Many people who buy lifestyle blocks are not farmers and never have been, so running a few stock while rewarding for filling the freezer will never make it a profitable farm and it can often just be a time consuming nuisance. Restoring native forest can be enjoyable and very beneficial in providing a refuge for native plants and animals. A well planned and managed forest can be achieved in a reasonably short time frame.

There is an order of process which needs to be followed. Fencing off stock, spraying, pest control, fertilising, plant selection, planting mulching, maintenance releasing

Guy Bowden

Firstly establish your overall goals that you wish to achieve, it may be planting to connect existing remnant forest areas, wetlands, steep cliffs and gullies to help stop erosion or rehabilitating pasture or cutover forestry land.

Work out what you can achieve in your set time frames, e.g. how much can you plant and maintain. It doesn't have to be a huge area but it is important not to take on too much in one go. Start small and work your way up, always complete an area before tackling the next area.

There is an order of process which needs to be followed.
Fencing off stock, spraying, pest control, fertilising, plant selection, planting mulching, maintenance releasing. All of these listed above are important to the success of your revegetation. We will discuss in more detail each of these topics to ensure your success.

Once the area for revegetation has been selected, the first step is fencing to exclude domestic stock. If it is part of an existing farm and there is stock nearby (this includes sheep, cattle, deer, horses, goats) you will need to fence. Alternatively to save fencing you could use an existing fenced paddock. There is nothing more that stock like than eating freshly planted plants.

The success of planting is dependent on good site preparation. Plants grow best if there is no competition from other plants for light, soil nutrients and water. Removal of competing plants can mean the difference between success or failure and will certainly result in faster growth rates of planted trees and shrubs. On the coast where there is a lot of kikuyu grass it is important to remove it all as new plants cannot compete with this vigorous growing grass. The most common method of pre-planting preparation is to spray with herbicide, for best results you may need to spray twice 3 -4 months prior to planting.

Example of planting a coastal block next to an existing bush.

Plant selection is all about selecting the right pant for the right place. There are various methods to selecting plants for mass planting. You could plant a single species like Manuka or Kanuka as a nurse crop and let nature take its course, although we feel you are better to select plants according to the conditions of the site, which may vary in soil fertility, light and shelter. The natural spread of vegetation is usually best in groups or clumps of the same species together, you often get better fruiting and seeding from a group of the same plants, this will attract birds will spread the seed and hasten revegetation.

Planting in the late autumn or early winter is best, this gives an opportunity for plants to make the most of every good day and send roots down to the damp soil so it is more likely to survive dry spells through the summer.

Plant should be spaced at 1m - 1.4m intervals this helps to shade out the return of competing weeds. Place out all plants evenly on the prepared area before planting. Be conscious of protecting the roots from drying out in the sun, leave plants in their containers until ready to plant in the ground. When planting remember you are not really digging a hole but breaking up and loosening the soil. Turn over an area of soil about twice the size and twice as deep as the container the plant is in. If it is possible to use compost when planting it is very beneficial, mixed into the dug over soil it helps add organic matter and retain moisture.

Fertiliser is very important in giving young plants a good start. The simplest method is to apply slow release fertiliser tablets at the time of planting. When planting make sure the roots are pointing down, you may need to trim or tease the roots out to create a good anchor for the plant. If you are planting very small plants which could be overtaken by weeds and grass put in a small stake or bamboo cane to help locate plants when undertaking weed control. To assist stability of larger grade plants in windy areas staking maybe necessary.

Planting your trees is only part of the job, caring form them afterwards is another essential job for success. Newly established plants will establish a lot faster if competition from weeds and pests is reduced in the first two to three years. If the area is not too large mulching may be feasible, this involves spreading loose organic material such as straw, bark or sawdust. It is far easier to put this on before you plant and it should be done when the soil is moist. Cover the ground to a depth of at least ten centimeters. The advantages of mulching are that it will suppress and control weed re-growth, help reduce the loss of moisture during dry summer months, provide insulation which increases and stabilizes soil temperature. Organic mulches may also add nutrients and humus to make the soil more friable but be careful not to have the mulch up against the stem or trunk of the plant which will cause rot.

Section sprayed and planted with flax.

In a very short time once planting is completed and provided you are prepared to do a little bit of maintenance there is an enormous amount of personal satisfaction ranging from creating a natural habitat for New Zealand's unique fauna and flora, the aesthetic appeal which comes from our lush plant species and certain financial increase in value to your property.

Trees help improve water quality, provide shelter and shade, and stabilize eroding slopes and riparian strips. These benefits will extend long beyond your lifetime and add value to the lives of the next generation. What a great thing to do.