One of winter’s most exciting prospects was the chance to get some trees in the ground. Our strategy for revegetation has been to try to build islands of vegetation in the most vulnerable areas, with the view to expanding them outwards until they connect up. We were aware that the kangaroos would take an interest, but just how much of an interest we were unprepared for.
Our first planting season was always going to be an experiment. We’re still learning how the landscape works, we have minimal fencing, and swung between being thorough (marking and planting along contours) and haphazard in our plantings in an effort to see what might work best. From browsing the internet and chatting to neighbours, we heard a number of ideas for protecting trees from kangaroos, many involved guns, some suggested removing the growing tips when planting as this is the most delectable part of the plant, and others suggested using prickly plants such as Acacia paradoxa as nurses for more vulnerable seedlings. The most consistently suggested method was building heavy-duty mesh tubes, a metre or more high, fixed in place with a pair of star-droppers. However, given the cost involved and our hope to plant up to 1000 plants a year, this wasn’t really an option for every plant.
We started out by using the standard green corflute triangular guards with single hardwood stakes, augmented by white corflute vineguards. When planting we joked that the kangaroos would use the guards as a napkin and the stakes as a toothpick for their seedling meal, without realising how close to the truth this would end up. We later also developed guards made of 90cm high tubes of chook wire, cable-tied to a hardwood stake with a vineguard placed inside for wind protection.
At the end of the winter, and after planting about 400 plants over several days, we have about 150 left. In some areas the hit rate was high, with 47 out of 50 plants eaten or pulled out. Exposed areas that had been slashed seemed to fare the worst, perhaps because the new growth after slashing attracted grazing in the area, and the constant winds loosened or removed guards making it easy for the roos to finish the job. Areas in gullies, on slopes or, interestingly, near piles of junk, generally fared much better.
While the green corflute still seems to be the best all-rounder, in exposed areas we would have spent at least as much time collecting wind-blown guards from fencelines as we did planting. The vineguards proved to be no match for the weather or the roos. All but one or two of the chook wire guards have been removed and trampled. Even a heavy-duty-mesh-and-star-dropper combo had been body-slammed almost out of the ground. But then, we noticed a new player has arrived on the scene: the mud at the bottom of the gullies was peppered with the fresh tracks of fallow deer, and little survived their attentions.
While everything has copped a nibbling, the species that fared the best thus far are Kangaroo thorn (Acacia paradoxa), Prickly tea-tree (Leptospermum continentale) and Seaberry saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana).
By next planting season we hope to have fenced the main reveg areas, providing an additional deterrent. We’ll use the survivors as nurse plants where we can, plant densely starting on less accessible terrain, and use the heavy-duty-mesh-and-star-dropper-combos for selected plants that we want to form a canopy or wind protection for future growth. The survivors have got through a winter of torrential downpours and driving winds and evaded the jaws of roos and deer, all they need to do now is survive six months of desiccating heat. Grow well little seedlings!
I didn’t realise kangaroos could be so self-sabotaging to their own environment! We bought a 120acre ex-blue gum plantation. The kangaroos have no shelter since it was cleared and we’re trying to revegetate but after a storm blew most of the tree guards off, they ate or ringbarked 12 of the first 15 trees we planted. It is heartbreaking! I guess we’ll either have to put in a mesh fence now to keep them out or build tall mesh guards for each individual tree. At what aged tree do they stop ringbarking them?
Hey Katie, I’m sorry to hear about your trials with kangaroos, we can certainly relate. I’m happy to report however that almost 10 years on from writing this post that our revegetation efforts have appeared to reach a state of equilibrium with the kangaroos. We have ended primarily using a combination of the corflute guards for wind shelter and humidity for the young trees, with a layer of “Mallee mesh” which we purchase from a local supplier. This has increased our survival rate significantly when compared to the early years of high attrition! We add a second layer of mesh (vertically) to increase height once the trees have reached the top of the first layer. Once the trees have canopy at about 2 metres, then they seem to be able to survive by themselves, although the kangaroos will continue to prune the lower levels and strip bark off. Now the plantings are maturing the kangaroo movement patterns do seem to be changing – the revegetated areas are suitable for camping for them on hot days, but they’d prefer to be in higher, more open areas so they don’t linger too much in the plantings. I hope that helps! Keep persisting, the satisfaction of revegetation is worth the heart ache! Depending on where you’re located, I could recommend some local species that the kangaroos don’t seem to eat as well.