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Planning A Native Garden

Planning
Visit a nearby reserve or a patch of native forest and observe the plant associations, heights, colour and shape of different species.  In Christchurch you can take a look at Riccarton Bush/Putaringamotu or at one of the Port Hills Reserves, or even venture out and take a look at one of the reserves on Banks Peninsula.

If you are wanting to plant a native garden based on what  was in your area 150 years ago please follow the link to the Ecosystems site.  This is a very good way of finding out what plants to use.  Remember though that it is a guide only and some plants may not be available in cultivation currently.

· Choose an area of your garden where native plants will be allowed to grow naturally without obstructing the sun or views and without interfering with power lines, sewer pipes, driveways etc.

· Draw a plan of the area you are wanting to plant showing existing trees, buildings, underground services, power lines, paths etc.

· Try to visualize what your native garden will look like in 5 to 10 years time and think about other plants that you would like to plant once a canopy has formed.  You may be able to then plant species that need shade or frost and wind protection.

· Show on your plan the plants in groups with spacings between larger  trees of  2.5 to 3 metres;  spacings between smaller trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants of 1.5 to 2 metres.

· The final plan should show the name and location of each plant.  This will help with the placement of your plants when you come to plant them.

Site Preparation
· Preparation of your planting site is most important for plant growth and survival, and should be done well before planting.

· For the average home garden situation the removal of any grass cover  is essential.
-Cut or mow the lawn or grass area.
-Mark out the area to be planted.
-Lift the turf out by cutting into squares and removing them from the area to be planted.
-Add compost or well rotted manure and dig in well; this will help fertilize and aerate the soil.
-Keep the site free of weeds until planting.

· Remember that native trees don’t compete favourably with invasive weeds for moisture and nutrients.

Planting
· The optimum times of the year for planting are during the autumn months of April -May or late winter to spring in the months of August- September, but if sufficient watering of the area is not a issue you can plant right throughout the year.

· Planting in the cooler winter months is recommended to avoid an intensive watering program to keep the plants alive.

· Avoid planting on excessively windy or bright sunny days.

· Make sure that the site and the plants are adequately watered before planting.  Be careful not to over-water.

· Lay your plants out where they are to be planted.

· Dig holes that are wide and deep enough for the plants roots to spread out.

· Remove the plant from cardboard containers by tearing it away or from polythene bag by inverting the plant, holding the soil in one hand and gently pulling the bag off.

· Lightly tease out the roots or if  the roots are quite matted, cut length-wise down the root ball with a knife.

· Place the plant in the hole and make sure that it is planted at the same depth as the soil line at the base of its stem.

· Cover the roots with fine soil, firming layer by layer.  Then leave the surface covered with a loose layer and water well.

Mulching
Native trees and shrubs generally grow naturally in a forest with a deep litter of mulch of decaying vegetation, leaves, etc.

After planting, spread wet newspapers, cardboard or old carpet etc. and cover with wet straw, untreated bark chips or compost to a depth of 75-100mm in depth.  This will help protect the roots, trap moisture and control or suppress weeds.  It is important to keep the mulch away from the stem of the plant.

Watering
If all the planting practices have been followed and mulching has been done, it may only be necessary to water in dry hot conditions.  This should be done thoroughly once a week at the most.

Aftercare
Until the plants have established (2-3years) and start to shade and cover the ground, it may be necessary to control the weeds and replenish the mulch.

When the trees and shrubs have reached a sufficient height and spread to provide shelter and shade (approx. .3-4 years ), more tender plants may be able to be planted underneath  e.g. ferns, pigeonwood, kawakawa etc.