We’ve been thinking for a while about trying out some farm forestry on Wordwood, and in Dec 2015 we finally got around to it. I have some experience of mixed plantings of native cabinet timbers around Brisbane and Samford and was keen to give it a go (for further info see, eg, the link to Mitchell’s Forest Farming System under Land for Wildlife in the Links to the right of this page). However, one of the key species used in those plantings won’t tolerate the winter frosts on the Darling Downs. And, of course, it was the one that grows fast and straight and drives everything else upwards in search of light! Hmmmm…. After much reading, consulting with friends and checking out what grows naturally in our area, I came up with some substitutes. Time will tell how good a substitute they are!
Our plot is in the north-west corner of the property, protected from the worst of the westerly winds by a stand of eucalypts. The area was grazed before we arrived on the scene, so I only needed to remove a few straggly wattles. We chose to plant on some of the best soil on the block, being mostly a lovely dark loam, with a small patch of clayier loam soil running across it. The rows run roughly east-west. They were meant to be exactly east-west, but I left the compass in Brisbane when we marked out! Still, they are pretty close. The rows are three metres apart, with a tree every three metres. So far we have planted 120 trees.
We chose our timber species mostly based on what grows naturally in the area. Being in SEQ means there’s a good selection of local cabinet timber species to chose from! The plot is a bit of an experiment, so we have used small numbers of more species, to get an idea of what does best. Small numbers will also hopefully mean less likelihood of pests being attracted to a particular species and create a more ‘natural’ ecosystem. Our timber species are:
Black Bean (Castanospermum australe)
Crows’ Ash (Flindersia australis)
Yellowwood (Flindersia xanthoxyla)
White Beech (Gmelina leichhardtii)
Silky oak (Grevillea robusta)
White Cedar (Melia azedarach)
Red Cedar (Toona ciliata)
We’ve also included some Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii) spaced among the other species, as a longer-term prospect for harvest.
However, the bulk of the trees planted are Black Wattle (Acacia melanoxylon) and Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus). These make up every second row, with a few others spaced throughout. The plan is that these faster growing species establish quickly, provide shelter for the main timber trees and the competition for light gets them all growing upwards rather than spreading. Plus both of these ‘nursery’ species have some value as timber as well, so once they’ve done their job they can be selectively harvested and hopefully provide an early return on our investment. The other species can be selectively harvested over time, replanting as we go to keep the forest ‘regenerating’. Well that’s the plan…
If the forestry plan DOESN’T work, at worst we’ll have an interesting patch of dry rainforest. So to my mind its a win either way!