A Freeling farm devastated by the Pinery fires is coming back to life following the planting of native shelterbelts.
Photo: For the shelterbelts, trees were planted three metres apart, guarded and irrigated by polypipe and a tap timer (Chris Heinjus).
The Pinery bushfire of November 2015 wiped out many established trees and shrubs on the property which had previously helped protect soil, provide shelter for livestock and contributed to the area’s biodiversity.
When the fire swept through Chris and Diona Heinjus’s 30 ha property, much of the vegetation was destroyed, including the important shelter provided by 150 pine trees.
Chris developed a plan to re-establish native shelterbelts, with assistance from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges (AMLR) staff.
In March 2016, 80 per cent of the affected area was planted with up to 400 tubestock trees and shrubs, many grown by volunteers.
At a shed talk Chris hosted on his property to discuss lessons learned, Natural Resources AMLR district ecologist Kate Graham explained how shelterbelts were habitat for beneficial animals such as honeyeaters, which devour 30 kg of insects each year. Shelterbelts also attract Nankeen Kestrels, which eat rodents, and Black Shouldered Kites, which feed off seed and mice. These native vegetation refuges also attract ‘good bugs’ - native parasitic wasps, ladybird larvae and lacewings – which prey on insect pests.
At the shed talk, Ann Brown from Greening Australia described how to design shelterbelts. She said solid dense rows can cause eddying and wind turbulence, and thus erosion. Instead, a shelterbelt with 50 per cent permeability is preferred. Tall trees should be planted in centre rows, with smaller bushy fire resistant plants on the outside. Choose local native species - Myoporum is highly resistant to fire, while tea trees tend to recover well after fire.
Photo: Peter Heinjus with guards used to protect the young trees (Chris Heinjus).
Ann also advised landholders to plan shelterbelts well ahead, ordering plants now for planting next year. She advised people to:
• rip soil a year ahead to encourage plants to establish quicker
• plant carefully and ensure that the tubestock root mass is covered with soil to prevent water loss through evaporation
• always use tree guards
• fence the area well from livestock
• water, if necessary, in spring (once per month depending on weather conditions)
• regularly check plants.
For his property, Chris selected local species of Melaleuca, Acacia and Allocasuarina, in particular Melaleuca lanceolata, and River red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) to plant in the watercourse. Trees were planted three metres apart, uniformly in some rows and randomly in others. Holes were dug to 400 mm with a fence post auger, while the sides were dug further by hand to avoid any compact edges which could hinder root growth. Chris said irrigating tubestock is essential in dry conditions and holes should be watered before planting.
One further handy hint from Chris when planting large trees such as river red gums: Take a moment to look up occasionally or you might find yourself planting under a power line!
Natural Resources AMLR supported Chris’s shed talk and the free replacement tubestock for landholders. For further information on how to successfully establish shelterbelts contact your local Natural Resources AMLR office through 8273 9100.