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Establishing Trees on Farms

  • Trees need to be ordered well in advance (preferably 6 months) to ensure supply of good quality seedlings at the right age. Plant a mix of local indigenous species. The local nursery will be able to assist you with selection for your farm,
  • Where soils are heavy or have shallow surface soil over clay, ripping down to about 40-60 cm when the soil is dry is essential to improve root penetration & development, aeration, infiltration of rain and allow for good tree growth.
  • Poor weed control accounts for most tree planting failures. Weeds can reduce growth rates by up to 70% compared to weed free sites and can decrease survival from an expected 90% of trees to 10%.
  • Carry out weed control before planting. Aim to keep an area 0.6 m - 1 m radius around a tree clear for the first year. A 1 m radius for 2 years gives maximum benefits.
  • A weed control mix should ideally contain a contact herbicide to kill existing pasture and weeds and a residual herbicide to stop new plants from germinating. When using a residual mix, care must be taken not to mix the soil when planting otherwise the tree may be killed. Discard the top part of the core.
  • Areas, which risk waterlogging or frost in winter should be planted in spring - sometimes as late as November.
  • Areas which dry out early in summer, such as north and west facing slopes, should be planted as soon as possible after the autumn break.
  • Soak the seedlings in their pots the day before planting.
  • Most farm trees will not require fertiliser when planted into farm land.
  • Where pests (e.g. hares/rabbits) are a problem and tree numbers are not too great, individual tree guards are an option.
  • It is important to only stake the guards and not the trees. Trees grown with the aid of stakes have a reduced chance of staying upright when stake removed. If you find a tree constantly falls over unless staked it is best to find another species for that area.
  • Metal mesh guards should only be used in sheltered areas as the wind can damage the tree against them. Plastic tubes or other guards, which fully exclude the wind, have a similar affect to stakes in that they don’t encourage a strong, supportive root system.
  • Electric fences can be placed 1.2 m closer to the base of the tree than conventional fencing as cattle will not butt their heads through.
  • Trees and shrubs must be protected from stock for at least the first three years.
  • If weed control, planting and guarding are done properly there should be little maintenance required in the first few years.
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