This week, our podcast host Tim Dangen sat down with restoration planting expert Adam Thompson. Adam is a beef farmer and the owner of native plant nursery, Restore Native. He works to grow native plants primarily for planting on farms, so he has lots of experience in helping farmers to restore areas of native bush on their farms.
Right from the start, it was clear that Adam is super passionate about growing trees, and he wants to share that passion with other farmers. “You plant a tree, you see it grow, you're involved in that process. And, you know, we're just as farmers so deeply connected to things growing and what's happening in the world. It's like planting a crop but on a whole other scale. And then when you overlay those environmental benefits the feeling of doing good and then for me, like I'm a massive bird nerd, as well and a bit of a tree nerd. So there are those things that just make living on the land even better if you can help to improve it.”
The first takeaway from the chat was that planting natives is not a “set and forget, you can't just biff it on the ground walk away and expect in five years, there’s a forest, it doesn't work like that,” says Adam. To help native plants establish on the land, you should do a pre-spray of the area to get rid of any grasses or weeds that might grow and outcompete the plant. Another spray in spring after you’ve planted the plant might help it get a leg up as well. And if you plan to plant in an area that’s really weedy, it might pay off to spend some time getting the weeds under control to ensure successful planting.
Our next takeaway will probably sound familiar, because it’s “right tree, right place.” Adam says: “it's important to sort of understand what each tree does, that adds benefit.” He gives the example of which species to choose for riparian planting. Often people’s go-to is to plant flax, because flaxes live in swamps, but “actually a flax on a stream bank is actually a terrible idea, because if it erodes under that flax, they can get sucked into the water, and then they float down the water and smash out your culvert.” Instead, he says you should plant: “carex, grasses, sedges, and stuff growing right on the stream. And the way they operate is if it floods, they just lie down, the water flows over top of them, when the flood goes, they stand up again.” He recommends observing what’s thriving in a particular environment and getting advice from local nurseries to help figure out which tree is best to grow in an area.
The last takeaway from this chat is that you can get great gains from planting a wetland. Adam says that wetlands are a “real, go to quick reward,” because they grow fast and are biodiversity hot-spots. He’s of the opinion that: “every farm needs a wetland, to manage your own sediment and nutrient runoff. The wetland sucks it all up and the water flows out of your property just as good or better than what it flooded.” So how do you start regenerating a wetland? Adam recommends looking at what you already have and how it can be improved. For example if the wetland had been grazed down, you’ll need to exclude stock. Then, he says you can start planting in layers, so first plant: “carex, grasses, and sedges, they're really good for stopping erosion and providing food for invertebrates.” After that, plant: “lots of flaxes, and cabbage trees, which can stabilise that land and provide food for birds, which are, in turn are going to return more seeds to the area and allow the establishment of that ultimate canopy, which in a swamp environment, depending on where you are in the country are going to be things like a kahikatea and rimu.” That planting blueprint is just a guide, and every wetland is different, so Adam recommends getting local advice before starting.
Finally, Adam ended the conversation with this conclusion: “Fundamentally, like farmers are good at growing things, and if they apply themselves to their projects they want to do in terms of, you know, restoring native vegetation, they can achieve some awesome things.”
Listen to the full podcast episode at this link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7eiXsmCEfAiLbGWKXwlnb0?si=25fa2c1d44fc4100. You can also find the Our Farms, Our Future podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, and be sure to subscribe to see when new episodes are released! And to hear more about Adam Thompson’s work at Restore Native, follow them on social media @restorenativenz.
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