LOG-JAMS & TURTLES

30-April-2015

If you’re in the revegetation business, and you’re good at what you do, then the chances are you never under-estimate a project’s potential to turn tricky. For example, you might be working on a level section of planting along a median strip – innocent enough until you see a trainload of returning commuters trample across [...]

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If you’re in the revegetation business, and you’re good at what you do, then the chances are you never under-estimate a project’s potential to turn tricky. For example, you might be working on a level section of planting along a median strip – innocent enough until you see a trainload of returning commuters trample across it each day to get to the car park. Being good at re-greening spaces clearly has a lot to do with understanding your local conditions, the unique set of stresses being placed on each site, and keeping yourself up with the best methods and tools available. Oh and one more thing, it’s good to take responsibility, to do the job well… for the long term.
Jock Hansen revegetates landscapes in and around Mackay where he’s lived and worked for more than a decade. The ‘green’ in his company’s name, Mackay Green Solutions, is all about making a positive long-term difference in a region that’s booming thanks to coal mining and a growing sea-change population. This boom, plus some intensive cane farming practices, are putting pressure on how well the broad landscape’s currently functioning. Various initiatives, with government and private funding are working to re-establish a balance, and Jock and his team are playing their part.

Planting into pure sand is tough but you can get results like this if you know what you’re doing and you don’t take short cuts.

PLANTING THE LOG JAMS
Take the work that’s being done along the banks of the O’Connell River to the north of Mackay. Restoration’s neces-sary thanks to the fact that there’s little existing vegetation in parts to hold the banks in place, especially in wet weather. “When we get 300ml of rain overnight during the wet season, the ground’s already saturated so there’s no-where for it to go.” One result is a swollen river with velocity that pulls the banks away. Another is poor water quality thanks to the silt being dragged along. This has negative spin-off effects on fish and the Great Barrier Reef just offshore. This ranks as a tricky project as getting plants to grow well on river banks is always a complex process. In this case, man-made ‘log jams’ were constructed, set at key points to slow the river flow and act as a buffer during big water events. Jock and his team have planted the area out with a thousand tubes so that a little over a year later, a riparian corridor is starting to take hold.

INTO THE PURE SAND

Another project to challenge Jock is planted into pure dune sand. “The site’s six hectares of foreshore in town which sits as a buffer between residents and the beach. The existing vegetation had been poisoned and cleared to maximise the ocean views and this lead to problems as it’s a turtle nesting site.” Without the screen of vegetation, the residential lighting is disorienting the turtles and disrupting their egg laying. It’s also an issue as dune and weather erosion will impact on these homes in the longer-term. “We began with the construction of a post & rail fence around the zone which helps to designate that this is a nest-ing site. We then planted 3500 plants, grown from seed col-lected locally. We were planting in the peak of the wet season so the ground was as wet as possible, but we’re working here with beach sand which holds no water and no nutrients.” Jock – like anyone with experience – could see the chal-lenges ahead. He’d need to help educate the locals about what he was doing: he’d also have to work out a way to get those plants established in a hostile site. Knowing what’s out there to help is part of being good at what Jock does. He’s worked with TerraCottem for 12 years now, most recently because it helps bridge the long dry gap in Mackay’s climate: little rain and over 30 degrees from Au-gust through to November and arguably too much water the rest of the year. “I took on the job on the basis that I could use TerraCottem and that I’d do the establishment maintenance. We all wanted it to succeed.” And it has. The TerraCottem is taking water from the sky or scheduled hand watering and keeping it available for the growing plants. It’s also given the sand a significant nutrient boost. “We’ve lost between three and four per cent which is very acceptable, and these were mostly undersized stock or disturbed by animals.”
Finger’s crossed the disturbance is all down to the return of the broody turtles.

THE TERRACOTTEM ADVANTAGE

TC Advantage is a package deal. It’s about supplying TerraCottem (more about that in a minute), along with all the training, technical specification and compliance needed to turn a tricky project into a genuine long-term success. So when anyone has a turf, street tree, revegetation or whatever project to tackle, bringing in the TC Advantage expertise means you get: advice on which TerraCottem product to specify; training so that it’s applied for maximum benefit; and monitoring to ensure compliance within the project’s specs. As for TerraCottem, it’s a brilliant soil conditioning treatment because it works on various fronts at the same time… To start with, it uses two main mechanisms to encourage substantial root development – polymers and root growth precursors. The polymers are a little like water-holding crystals except that TerraCot-tem’s hydroabsorbent polymers have been carefully selected and well researched. This means that instead of just one polymer with a narrow water-holding and water-releasing ability, there is a group of them providing the same function over a wide range, for years. To put it crudely, more water can be stored and released under a broader variety of conditions. (To put it precisely for specification purposes: TerraCottem has an absorption capacity of a minimum of 4500 g H2O/100 g in distilled water using Method of Analysis CEN EN 13041, with a minimum of 90% of the water contained in the polymers being plant available.) As for the root growth precursors, by definition a precursor is a chemical compound which leads to another. The precursors found in TerraCottem do exactly this, and for a very good reason. If you put growth hormones into soil, they rapidly biodegrade. But if you put precursors into the root zone, the plants get a kick-start by synthesising their own growth hormones. And this conducive environment – for optimum cell division and elongation – stays like this for 12 months.
Then there is a nicely varied collection of plant nutrients – soluble mineral fertilisers, in a format suited to the early growth phase of a plant; slow-release fertilisers, designed to offer a constant source of food over many months; and synthesised organic fertilisers which focus on the soil, stimulating microbiological activity and general soil health.
Add this all together and the result is fast and furious root establishment. This means greater accessibility to water, fewer losses, and, given the reciprocal dynamic between roots and canopy, noticeably vigorous growth. In the longer term, the soil conditioning power of TerraCottem means that plantings are buffered from stress. It’s great stuff.

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