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Flat land

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:13 pm
by brettmtl
Hi everyone, this is my first post and I am very thrilled to have found this forum and Peter Andrews is one of my heroes.

I recently bought 84 acre of land in north/central Victoria. It is dead flat, not a tree on it and when I bought it, not a blade of grass due to it being heavily grazed with sheep.

The reason I bought it was to create some canal systems and forest.

Now I have a few questions that, people might be able to help me with.

1) If I dig canals on this flat land and when they are filled with water, will this raise or lower the water table? They would be about 1.5 metres deep.

2)Have any people used a mechanical tree planter? and if so what is the best type.

3) Is there any funding available for tree planting and will someone grow the trees for me?

Please feel free to offer any other advice.

Thank you in advance


Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:42 pm
by brettmtl

This is a photo of the land.

A blank canvas

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:56 am
by Ian James
Welcome Brett, :D

I'm sure you will find your involvement with NSF very rewarding.

Your block of land looks fantastic and your plans for its future sound interesting. You have purchased a blank canvas upon which you can create art.

It will be fascinating to follow your progress.

The reason I bought it was to create some canal systems and forest.

Please tell us what your inspiration was to create the planned canal systems. :?:

What are your long term goals and land use targets :?:

What do you hope to achieve from the canals :?:

Tree planters work very well and there is a huge number of different designs. Although for large scale plantings such as what you will be undertaking it is not the only way, remember that nature itself will plant 95% of your forest if you do things correctly; you need only to start the natural sequence or take away the impediments to the natural sequence, such as livestock. :!:

Your question about lowering or raising the water table is not one that could be answered correctly without a full investigation of your site by a very competent land care specialist. :D

Remember that planting a forest will lower your water table and this is very healthy if it is caused by the forest alone. 8)

It would depend very much upon your local catchment conditions and your placement within it, including the interaction of your water with your immediate neighbors. :)

It would not surprise me at all if even after a thorough investigation of all known factors the exact opposite of what you expect to result from the building of your canals is what you observe. :?

My main advice is that you proceed with caution. :o

You should undertake trials on a small scale to test the response of your land to the changes you are planning.

At all times expect the unexpected. :shock:

The result of large scale tree plantings is very well understood and I would encourage you to begin on a large scale with confidence that you will improve your land health quickly and remarkably.

The key word when planning large scale tree plantings it diversity. :D

This is a core NSF principle. :!:

Forget large mono-culture plantings of single plant species. :twisted:

Think instead about investigating any local remnant forest areas to find which species of plants are existing in the natural landscape and plant a mix of these trees. :D

Remember to include shrubs and other smaller less noticeable varieties in your mix.

You will have great success from seed collecting and direct seeding of these seeds using a normal farm seeding machine used by farmers to crop cerials in your area. Best results are from scattering the seed into the fertiliser which is used as a carrier of the seeds due to the extremely small size of most native seed types.

Seed collecting is fun and easy. :D Just ask your local land care officer for advice. :P

You will find that once you exclude grazing stock from your land that it will revert to forest very quickly without you planting a single seed or plant. :D :D :D :D

What you should target is to be a gentle guiding assistant to nature in the restoration of your land. :wink:

Let nature do the work for you. Do not try to control nature. Instead aim to assist nature in the areas that you would prefer. :wink:

In this way I mean, if you prefer a certain species of tree then scatter those seeds to give this plant a head start over your less preferred species.

This is better than going out and eradicating those less preferred species when the likelihood is that you will ultimately fail anyway and waste your valuable resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.

Your success will depend on your willingness to work with nature. Not on your determination to control it. 8)

What do you hope to achieve by building canals :?:

Re: A blank canvas

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:46 am
by brettmtl
Hi Ian thanks a lot for your friendly welcome and I have been reading your updates with great interest. It sounds like you are achieving wonderful results.

You certainly are right that I couldn't get much more of a blank canvass and that is why I bought it. :D

The canal system is a dream I had when I was about 19. The most diverse and richest area for growth is the banks of the river. Here in Victoria the gullies in most dry eucalypt forest are and were covered with ferns and other lush rainforest species.

So by creating a canal system I plan to create a lot more of this zone.
Because this property is a big square, I have found the centre point and that will be where my base(shed, water tanks will be placed). :wink:
This will be my water catchment area and as the land is dead flat, water will flow from this point to anywhere on the property.

But I don't want to flood all the land. Rather I want to use the water from my tanks as a trickle feed for a series of canals that spiral around my centre point/shed and water tanks. There is not enough rainfall(350mm) per year to have it flowing like a river, so I would rather link these canals with drainage ditches.

These drainage ditches are dry when there is no rain, but when it rains they flow and link up all the canals and in turn all rain that falls on my property will be caught and stored in the canals.

At the moment there is a drainage ditch, that runs through the centre of the property, to remove excess water on the odd chance it does rain :cry:
The land then becomes bone dry again.

The idea of the canal system is to keep the water on my property as long as possible and to provide different types of zones for plants and animals.

Long term say 50 years I would plan on this land starting to resemble, now don't laugh, rainforest :shock:

The reason for wanting rainforest is that it is virtually fireproof, is the original gondwana plant species and by its own makeup attracts moisture and so cools the area, which will long term hopefully lessen the chance of drought.

The forest will act as a carbon sink to offset carbon and the canals will irrigate the forest.

I have already started the process, by repairing fences and livestock haven't been on property for about three months.

I will check for what species are growing back and keep you updated

many blessings


Aim for the top.

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:43 pm
by Ian James
Well I always say, when target shooting you point for the bull eye, then even if you don't hit the eye you will hit the bull.
Go for it

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:16 pm
by duane
You guys are off to a good start.

Let me add a few lessons I have learnt on my nsf journey.

