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TAS Country : April 12th 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012 Tasmanian Country 9 News Hedge bets with prudent planting HOBBY farming Paul Healy GROWING PROBLEMS: Take time to consider how your trees will grow to maturity before you plant. PLANTING trees on a small holding or hobby farm is one of those joys that far too many of us have just fallen into -- buying at random or on impulse -- often seeking to establish a little grove or windbreak whose constituents are cho- sen to honour a family memory or to replicate some lovely copse or roadside scene which entranced us in our youth. That sentimental tree can cause you much regret. Only 10 years after the wrong sort of $2 tree is planted, in the wrong soil and at the wrong site, you might spend $2000 or more to have a giant blue gum removed by a professional tree-feller or tree-surgeon who knows how to keep the dropping limbs clear of power lines and the neighbour's roof. Do not feel any guilt -- if you have made such a past mistake -- as most of us with land have done it at one point or other. I have enjoyed much early learning myself, coming to understand the spectacular growth-and-spread poten- tial of E. globulus -- otherwise known as the trusty old Tasmanian Blue Gum. The fact that all of us should remember about trees -- apart from the propensity of certain species to track their choking roots into drains, dams, waterlines and septic joints -- is that for every five metres of growth they send skyward, many types will send their roots sideways just as far. If you have a line of trees that is planted for a windbreak that is reach- ing upwards of 15 metres, there is every chance that you will find their roots reaching an equal 15 metres out into your paddock, orchard or garden. All that is fine, if you have the space, and we can use a strategically sited line of evergreen gums or conifers -- planted beside laneways and access slopes -- to suck the moisture out of the soil, drying out the ground to help provide all-year access for vehicles. I have done exactly that on my own farm, turning a track that was always a quagmire on the day it would rain, just as we were fetching in the hay -- into an all-year access that has been dried hard and dusty by a lovely avenue of gums that runs beside it. A large Tasmanian blue gum or river red gum can suck in and pass out as much as 500 litres of water a day, and eucalypts have been used in many places worldwide to dry out swampy ground or lower the water table in irrigation country at risk of salt's ascending through rising groundwater. The downside of this water-sucking ability is that gums and pines will kill the ground for metres around, mixing anti-growth compounds exuded from their roots with the smothering litter of leaves and bark, or pine needles, that acidifies and dries out the soil, effec- tively killing all pasture and food plants, allowing only native understory species, or woody weeds such as black nightshade, to act as any sort of competition. The same dry litter is highly com- bustible, and bands of conifers and natives to be used as windbreaks, or as shelterbelts for stock, must be given careful thought before planting, in light of their explosive wildfire potential. There are less combustible alterna- tives, in fire-risk areas, for trees to plant as bee fodder, poultry forage, bird and insect shelter, or as woodlots, lambing groves and shade for stock. This is an area which must be researched carefully, as your fruit, nut, fodder, shade and timber trees are a 10- to 20-year's, to even a lifetime's, invest- ment of work, money, and time- management, and you can spend an awful lot of cash and hope -- and waste them -- on a poorly considered choice of perpetual greenery. I know too many sad stories in which those pursuing their first dream of the land have spent thousands of dollars on larger groves of chestnuts, olives, walnuts, black walnuts, mulberries, hazelnuts, perry pears and quince. All came to grief because they were planted on the wrong type of land or site. The other big issue about planting trees in large lots as future investments -- making big decisions when you are still new to the game of growing things -- is that even if your crop survives and the trees flourish, there is still no guarantee that the market promised by the seller, or prospectus, will still be there--infiveto10to20years--as harvest time approaches. The trick, in trying to make an income from any new venture in farming, is to be one of the first -- and not to be the last -- to join the idealistic queue of those seduced by the hot new niche crop of the era. In times past, it has been cricket willows, carob, pine, native plantations -- the new tree dream will always look the goods on paper. But getting an actual return on your investment can be another mat- ter.Tax breaks on timber plantings can sound fine as well -- but even there, the rules can change. So start small, and research well. Diversify to hedge your bets, then plant slowly -- patch by patch -- from year to year across the seasons as you take time on your land to observe, consider and adjust your plans. This is the way that the planting of trees should progress on the farm in your first five years. You can see the way that trees for fodder, posts and shelter have been planted on our farm at the next my Sustainable Small Holding Workshop next month. Email for details to paul francis firstname.lastname@example.org See. Believe. Saint Canice Lifestyle Village is surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty. It is also where you ll find the charming Saint Canice Lifestyle Village. It boasts stately Victorian architecture and luxury two bedroom plus study Villa Apar tments that cater for all your needs. Here you are only minutes away from relaxing by the harbour side or fine dining and enter tainment. Live it, see it, believe it. Call us today for your personal tour on (03) 6216 7160. 15 St Canice Avenue, Sandy Bay • www.saintcanice.com.au Inspiring homes. BPST0006C/TC
April 5th 2012
April 19th 2012