Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Early work in the Valley - 2/18/10

My first task in the valley was a bit of weed control. But this kind of weeding too spades and loppers. We removed any wild Ginger or Woolly Nightshade we could find in the valley. There was enough ginger root to fill the back of a short pickup truck. Both plants spread quickly, are not native to NZ, provide little benefit, and compete for resources. To add insult, the ginger isn't even all that edible, so we have to burn it in the end.

The nightshade on the other hand is both easier, and more annoying. We can't rip it out of the ground, since it can grow into a 15ft tall tree. So we lop off the small ones, and chainsaw the big plants. The plant gives off a mildly foul smell when it is cut which can irritate asthma sufferers. By not killing the roots though, the plant tries to grow back eventually. We head back out a month or so after the first cutting and clip any new growth that's trying to survive. By repeating this a few times the plant runs out of vitality and dies, without the need of poisons or digging equipment.

Other valley tasks in the first couple weeks included releasing and mulching the trees and flax which had been planted previously. The valley has tall grasses (also not native) which need to be ripped up surrounding the fledgeling plants and tamped back down as a sort of fertilizer. We dump mulch on top of this to provide a bit of insulation, and also a layer which is more likely to hold on to water for longer. Both steps help the plants chances to survive the transplanting and a rough first year.

Jon is planting hundreds of Acacia trees imported from Australia. These plants are hardy and fast growers. They also help pull nitrogen out of the poor quality pastureland, and will eventually help kill the grasses due to shade, to help other plants have a chance to grow. So while these Acacias will ultimately be chopped down in 5-7 years, they will speed up the recovery process and improve the soil. In a few years native plants, and fruit trees will be able to be planted as well.

Other than the grassy fields waiting for Acacia, there are a few small garden plots which need far more attention, and volunteers in the spring to do them justice. There is also large brambley areas of blackberries which were getting ripe right as I was arriving. We've picked about 6 liters of them by now and make desserts and dressings out of them. There's also a nice tree covered creek, a currently dried up duck pond, plenty of 80 or so year old forest in the back, and a big marshy swamp that's been covered with grass for decades.

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