At the end of the project, a tall hedge of thorny bramble will be cleared along the outer road line. Once removed, the roadside will be exposed, and road noise will have a more significant impact on the farmhouse. Our native replanting will take the place of the old hedge, which is more suited the English countryside than our own.
To date we’ve cleared a significant volume of pest plants from the bush. Our hard work is providing ideal conditions for natural regeneration: we are already seeing many desirable “freebies” – self-sown seedlings – sprouting up from the forest floor.
Staying at ground level, we’ve employed the existing grasses, groundcovers and buttercup as a form of “living mulch”. These plants are an underutilised resource in environmental regeneration projects. On other sites, eradicating these plants and replacing them with bark mulch would often be the prefered course of action. We’ve decided to put them to work as a means of preserving soil moisture and keeping other weeds at bay and as a cost saving for the landowner.
The edge of the paddock adjacent to the main bush block at Ashmole Farm remains boggy for much of the year, due to the subterranean belt where peat features prominently. This soil composition means that rainwater sits at the surface level rather than draining away as it does for the majority of the paddock.
Instead of fighting against nature, the property owners have sacrificed this section of paddock, fencing off the peaty portion of land which we have since in-filled with native species. As the new plantings mature in this expansion area, they will bridge the two existing bush areas and assist with road screening and defining the central horse trail.
During the initial round of weed control, there was some debate around the buttercup, most prevalent at the point where the bush meets paddock. However, leaving the sectioned-off paddock grass and swathe of buttercup in situ was preferred to the “scorched earth” approach. Removing it en masse would risk inviting a fresh invasion of more problematic pest plants. A broadleaf spray has eliminated specific individual weeds.
Every quarter, we release the new plants from any grass and buttercup growth. This process creates a microclimate which maintains the soil moisture content and allows the trees to take hold.
As the trees mature, they will provide a canopy which will shade out the grass underneath and create an area conducive to further self-seeding and an inviting resting spot for seed-spreading birds.
Together with the farm owner, we may revisit the presence of the buttercup. We may later undertake a secondary wave of weed eradication and underplanting. But for now, paddock grass and buttercup is serving an important – and cost-effective! – purpose toward our efforts.