19 November 2020
A more sustainable solutionby KYLIE TREBLE
Can small change lead to big picture difference? I believe it can. Are you up for it?
In every context we need to adopt diversity and resourcefulness and where better to start than in our gardens.
The garden around the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre was showing signs of neglect. We could have sprayed chemicals carte blanche over the weeds, we could have purchased metres of plastic weed mat to cover the soil and we could have ordered truck loads of tree chipped mulch, but with good reason, we didn't.
What we did do was chainsaw to remove woody weeds, painting only the cuts with small amounts of herbicide, thereby using less herbicide. Also a cut painted within 30 seconds of being made absorbs the herbicide. As all plants transpire there is sap and water movement pressure within their stems. Cuts create suction as the water pressure changes hence the absorption of the herbicide.
Then we whipper snipped herby weeds leaving them to drop and create a green mulch layer. This is beneficial in at least two ways, the green material provides food for decomposing soil critters and then by not pulling the weeds, root systems are left to decompose in the soil providing beautiful oxygen and water entry pathways.
Next we gathered carbon rich cardboard from local businesses and laid a jigsaw of beer, toilet paper and lolly boxes over the soil surface. Cardboard is primarily composed of cellulose which both feeds decomposers and provides a source of humus which stays in our soil for hundreds of years. Due to humus's longevity it is the perfect home for soil critters. This longevity also means that carbon is locked in the soil for long periods and as such our actions mean we are sequestering carbon - always a good thing in the face of carbon induced climate change.
Finally we covered the boxes with locally grown hay. Again enormously beneficial as the seeds in the hay will hopefully grow providing photosynthates (sugars) to our soil critters and hence giving them a food source upon which they can prosper. (Yes, it's all about the soil and the critters that it supports).
In the future as the soil improves we hope to introduce new plants and continue mulching cycles. But for now we wait and observe, working with the site to improve soil health, planting to provide diverse habitat, oh, and making it look inviting to humans.
"I was initially embarrassed when Kylie and the Port Campbell Biolinks group approached us with an offer to improve the garden beds around the Visitor Information Centre. They tactfully informed us that as well as having a good spread of important endemic species we had a very healthy representation of the very weeds they were trying to eliminate from their nearby plantings.
The solution in hindsight was simple and over 5 well-co-ordinated hours and two days we attacked shiny leaf, ivy, onion weed, and grey pittosporum while crawling carefully around Silver Banksia, Port Campbell Guinea Flower, Tasman Flax, Brown Stringybark, Drooping Sheoak and Coast Beard Heath. During this time I learned that recycling cardboard is not necessarily the most environmentally sustainable solution, that the Silver Banskia near the front door of our VIC was probably pollinated by a ring tailed possum, that gardening together with laughter beats artificial fertilizer and that that chicks with chainsaws should probably rule the world."
"Thankyou to the Port Campbell community and the bio-links group for telling it like it was and providing a solution. While we may still be a fair way off being Port Campbell's finest garden with help from local community we might claim most improved and potentially with sage advice from Kylie from the Place of Wonder and REAL pizza pasta and salads it's most educational. Why not come check out our progress?" #treasurethelandwelove #lovewhereyoulive - Mark Cuthell Co-ordinator Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre.