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Lifestyle block pre-plant checklist

By Grant McKechnie
Rodney Rural Lifestyle Magazine
April 2008

So you’ve bought a lifestyle block, and now you’re ready to plant. Before you rip into it, take a little time to plan your plantings – a bit of time spent now will reap dividends later.


If starting from scratch on your lifestyle block, leave plenty of space for sweeping lawns, large trees and perhaps a pond.
And remember, you’ve got all winter to get the plants in the ground.  The generally accepted time for rural planting (or any planting, if you can’t water) is May to September, with some leeway on either side, depending on rainfall and your soil type.

Many of our lifestyle block customers are turning 1, 2 or more hectares into gardens, often with sweeping grassed areas, wide borders and large ponds. But people are still concerned with functional purposes such as shelter, privacy, wetland or waste water planting, and shade for animals.

Before you start digging holes all over the place, here’s some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is your block very windy? If you’re in an elevated position you’re likely to be dealing with strong winds. If you’re close to the coast, you’ll have wind seasoned with salt. If you’re not sure how strong the winds are, have a look at what’s growing well in your vicinity.
  • How wet is your soil? Is it boggy, or free-draining? If you walked over your property in June, would you sink in and leave water-filled footprints?

Poor selection of trees for the site is one of the biggest reasons for plant failure, and wet and windy sites are probably the trickiest, but the good news is that there are trees to suit.

Next, you need to look at what you want to achieve. Here’s some basics:

  • Shelter is usually your first consideration. Remember, a good windbreak will give protection at ground level for about 10 times its height. Do you want a single row of shelter, or a multiple row, mixed species shelter belt? Deciduous or evergreen? Look at shelter belts as you drive around, and see what you like the look of.
  • Privacy. Do you want to preserve a view, or quickly block an undesired view? If you’re trying to block out a neighbour’s shed, do you need a row of trees, or will a cluster in a strategic place do the job?
  • Before fencing off your paddocks, remember to allow plenty of space for lawns, gardens, vehicle access and turnaround areas. Common rural landscaping mistakes include fencing drives too close so there is not enough room to line the drive with trees, and fencing too close to the house.
  • If you have animals, you need good fences in place before you plant. Cattle and horses have long reaches, so you need to fence 1.5m to 2m from your new plantings.

Here’s a thought to keep in mind: it’s generally accepted that good planting will add twice its cost in value immediately. It’s an investment and adds more value with maturity.

©2010 Grant McKechnie


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