Two years ago we were fortunate to acquire an adjoining six acres of cattle pasture which was overgrown with lantana, milky bean, blady and hamel grass. This new area of land was able to be combined with our original eight acres which is 90% rainforest.

Leaving a good, sizable area of rainforest or trees on one's property serves as a marvelous windbreak and also creates a micro climate and a habitat for our native birds and animals which help to control insect populations.

When we acquired the new land, we decided the best possible way in which we could improve the soil, which is yellow clay with a very shallow top soil, was as follows:

The easiest way to clear off the overgrowth was to hire a dozer. Under instructions, the dozer driver was careful not to push up the top soil - only the lantana etc. Within one day it was done. It looked like a desert. We wondered if we had done the right thing. But taking a positive attitude, we just could picture it with fruit trees growing all over that hill in the near future.

The heaps of brush were then burnt and the ashes spread over the soil. The next task was to air the soil. The soil was packed hard over the years by heavy, cloven-hoofed cattle and horses. We were able to hire a set of rippers for our tractor from our neighbour, so the job began of ripping the soil to a depth of 18 inches or two feet. it was hard work on the old Massey, but she handled it beautifully. The soil was so very hard.

Bumper discs were then pulled criss-cross and round and round the land, breaking up the hard lumps and at the same time levelling the ground, as the land was full of holes and dips. Then a sheet of six inch arc mesh weighed down with logs was pulled along in the same manner to further level the ground. It took quite a few days of preparation. We decided then that the soil needed more than just aerating. We then hired the lime spreader and gave the ground two tonnes of lime to the acre and five bags of superphosphate to the acre. Julatten soils are badly lacking in phosphates.

The most important of all now was to establish ground cover before the wet weather, as we did not want to lose one bit of our precious soil.

A few enquires were made, and the legume seed, Desmondium silverleaf was chosen because it does not curl around things and also Eurano stylo and Cook stylo as a supplement.

We had a bit of difference of opinion about when to plant the seed. I won. We planted the seed in September. I always planted peas and beans (legumes) then, and they grow well, so should the legumes, I thought. The soil was still cool and moist and there was enough lovely sunshine to get the seeds up. It was a big task. Firstly all the sticks and roots had to be picked up and then the seed was spread by hand, careful not to miss any areas. We then used the arc mesh towed behind the tractor again to cover the seeds, going over the ground a few times.

Within a few days we received some lovely spring showers. The legumes popped up and what a beautiful sight. The desert was transformed into a mass of green.

The legumes seeded in about January - February, and we did not slash until after the seed pods opened. The legumes are growing well. They have already covered the ground in a thick mat, and our big plan is to slash down the legumes every so often, which will provide mulch for the soil, and the legumes will also provide nitrogen to the soil in the form of root nodes. The earth worms are now doing the work for us, multiplying and improving the soil.

We have now sold our heavy Massey 65 as we want to get right away from soil compaction. We are in the process of buying a small light tractor with a mid-mounted slasher for easy manoeuvreability around the fruit trees.

Soon the green patch will be a forest of fruit trees. The joy of planting trees has begun on the new land.

Christine Gray

DATE: January 1983

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