In Victoria, for areas south of the Divide, planting in spring allows good prior weed control, avoids most frosts and cold or waterlogged soil. In areas north of the Divide with less reliable spring rains, earlier planting in autumn or winter are recommended. This takes advantage of the winter rains. Consult your local DSE office for advice if unsure.
On very sticky clays, a mattock is a good planting tool. Dig a hole slightly larger than the tubestock, remove the seedlings from the tubes, being careful not to damage the tap root, and place in the hole, so that the base of the seedlings is just below the surface. Place the soil back around the hole and firm down.
On prepared loamy soils, there are various tree planters that can be used for planting tubes stock. Most will remove a core of soil the same shape but one centimetre deeper than the seedling pot. This method has the great advantage of allowing the seedling roots to be placed beneath any surface layer of residual herbicide. Plant as above. The most common planter is the Hamilton Planter.
For cell tray stock, the “Pottipuki” planter can be used. This makes a hole for the plant, and has a chute that the seedlings can be dropped into, going straight into the hole. This requires less bending over, saving time and your back!
On average, two fit and experienced people can plant up to 500 seedlings per full day using this method. However, where volunteers, school children or inexperience people are involved, we would suggest having at leat six people to plant 500 seedlings over one full day.
In recent years there have been mechanical, tractor drawn planters developed for cell tray stock, mostly modified from vegetable planters. These not only dig a hole for each seedling, but plant it and firm the soil around it. This method required a driver and someone to feed seedlings through the planter, and can plant several thousand seedlings per day. Mechanical planters are not yet widely available, but can be hired through Greening Australia Victoria.
Post-hole diggers can be used for tree planting, but are not recommended. They tend to form holes with smooth, glazed sided that will not allow root penetration into the surrounding earth, causing the seedlings to die from lack of water and nutrients. If post hole diggers are used as a last resort, ensure that the sides to be broken up (with a crowbar or shovel) in anything but a light sandy soil.
Seedlings should be given a good soaking in their pots the day before planting. For tubestock, tap the seedlings from the pot. Squeezing the diagonal corners of the tube may help with the more difficult ones. For cell tray stock, pop the seedlings out of the tray from beneath.
For plants with normal root systems, simply remove the container with minimal root disturbance and slip the seedling into the hole and lightly firm in by treading. If a seedling is root bound, the roots may need to be teased out before planting.
Recommendations spacing between seedlings for particular areas will vary, but generally for shelterbelts, trees within each row and the rows themselves can be spaced 3 to 5 metres apart. Smaller trees and shrubs can be spaced 2 to 3 metres apart. These can include wattles and she-oaks which as fast growing nitrogen-producers, help longer-lived species such as eucalypts.
Tree growers in drier regions tend to plant with at least a 6 metre spacing. Where conditions are harsh, a denser planting with the expectation of some losses may be appropriate.
If you are unsure about plant spacings for a particular purpose or area, seek advice from your local DSE/DPI office, landcare groups or other local contact.