How to: regenerate bushland in your back yard

This is a joint guest post with Kath Gadd and Hannah Preston from Mallee Design.

Regenerating your own patch of bushland is exciting and rewarding. You get to see first-hand the return of native birds, bees and other wildlife that follow when native vegetation re-establishes. Even the most degraded places can be regenerated with a bit of support, so why not have a go? It might sound daunting, but there are actually some simple steps everyone can take towards looking after whatever patch they have. 

First, it is a good idea to assess how healthy your bushland is and become familiar with the weeds that are present. Get to know the key species invading your area and learn about the best way to remove them. Here in the Illawarra region, there are some common weeds, such as Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphori), Privet (Ligustrum lucidum and L. sinese), Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia), African Olive (Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata), Cotoneaster (C. glaucophyllus), Asparagus Fern (A. aethiopicus), Wild Ginger (Hedychium garderianum), Trad (Tradescantia fluminensis) and Panic Veldt Grass (Ehrharta erecta). You will soon get to know these weeds if they are on your property. Different techniques are used to manage each species, so make sure you know what weeds you’re dealing with and the best way to tackle them. You can reach out to Growing Illawarra Natives or other groups on Facebook, or check out the resources at  this link to help you identify and approach your weed situation.

Many useful resources on weed identification and management are available, such as the NSW Government's WeedWise website

When weeding, it’s generally a good idea to start from the least infested areas and work your way out from there. See what comes up after removal of the weeds - are there natives regenerating already or do you need to go back and weed on a few occasions before natives can re-establish? More often than not, native species will start to come up on their own after clearing and you can work with the natural regeneration process to help restore your site. Hundreds of local species will establish in spots that suit them, including trees such as Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus populifolius) and Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius), shrubs such as Sandfly Zieria (Z. smithii), groundcovers like Commelina (C. cyanea) or Native Violet (Viola hederacea), and even some of the local ferns. 

Natural regeneration in action: this area was weeded for around 12 months, after which a range of native species germinated. They include Sweet Pittosporum (P. undulatum), Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus populifolius), Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus) and Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aethiopicum). Image by Emma Rooksby. 
If nothing comes up after the weeds are gone it could mean that much of the remaining seed bank is dormant, depleted or wiped out. This is uncommon and unfortunate, but in these cases you can still plant native species based on what might have been there in the past. Check out resources such as the Illawarra Remnant Bushland Database or the Trees Near Me NSW app to find native species lists for areas near you.  

This area has been carefully weeded and mulched, and selective plantings added to support local biodiversity. As time goes by, local native species are self-seeding into the area. Image by Emma Rooksby.

Steep sites and slopes require a more careful approach. Removing all the weeds/vegetation on a steep site results in an erosion problem, particularly in rainy periods. To stop a weed issue becoming an erosion issue avoid clearing large areas on a slope, and replace weeds immediately with native species to help stabilise the soil. Alternatively, you can use a natural geofabric pegged into the area once cleared, which will hold the soil in place. Making holes and planting into this fabric straight away will get some soil-binding roots growing through the site as soon as possible. With time the fabric will degrade and you might get some natives regenerating from the seed bank too.

This steeply sloping area is 100% regrowth, about five years after large-scale weed removal was conducted. Much of the vegetation is native, including Brush Cherry (Syzygium austral) and Pencil Cedar (Polyscias murrayi) developing a canopy, and Pollia (Pollia crispata) in the understorey, but weed and erosion management are ongoing challenges on the site.  

When regenerating your backyard, follow these four principles:

  1. Retain. Many Illawarra properties adjoin natural areas and contain patches of native vegetation, either regrowth or sometimes older forest remnants that are already doing a lot for the surrounding ecosystem. Let them, grow, persist and if you’re struggling to work out what’s what consult the GIN Facebook page or one of the Facebook Groups on weeds and bush regeneration in Australia.

  2. Regenerate. Make a plan for treating and monitoring weeds and give your site the best chance for natural diversity to flourish. 

  3. Replant. In those places where the bush has lost its resilience to regenerate naturally, start to plant out with species that are native to the area and which could have grown there in the past.  

  4. Seek advice. Engage professionals if you need support. There are many conservation and land management / bush regeneration professionals living and working in this region, and some also have skills in working in urban gardens and garden design. We are working on a list of local organisations and individuals who can help, but for now you can pop onto the GIN FaceBook page for advice and recommendations. 

These principles and plenty of other useful information are set out on the this GIN webpage, written by local bush regenerator Louise Brodie.

Happy regenerating!

Even an area as small as a front verge can be regenerated to provide habitat for local birds and invertebrates. Image by Jess Whittaker.


No comments

Post a Comment