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MANGAWHAI'S NO.1 NEWSPAPER

Gardening with Gael - Life above and below the soil

 

Winter, it appears, is finally here. June is the first of the winter months and I am relieved to hear that the temperatures in the north are dropping. The peonies, roses and tulips and some of the deciduous trees will be happy too. Cooler temperatures reduce the number of bugs and the garden rests. As the lawns slow down so do the weeds, giving gardeners time to relax as well.

We are in the South Island just in time for the first big dump of snow. Unlike rain and wind, snow is very quiet, falling silently from the sky, settling a clean white layer on everything. For us from the north the resulting beauty is remarkable. We arrived in the last days of autumn to Ruby and Mark’s farm near Omarama at the Southern end of the Mackenzie Basin and near the Ahuriri Conservation Park. We approached via the beautiful tussock covered Lindis Pass. Having recently read The Secret Life of Trees I was keen to view some beech forests which were the main subject of the books scientific research. The deforestation of the area is well documented by John Dawson who writes for Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Maps indicate the original forested areas and show the deforestation brought about by humans over the years. There is also documented evidence of the exchange of nutrients from the fungi in exchange for sugars from the trees and the fact that the presence of these fungi also aid the growth of small trees.

Ruby is trying to establish some beech trees on their property. Of the five varieties of beech the one most suited to this area would be Nothofagus solandrii or Black beech which is more drought tolerant than some of the other varieties. Red beech [Nothofagus fusca] and Silver beech [Nothofagus menziesii] both grow as far north as Rotorua, Te Aroha and Thames. The trees here need to be tolerant of cold and drought.

Mycorrhizal fungi not only help with the absorption of minerals but it appears they also are supportive in the establishment of young trees.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi co-exist with native beech trees and also manuka and kanuka. It may be beneficial to add some of the right fungi to her soil.

Years ago when we bought our first citrus tree, one of my mother’s friends suggested we take some soil from around her well established and prolifically producing citrus of the same type. We did. We half filled a bucket from under her tree and sprinkled it around our new tree. The success of our tree encouraged us to do the same thing each time we planted. Now I realise that is exactly what we were doing – translocating beneficial organisms from one tree to another. 

Studying the life under the soil is proving to be as interesting as the establishment of the tree above the soil. Box recently planted a hillside of kanuka and manuka. It seemed to take a while for these trees to establish themselves. It would be interesting to know if we had collected soil from around well established manuka whether the growth of the small trees would have been more rapid.

Years ago when we bought our first citrus tree, one of my mother’s friends suggested we take some soil from around her well established and prolifically producing citrus of the same type.

 
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