Planting Trees

For the best success in planting and growing young lucerne trees, we encourage farmers to approach their planting and management as if they were planting out a fruit orchard.  Your trees require a 2-year investment to offer you a tree-lifetime yield.  Do NOT graze your trees in the first 2 years!

Management is key!   Clients should properly plan and prepare their lands for planting, correctly calculate tree spacing and chose the most suitable irrigation methods.  Regularly irrigate & check your trees to maintain their robust growth.

This Planting Guide covers ~ download your copy ~ Planting Guide

  1. Calculate how many trees per hectare
  2. Prepare your lands
  3. Plant your trees
  4. Space your trees
  5. Protect your trees
  6. Irrigation methods
  7. Management

1. Calculate how many trees for 1 hectare: 1500 seeds per hectare

  • 1 hectare = 100 meters x 100 meters
  • 100 meters divided by 4 meters (how far apart the rows are) = 25 rows/ hectare
  • 100 meters divided by 2 meters (how far apart each tree is in the row) = 50 trees/ row
  • 25 rows x 50 trees = 1250 trees per hectare
  • Purchase and germinate 1500 seeds to make sure you have enough trees for planting

2.  How to prepare your lands

1-Myles Land Preparation for plantingSecure the perimeter with 20% shade cloth attached to your fences.
This will keep rabbits, buck, and other animals from entering your new lands.



  1. Rip or double-plough the tree rows about 5 meters apart.  Create a mound for each row.5-Myles Land Preparation for planting1
  2. Lay your irrigation pipes – drippers (very water-efficient) or micro sprayers in each ripped row.
  3. Attach your filter systems to the irrigation.
  4. Wet your soil.
  5. Now you are ready to plant your trees.

3. How to plant your trees1-Collages2

2-Myles Land Preparation for planting3

  1. Make sure you have ripped or ploughed 30cm to 40cm deep, creating a mound of loose soil about 30cm, to 40cm high.
  2. Plant in this mound of loose soil.  This is very, very important because you want the roots to easily develop without any obstruction.
  3. Plant out each tree about 2 meters to 2.5 meters apart in the row.
  4. Dig a deep hole for each tree in the row about 1 meter deep and refill it with the same soil, almost to the top.
  5. Add compost and about 50g of super phosphate in each hole and mix with the soil.
  6. Take your tree in its potting bag and squeeze the bottom of the bag to loosen the plastic bag from the soil and roots.
  7. Holding the top of the bag with the stem between your fingers, tip the bag over and wriggle the bag from the roots and soil gently, lifting the corners of the bag up and off, aiming to keep all the soil on the roots.
  8. Place the root ball into your prepared hole so that the stem is level with your hole surface and gently but firmly press the soil around the tree.  You want to make the area around the roots snug and tight.
  9. Circle the soil around the hole with your hands to create a good basin to keep the irrigation water in.
  10. Cover this basin with a thick mulch such as straw, but do not cover up the stem.
  11. Water very well immediately.
  12. Keep irrigating regularly now that your trees are planted. (see below)

4. Space your trees and rows

  • Rows are at least 4 meters apart to allow a  tractor with plough/ bossiekapper/ cutter/ baler for tilling, planting, cutting & baling grasses in between the tree rows, and space for collecting branches when pruning the trees.
  • The trees in the rows should be 2 meters to 2.5 meters apart.

5. Protect your trees

Young trees are very vulnerable – everything loves to eat them!   Typically, trees take 1-and-a-half (18 months) to 2 years to mature and become established.

Do NOT graze your trees in the first 2 years!

Grazing tears the young branches and stunts the growth of the trees. However, you should prune them regularly to promote side branches and dense foliage.  You will collect copious amounts of fodder from your prunings, as much as 10 kilograms per tree off 2-year-old trees, which amounts up to 20 tonnes of delicious wet matter.

In those first few years, they need to be protected and require regular watering.

We have found that the most effective method of protecting your trees is to secure the perimeter with 20% shade cloth attached to your fences.  This will keep rabbits, buck, and other animals from entering your new lands.

6. Irrigation

Irrigation is essential in establishing trees, especially where rainfall is sporadic in the summer months.

