With my experience in farm planning and revegetation, people often ask me about planting trees on their property.  Here are my top five suggestions to avoid the biggest tree planting fails and get you started on a successful farm tree planting project:

1. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second-best time is NOW

Apparently, this little quote is a Chinese proverb.  In an Australian context, the best time to plant a tree would have actually been 200 years ago!  Our beautiful gums need many, many years to develop hollows that are essential habitat and nesting places for native species.  There is also a generational gap in tree age across much of our landscape.  Many of the old trees that you may see in the middle of paddocks, are ancient.  And to replace them will take hundreds of years.  So, it’s time to start cracking on that tree planting project, that you keep putting off.

2. Work with what you’ve got

Sometimes a tree planting project isn’t so much about planting (or revegetating), but conserving what remnant (existing) trees, shrubs and other native plants that are already growing.  It is much easier and often cheaper to improve and expand an existing patch than to start from scratch.  This may be as simple as an exclusion zone around paddock trees, so stock don’t camp under them and overload them with nutrients, or allowing native grass to set seed.

3. Look over the fence

If you’re lucky you may have a conservation park or road reserve nearby that will give you an idea of what native species grow naturally in your area.   Planting species that are suited to your local area, soils and climate will give you a better likelihood of success.  Another option is to look at your neighbours, have they planted tree lines, shelter belts or wind breaks?  What species did they use?  Where did they plant?  What spacings did they use?  A quick conversation over the fence may save you time and money but also might lead to a bigger project (see next point).

4. Build connectivity and layers

Well selected species will provide habitat for wildlife, but connecting to existing remnants, creeklines, gullies etc will bring positives for the flow of wildlife.  With diminished areas of undisturbed habitat, these linkages and corridors are becoming increasingly important.  Linkages help to create a larger range for wildlife to utilise, assist then in moving across landscapes as they search for food, shelter or mates.  Likewise, creating vegetation layers in your planting will provide greater habitat potential.  Trees, shrubs, sedges, grasses and groundcovers are all part of the layers that you can create in your planting.  Some small birds nest very close to the ground.  Find out what you are trying to attract, then plant for it.

5. Don’t walk away

Don’t think that your job is done once you’ve hammered in the tree stakes.  If you fence out an area for tree planting, one of the most important things to remember is to put a gate in.  You will need it.  There will be weed control, you may need to water or crash graze to reduce the fire hazard.  You have dedicated this area for revegetation, now you need to manage it for that.


Finally help is out there…

By talking to your neighbours, you may not only discover some helpful tips, but perhaps there are special grants for revegetating in your local area.  Your local Landcare group or catchment authority is also a good place to start.  Likewise, Greening Australia or Trees for Life may assist with species selection and provide direct seeding services if you decide that is best for you.  Perhaps there is a local community nursery nearby that grows local plants.

I’ve attached a link to one of the handiest practical tree planting guides that I’ve come across from Holbrook Landcare Group.  It outlines a 12-month planning guide and practical tips for planting tubestock which is applicable across much of south-eastern Australia.



Time poor or need more?

Please use the comments section to contact me about your revegetation project or email me directly at sarahmbarrett2007@hotmail.com