1. no piece of land is dead may have a fall of 1" in a mile but it still has a it is'nt flat although it may appear like that to the naked eye

2.trying to gain an understanding of how your lands hydrology and plants, will work together.....deep canals will not offer a natural solution...all modern human engineering structures have created problems

3.vegetation, of whatever mix and permanent ground cover, will prevent soil moisture loss; a build up in OM content of 1% will guarantee an increase in soil misture content of 5%

4.Ian's advice to work with Nature and not against it is prima facie NSF.

We all look forward to following your nsf journey Brett...thanks for sharing it with all the other nsf'ers on this site.

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:31 pm
by duane
Hi Brett

I believe the following video would be of strong interest to you.
It was made by Geoff Lawton, of Permaculture fame, and does suggest doing to the land somewhat along the lines you were looking at.

Click on ... rg%2Eau%2F

Just about everything in it Peter would agree with, I'm sure.

Check it out and give us your take on it.

Pure simplified genius

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:24 pm
by brettmtl
Duane thank you so much.

That pretty much sums up my vision.

It is pure brilliance and I have already watched it twice. Come to think of it, it was after reading some of Bill Mollison's, Permaculture books that got me thinking along these lines. I will have to check out some of those other videos on youtube.

I think I might experiment first with shallow swales/canals first, similar to the video, and then as it evolves I can vary the depth, to find the optimum depth. As you and Ian suggest there is no need to over engineer

Who knows maybe someone already knows the optimum depth and it is simple a matter of finding them.

Thanks once again for your generous support.

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:42 am
by duane
Brett, the optimal depth is around 1 needs to be no deeper because of the way the CONTOUR is built (see youtube video again) must not be a ditch or a has to be built on the contour and that contour can run for miles. This will capture and hold more m3 than a dam and because the lower side of the contour wall is below the height of the upper contour wall, water in the contour can gently flow over the top into the mulch carrying and moving fertility downwards courtesy of gravity.

If you get a series of these they will be very much like the natural runnels of the Aussie landscape...a series of grass covered dams.

The planting sequence to follow the hydrology is important as well,,a good biodiverse mix inc. fruit trees, rainforest spp etc etc

I reckon your rainforest could start appearing and realising your dream in less than 12mnths after completion of these contoured swales. You will just need a rain event to 'trigger' the whole process.

But you need to get the detailing 100% correct on these contoured swales...they must be dead level contours....even a 1% fall makes them a DRAIN...and they wont function as you want them.


Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:46 pm
by brettmtl
Your on the ball Duane.

I didn't see or hear the part where they say 1m is the optimal depth, or have you heard that from other sources?

I understand what you mean about the contour of the land and even though it looks dead flat there is a slight slope, I will need to survey or view some detailed maps and run along the contour.

I better get into gear as the winter rains will be soon approaching and that this can happen a lot sooner than I expected.

Your plant species mix is good and if rainforest can appear in the next 12 months, that will exceed my wildest dreams. But hey who knows what nature is capable of.

Once again thanks a lot for your commitment.

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:35 pm
by duane
Hi Brett

Burrendong Botanic Garden and Arboretum was established in 1964 and covers approximately 167 ha. It is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of Australia's unique and incredibly diverse flora and they have done what you want to do ...established a rain forest. Just Goggle Burrendong Arboretum, its near WELLINGTON in NSW.

Do your research on what temperate rainforest plants might once have been in your area...temperate rainforest once covered enormous areas of Australia and even extended to Tassie.

You will have heaps of plants to chose from.....remember the key to rainforest is biodiversity...I was doing research on tropical rainforest in a previous life in NQ.

We had 200 different tree species per acre and the same spp never appeared more than once in that acre.

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:11 am
by brettmtl
Thanks Duane,

Sounds like an interesting previous life

You are right, there are many options for plant selection. I will gather as many seed types as possible and see which ones can adapt. I might need to reseed a few times for some of the more fragile species to germinate.

I went to property on the weekend, and apart from finding 3 shetland ponies on it from next door was amazed at the growth of the grasses and shrubs, probably a foot high.

After chasing the shetlands off and repairing fence I noticed land isn't dead flat but has a rather slight slope from a hill about 2 km away.

So am about to buy a laser level and peg out contours, probably every 50 to 80 metres, and then the fun/excavation begins.

One other concern I have are livestock, shetland ponies on one side, cattle at the back and sheep on the other side. The fences are around 20 years old and I have repaired them, but my main concern is in a few years time, when there is lush growth on my property and no food on the livestock properties, will they break the fences down to get to the food. And it wont be easy to get them out as there will be trees and anyway I don't want them or me trampling my forest trying to get them out.

Now should I run a couple of stands of electric along existing fence, or peg a new fence, say 500mm away from old fence and barb and electrify? My main concern isn't cost, it is keeping the livestock out for the next 30 years.

Posted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:54 pm
by duane
Costs for farmers is always a BIG issue....I think the voice of experience could help you here...any friendly farmers or fencing contractors got some good and cheap advice for Brett????....pls let us know here....thanks

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:23 am
by ColinJEly
Hello Brett
If you go to the Landcare website they have a program called CARBONSmart, where the government pays you to grow trees.



quick update

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:45 pm
by brettmtl
Hi everyone,

Thanks for your support and ideas.

Quick update: After talking to some locals, will run strand of electric along top of old fence, as I saw with my own eyes a cow jump the fence. This is the most effective method I am told.

Then will dig around 3km of 1m deep contour swale. Have started collecting seed, mainly acacias, as they put nitrogen into the soil and the black wattles are fast and shortlived.

Currently raising the money.

On a side note, for those interested I uploaded a video to youtube, of me connecting with a massive tree in the cool temperate rainforest of Victoria. :wink:

My tree nature