed balls and ‘bombing’ areas of gorse is a longterm but effective way to get rid of it, particularly if you have steep areas where it’s too dangerous to use other physical methods.
Nitrogen-fixing gorse provides a great, natural protective barrier for trees that will germinate in the soil within it, then grow up through it.
Seed balls can be thrown (or launched!) into an area and left to germinate as nature intended. The problem is you will have to put up with unsightly gorse for 10-15 years before you see a change.
To make a seed ball you will need a mix of seeds from trees that don't mind an acid soil and are fast growing. Depending on what part of the country you are from the best options are kanuka, manuka, tauhinu, toe toe, tutu (although this is toxic to livestock) or hebe varieties, all hardy natives that grow quickly and are nature's choice as pioneer species. Other options may include members of the pittosporum family. Check with your local nurseries for advice on the types of pioneer natives that do well in your area.
You could also choose to collect seed from pioneer plants in your area. Eco-sourcing seed means you are perpetuating the strains of trees for your area, as opposed to using seed that may have been collected from a different part of the country from cultivars that aren’t as suited to your local climate.
Seed may also need to be cleaned and/or stored. For example, manuka needs to be dried out and stored in a dark place. Some seeds require soaking or stratification (chilling).
You will also need a good source of weed-free compost, some red clay and some water.
Collect 'compost' from beneath the types of trees you want to grow. This will contain beneficial bacteria and humus that suits that particular tree. Use a sieve to remove stalks and leaves, then dry in a shady place.
For the clay, use a red clay – dig a deep hole and scrape the clay out from the bottom of it so you avoid adding weed seeds to your mix – or if you can’t be bothered, you can buy bags of air dry clay from craft and hardware stores.
Pinch chunks of clay until it's flat so it dries easily and quickly, then grind it down using something like a mortar and pestle until it is a fine powder. The clay is to protect the seed ball from predators once you've bombed the area you want to revegetate; when a bomb is exposed to good rain it will naturally break down, releasing the seeds and allowing them to germinate.
To make a good seed ball, you need one part seeds to three parts compost to five parts clay. Mix the seeds and compost, then add the clay powder and a little water until you get a good dough. You want each bomb to be about the size of a marble and contain 5-10 seeds or so. Leave these somewhere to dry for a few days.
When you are throwing/firing/rolling seed balls into an area, aim for one bomb every 10 square metres or so but it is better to over sow, so seedlings only have to fight each other for space, rather than more competitive weed species.
Winter is the most challenging of all seasons for block management, with the main priority being to feed stock well to meet their needs, especially sheep and goats now into pregnancy.
It’s now when you discover if you have too many mouths on the block and extra feed has to be found, or thin stock have to be sold inevitably at a loss. Too many farmers don’t realise how thin their sheep are getting under their wool when seeing them every day.
This year’s autumn rains were very variable, with some areas looking green but with little growth (called a green drought), and others like Northland with a good autumn growth after good rains. Many destocked anticipating an El Nino drought so now have excess feed.