  • Drip irrigation uses water very economically.
  • Drippers we use deliver 2 litres per hour.  We run our drippers for 1 hour every 2 days during our dry season.
  • Drippers are not very effective after about 1 year as the trees’ side roots have travelled quite some distance away from the drippers, which is why, once our trees are established at about 18 months, we convert our irrigation to micro sprayers to also water the grazing that grows between the tree rows.



  • Micro sprayers are very effective, but irrigation requires longer spraying times than drippers.  The benefit of micros is that your grasses develop between the tree rows and the roots are always getting water, no matter how far they have travelled.
  • We have used aerial micro sprayers but these are not as effective in windy conditions, so we prefer to use micro sprayers between each tree.

1-20140809_171916 trees micros 2-20140809_172555

  • Oscillating sprayers use more water than the other methods mentioned, but the ground is quickly well soaked.


Management of your newly planted trees is vital!

  • Water regularly for the first 18 months.
  • Check regularly for snails, insects and other critters who may eat your young trees and take action!
  • Prune regularly to encourage side branches and denser foliage as well as keeping the trees 1 to 1.5 meters high.
  • Chip your cuttings for maximum food!

Happy Farming!

Copyright © 2012 by Myles & Nadene Esterhuizen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher permitted by copyright law.


45 thoughts on “Planting Trees

    • Hi Lukas, the seed can be planted mechanically in rows. a company called Kimseed international sell these planters. There arent any local planters dedicated to lucerne trees.It would be most helpful if someone one would modify a planter while the demand for seed is still high.


  1. Hi
    I have a small farm in george,the soil is about 500mm deep and then the clay starts,do you think the tree will grow in here?
    Dewald de kock


    • @Dewald, your soil does not pose a problem, but where there are clay soils, you must have a gradient for run-off. In most cases, drainage will have the same effect as run-off.


    • Hi Eric, i wouldnt recommend any manure or plant feed at seeding. Simply a mixture of topsoil with riversand in bags with drainage holes or a seed tray of approx 50mm deep with drainage holes in. You could also simply lay this riversand mixture on the ground approx 75mm deep and make lines of approx 10mm deep with a stick into which you can lay the seeds with no particular spacing and then close the seeds up. Thereafter you can lightly cover with straw. I put mine in direct sunlight and therefore had to water them softly every day to prevent them from drying out. The straw is forgiving and you wont suffer losses if you skip a day. The seeds take about 15 days to germinate. I would not recommend sowing the seed directly into your prepared land. Germinating the seeds in a riversand/topsoil mix will give you much higher germination yields. We should try to germinate as many seeds as possible while we have warm days, hold your trees in 1l or 2l bags till early spring and you will see phenominal growth throughout spring and summer.
      Please feel free to communicate and we will take you through the stages and with prayer, good practise and patience you will reap wonderful benefits from these trees.


  2. Hi Myles.

    Hoe gereeld moet klein saailinge(ongeveer 50mm- 150mm) water kry as in die veld oorgeplant is? dit is baie warm die laaste 2weke by ons,ongeveer 32 grade elke dag.

    Is bang ek gee te veel water. Help asb

    Alex de Beer


    • Hello Alex,
      Jy sal nie sommer te veel water gee as jy goeie dreinering het nie. Onthou die omstandighede van die boompie in die grond is heeltemal anders as toe hy in n saailaai was of in n sakkie was. Die grond om die boompie en onder die boompie gaan baie van die water absorbeer. Met hierdie warm dae gee ek my jong boompies elke dag water vir ongeveer 40 minute tussen 12 en 1 uur die middag. Hou die grond dop en as hy nog klam is slaan dan n dag oor en kyk weer die volgende dag. Sodra die dae begin kouer word gaan jy nie so gereeld water hoef te gee nie. Die grond en jou boompie gaan vir jou baie vertel. Gedurende die dag hoort sy blare op en wakker te staan en saans sak die blare en hulle lyk sommer depressief. Kyk maar uit vir slakke, want die nattigheid lok hulle na die boompie. Kry vir jou klas 3- 32mm besproeing pyp wat ongeveer 20cm lank afgesny is en regdeur gesny is. Hierdie pypies gaan keur dat die muise hulle in die helfte afsny. Nie almal het n probleem met muise nie. Gelukkig kan jy die muis se skade vinnig optel want dit is een boompie op n slag. Hou die gras en onkruid kort waar jy die boopies plant en jy sal nie n muis probleem he nie. Die muis is maar bang en bly weg van oop kolle.
      Die boompies na so 3 jaar gaan regtig waar n aanwins vir jou wees.
      voorspoed en baie vreudge met jou boerdery.


