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Step 6. Develop a budget and planting plan

Costs of planting and managing trees varies with planting density, site, layout, species diversity, protection against browsing animals and weed control. Costs can be reduced with your own or volunteer labour. Typically, a full-service contractor (site preparation, supply plants, planting and follow-up maintenance) to achieve 85% survival after 12 months, will charge about $5,000 per hectare ($2,100 per acre). Within this cost, the unit cost of seedlings, planting and tree guarding would be about $3 per tree. Direct seeding is cheaper but with less control on species mix and more risk of successful establishment. State government grant programs can contribute to costs.

You probably won’t have the time or money to establish all your planned trees in one season. Plan to stage plantings over time, starting with priority areas. This also helps you to ‘learn as you go’. Having plantings of different ages can support different species of fauna and spread the risk of seasonal conditions or bad years affecting tree survival. Staged planting can smooth carbon sequestration because not all trees reach their peak growth at the same time.

Table 1 provides a timeline of actions required to establish trees on farm. It’s worth considering the long-term weather forecast into decisions on where to plant during the year, for instance avoiding low lying areas when wet weather is predicted.

Seedlings need to be ordered from the nursery well ahead to ensure they are available at the appropriate time. Order in the spring before you intend to plant in the following winter, giving the nursery about a year’s lead time. This ensures you get the amount and quality of seedlings you want with local provenance.

Site preparation is critical as weeds cause most failures to establish. Eliminating competition with grasses and weeds allows the seedling to access water. Aim for 100% weed control within minimum of 1 m of the planted seedling. Start the first phase of weed control after the autumn break and do another round in late winter/ spring before planting.

Browsing control is also important! It’s very frustrating to see half your trees eaten two days after planting. To reduce losses to animals, ensure fences keep livestock out. Tree guards on all seedlings can protect from browsing animals but are expensive and time consuming. Eradicating pest animals is more efficient for large plantings but requires repeated control programs through the year prior to planting.

For basic information on how to correctly plant seedlings refer to section 4 of Greening Australia’s planting guide.  

Create a simple calendar (as above) and identify what tasks will need to occur in which season/month to provide the best chance of success in establishing trees on your property. Identify the cost of planting and note any local grants or organisations that may be able to help with the establishment fees.