Reforestation at Conscious Grounds - A collaboration

In June 2020 Reforest Now joined the Conscious Ground Organics team to hold an education and planting session on the importance of revegetating riparian areas. We planted over 700 native trees and grasses to rehabilitate a tributary in the Brunswick River catchment on the Conscious Ground site in Myocum, NSW. Riparian zones are the areas of land alongside waterways: creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and wetlands. Creating healthy waterways is a key aspect in the process of regenerating landscapes. Healthy, vegetated riparian areas work to clean and slow the flow of water, allowing it to be stored in the river banks and hydrate the surrounding landscape, as well as percolating down to recharge the groundwater. The stored water is then able to be released throughout the year to keep creeks and rivers flowing. Vegetation stabilises the banks, reducing leaching of nutrients and erosion of vital topsoil into waterways (which inevitably ends up polluting the ocean). It also provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife that live in the air, on the ground, underwater and in the soil. At Conscious Ground, a regenerative agriculture education organisation in Myocum, we strive to demonstrate regenerative growing practices while providing high quality organic produce for our team and the wider community. We believe in supporting the growth of trees using a successional agroforestry model; mimicking the process of ecological succession while obtaining a food supply in the interim. Rather than using weedmat, water crystals and chemical pesticides, we choose to plant short term food crops such as sweet potato, cassava and taro that will grow quickly to provide shade for the seedlings, and kickstart the cycling of nutrients through the soil food web. We’ll harvest them to eat within the next year before they compete with the trees for root space.

We also planted a cover crop of lucerne, clover, rye, tillage radish broad beans and sunflowers to suppress invasive grasses and weeds between the planted trees. Once the cover crop is up, we’ll be able to cut it back and use it as mulch to support the trees and feed the soil. We also make our own compost and activated biochar which was used as a fertiliser for the plants, with a handful of each going in holes before the seedlings. Our compost is produced from kitchen waste and other material collected onsite (grasses, lantana, animal manure, duckweed and azolla from the dams etc.), as well as green waste from Santos in the Byron industrial estate. Our biochar is made using excess organic matter that can’t be composted (bamboo, citrus peel, egg shells and animal bones), which has the capacity to hold up to seven times its weight in water, so will help to keep moisture in the soil for the small trees. Biochar is also carbon negative - sequestering carbon back into the earth!

Some of the species we planted on the day were; Macaranga (Macaranga Tanarius)Black Bean (Castanospermum australe), Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta), Small Leaved Tamarind (Diploglottis campbellii), Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii),Red Cedar (Toona australis) and River Mat Rush (Lomandra spp.). The tributary runs through the Conscious Ground property and this planting was the first in what we hope will be a series of planting and education days that we can offer to the community in the coming months, so stay tuned! WORDS BY GRETA FROM CONSCIOUS GROUND