    • @Alex de Beer, rather under-water than over-water lucerne trees. They hate to have “wet roots”. Feel the soil in the bag with your finger for moisture. If it is still moist, hold off watering. Water lightly when needed. Make sure that the soil in the potting bags is a well-drained mix of coarse river sand and top soil. Do not use compost. Add a layer of mulch on the top surface of the soil to keep the moisture in the bags.


  3. Hello Myles
    Kan boom lusern werk om lammers goedkoper af te rond en watse resultate kan n mens verwag?, ek boer met meatmasters. Oie lam in die winter op voerradyse en my gedagte is om die speenlammers in die lente en somer daarop te laat loop. boer ook op sanderige en klipperige suurveld, . sal jou terugvoer baie waardeer

    Frikkie Snyman


  4. More Myles
    Ek het bees tipe boomlucern saad in Windhoek gekoop by ‘n verspreider
    Is dit dieselfde as wat jy plant, en sal dit geskik wees vir my bokboerdery.
    Japie ( Namibia)
    (ns. antwoord my asb op my private mail adres ook)


  5. Myles,Is dit nou die geskikte tyd om saailinge te maak?Maak jy gebruik van verhitting?Ek bly in Parys en het ‘n tonnel sonder enige verhitting.Sal die saadjies ontkiem of wat staan my te doen.Baie sterkte en die Here seen jou.Koos van Rooyen.


  6. Myles, ek sal graag wil weet hoe die plant sal aard hier aan die Weskus tussen Darling en Yzerfontein. Ek weet nie of jy die omgewing hier ken nie. Ons het sandgrond wat “dood” voorkom en die elendige Port Jackson en Rookrantz groei sonder enige water uit die droe sand. Wens ‘n mens kan die lusernboom inent op ‘n Port Jackson onderstok of wat praat ek nou! Kan jy my ook per e-pos antw asb.


  7. Myles, Thank you for all the valuable information gleaned from your web.
    If 20% shade cloth is fixed to the perifory fence around the land where the lucerne tree plants are to be transplanted, would you recommend introducing a piece of plastic pipe as protection around the stem of each newly transplanted plant, if so, how would one fit this piece of pipe.
    Should water from the feeder pipe be piped to the plant via 5mm dia piping with a nozzel/ dripper – what would you recommend.
    John Eayrs


    • @John Eayrs, if you have 20% shade cloth around your field, you’ll need no further protection. If you wish to protect individual trees with pipe, simply slice the pipe vertically, pull it open and place around the base of the stem.
      You can irrigate with dripper or micro sprayers, but micros are a cheaper and much more affective option and provide water in between the tree rows for your grasses.


  8. Baie geluk en baie dankie vir julle website. Ek besit nie grond of diere nie(behalwe n huis kat), maar stel wel baie belang in ontwikkeling van landbougrond om voedsel vir meer mense teen minder dollars te kan produseer, werlike “groen” boerdery. Die feit dat julle website so gedetaileerd is en soveel vrae persoonlik beantwoord is n bewys dat jy en jou span hierdie wereld n beter plek wil maak. Mens kan sien dat dit n liefdes onderneming is.
    Ek hoop om papierwerk af te handel om n kleinhoewe net suid oos van Windhoek, Namibie te bekom en dan gaan ek definitief meer intensief na boom lusern begin kyk.
    Ek wens julle die rykste seen toe.


    • @Francois, thank you for your encouraging comments! We trust that your plans and dreams work out and we will gladly help you with your lucerne trees when you are ready!


  9. Hi Myles

    I wish to know if must the seeds swell or burst because mine burst after I’ve soaked them with boiling in a flask and I don’t know if that’s the reason for poor germination, because I germinated only two out of 120 seeds.

    Kind regards


    • @JJ, we think that you must have “cooked” your seeds. We no longer recommend the use of a flask, but just hot tap-water poured over the seeds in a bowl and left to soak. The seeds germinate much more readily now that they have aged and no longer need the intense heat given by the thermos flask. We have adapted our germination instructions from as early as July. Please get in touch with us.


