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
- Calculate how many trees per hectare
- Prepare your lands
- Plant your trees
- Space your trees
- Protect your trees
- Irrigation methods
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
Secure the perimeter with 20% shade cloth attached to your fences.
This will keep rabbits, buck, and other animals from entering your new lands.
- Rip or double-plough the tree rows about 5 meters apart. Create a mound for each row.
- Lay your irrigation pipes – drippers (very water-efficient) or micro sprayers in each ripped row.
- Attach your filter systems to the irrigation.
- Wet your soil.
- Now you are ready to plant your trees.
3. How to plant your trees
- Make sure you have ripped or ploughed 30cm to 40cm deep, creating a mound of loose soil about 30cm, to 40cm high.
- Plant in this mound of loose soil. This is very, very important because you want the roots to easily develop without any obstruction.
- Plant out each tree about 2 meters to 2.5 meters apart in the row.
- 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.
- Add compost and about 50g of super phosphate in each hole and mix with the soil.
- Take your tree in its potting bag and squeeze the bottom of the bag to loosen the plastic bag from the soil and roots.
- 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.
- 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.
- Circle the soil around the hole with your hands to create a good basin to keep the irrigation water in.
- Cover this basin with a thick mulch such as straw, but do not cover up the stem.
- Water very well immediately.
- 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.
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.
- 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!
Copyright © 2012 by Myles & Nadene Esterhuizen
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