Protecting your plants with tree guards or fencing
If they are to grow alongside stock, your plants will need protecting for some years using tree guards or fencing. If possible, any areas to be revegetated should be fenced off, at least until trees are well established. Make sure to include a gate in this fence to allow access for watering your new plants.
Creeks and dams should also be fenced off from stock if possible. This will protect your water from being contaminated by urine and faeces, and stop young plants being trampled.
If you want to plant trees in a paddock where stock graze, you’ll need some strong tree guards! These and fencing are probably the main cost in revegetation, but they are critical for success. There are a number of different guards available for cattle, sheep, roos, sheep and other animals- and they can be re-used over and over again.
Why guard your newly planted seedlings?... because plants are food!
Pampered seedlings, fresh from the nursery, are soft and well fertilised, making them smell and taste irresistibly sweet and juicy to herbivores such as rabbits, livestock and kangaroos. There are many types of tree guards on the market to choose from, so it is important to select the right guard to ensure plant survival. Without adequate protection, you will have wasted your time and energy in planting.
Smaller cardboard or corflute guards provide protection from rabbits, create a microclimate to protect plants from frost and provide a barrier to protect plants from herbicide when spraying for weeds. These guards require two bamboo stakes to prevent the guards collapsing and smothering the plant. However, small guards will not protect plants from any animals except rabbits.
If your plants need protection from sheep, cattle, goats or kangaroos – you’ll need guards of an appropriate shape, size and strength to defeat the grazing tactics of the animal you are guarding against. Goats literally climb as high as their front legs can stretch to graze on tall plants, so tall, strong guards that won’t collapse under weight are needed. Cattle are tall and love to rub against tree guards, so barbed wire must be wrapped around very strong 2m high guards to deter grazing and rubbing, preferably with 4 dropper posts. Guards can be purchased ready made to suit different grazing animals, or you can make them yourself from bought and salvaged materials. For larger revegetation areas, it can be more cost effective to erect fencing to exclude grazing animals rather than guard individual plants.
When to remove tree guards
However, while tree guards are vital in establishing plants, tree guards should be removed at the right time to prevent choking and strangling of plants. The right time will differ according to the type of plant. For example, a cattle guard on a paddock tree may need up to 10 years for the tree trunk to grow to a size capable of withstanding cattle rubbing and pushing of them. Whereas, a plastic corflute or cardboard guard around a smaller groundcover plant will force it to try to grow unnaturally high, instead of spreading wide, so should be removed after 1 year. Be aware that plastic corflute guards degrade overtime creating micro-plastic pollution, there are other more environmentally friendly biodegradable options to choose from.
Arborgreen and other local companies sell commercial tree guards, or you could make your own with mesh and stakes. When you purchase your materials, ask your supplier for design ideas.