  10. Hallo Miles
    Ek het ook lusernboompies aangeplant. Uit 600 het 150 oorleef. Is hierdie maar die tendens of het ek iets verkeerd gedoen? Het nie te veel water gegee nie, was bang dat dit te nat sou wees. Ek het wel die grond vooraf onkruidvry gemaak, gerip en toe die boompies in volle verwagting aangeplant. Maar ek is redelik ongelukkig toe ek besef dat net sowat 150 oorleef het. Die oorlewendes is al ‘n slag deur my kalwers gewei en spruit nou weer mooi uit, nadat ek hulle laat rus het. Hoe moet ek maak om steggies te maak? Dalk ‘n goedkoper manier om hierdie bome te vermeerder? Mag ek hulle in die veld uitplant? Verneem graag van jou. Bly in winterreënval gebied. Groete Annetjie


    • Hello @Annetjie Botha,
      20% sukses is teleurstellend. Jy kan tenminste 80% sukses verwag. Daar kan baie faktore wees wat jou plantjies laat vrek het.
      Ek het al steggies probeer maar die plantjies lyk na ‘n jaar soos klein bonsaai boompies! Dit is vir my veel makliker om die saad te ontkiem.
      Die saad ontkiem in die natuur gedurende Mei en Junie maand en baie van die klein boompies oorleef in die veld. Dus sal dit die beste maande wees om hulle in die veld uit te plant.


  11. Hi Myles,

    Wil graag weet, as die saadjies uitgeplant word in sake, hoe lank en groot kan dit in die sake word voor dit uitgeplant word? Of is daar ‘n spesifieke tydperk verbonde aan hoe lank dit in sake kan bly voor dit uitgeplant word?

    Carin & Jaco


    • @Henk, yes,leaves sometimes tend to yellow on some trees during their early growth, but as you correctly observed, they do bud fresh leaves and bounce back. We have noticed that some maturer trees sometimes tend to yellow and loose some leaves after their flowering season, but they too, bounce back with fresh growth.


  12. Following from Kenya. Thank you for the detailed article above.. I will prepare my seed bed soon for planting of 1 kg of seeds.


  13. Ons het n plaas in die klein karoo . Wil net graag weet wanner is die beste tyd om jou saailinge uit te plant? Ons het die saadjies nou geplant en hoop maar vir die beste. Moet ons wag vir September wanner meeste plante uitgeplant word of kan ons dit uitplant waneeer die boompies gereed is daarvoor Groete Eben.


    • @Gagoangwe, you can use any other garden mulch such as grass cuttings or dead leaves. If you are trying to keep seedlings moist, perhaps you could keep them under shadenet to prevent the sun drying them out.


  14. Hi guys.

    I have a small land holding here in Western Australia and have approached Kimseed. Very helpful so far.

    I am only running 20 breeding ewes and wondering if you could see any reason why I would choose normal Tagasate over Weeping Tagasate.

    I am only looking to plant around 300 trees.



    • @John Johnston, No one seems to have had any success with Weeping Tagasaste seeds here in South Africa and so we only sell the normal Tagasaste, but are not permitted to sell our seeds to Australia due to their protective laws. We recommend regular pruning of the normal trees to 1 meter or 1.5 meters to make the tree bushy and sturdy, and to keep the leaves at sheep height for easy browsing. Wishing you every success!


    • @K.C. Woods, I’m not sure where you are situated, but mature trees can handle cold weather and mild frosts once established. Younger, softer trees may not be able to endure prolonged, severe frost. Because pruning stimulates these lucerne trees, you could prune any frost-bitten branches once the last frosts have passed and your trees should bounce back with their new spring-green leaves.


  15. Hi there, where can you purchase that ‘single blade’ plow for the tractor? It seems ideal in making swales on contour. Have you tried using Dr Elaine Ingham’s soil fertility techniques instead of using conventional fertilisers in setting your trees? Have you considered interplanting tagasate with either honey locust, carob, moringa, mulberry or leucaenia to increase yield?


    • @daniel, we recommend also establishing the leucaenia to our clients and we grow them here on our farm. Inter-planting trees is very beneficial. We have not used the soil fertility methods you mentioned, but believe that organic is the most beneficial in the long run. Look for a single blade plow at 2nd hand dealers or online.


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