Bomb gorse

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

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.

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