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Caring for native tree plantings in summer

It comes pretty naturally to us Kiwis to slip, slop and slap in summer. But what do we do to look after the native trees we’ve so carefully planted and nurtured through winter and spring? 


Water becomes a tough topic for many regions at this time of year. We always advise that you adhere to the water restrictions put in place by your local Council—but please, balance this with doing as much as you can for your native plantings. 

Water thoroughly and deeply where possible, as this will be more effective than light watering. However, every little bit helps! We’ve heard of young rimu and kauri kept alive through the hot summer months with the dregs of water from volunteers’ drink bottles.

Where it’s not practical to provide water to your planting sites because of no nearby water source, or if your planting is large scale, consider other options for keeping your plants alive during summer months.

You can retain side vegetation such as rank grass to shelter small planted natives from drying winds, and/or placing mulch around each seedling. Use any handy material as mulch (such as cut grass) if it is impractical or expensive to cart in wood chip, bark mulch or carpet squares. Anything permeable and biodegradable that helps retain soil moisture over seedling roots is likely to help during the long hot summer.

Releasing (weed control)

Hopefully you’ve already put releasing measures in place over spring. It’s nobody’s favourite job, but it’s absolutely crucial for tree survival—native trees don’t often come out on top when competing with weeds for nutrients, moisture and light.

  • Spraying
    If you’ve chosen to spray release with herbicide or weed trim, it pays to keep your spray/trim zone to a modest diameter around your plants. Ensure weed trimmers don’t ring bark stems of planted natives. Retain some vegetative cover between plants to hold some humidity, reduce wind transpiration, limit new weed establishment, and discourage rabbit damage. 

  • Stamping
    Stamping down vigorous weed growth from immediately around each planted native to prevent them from being overtopped is a cost-effective way of operating, and one the whole family can help with!
  • Mulching
    If you’ve already laid mulch around your plantings, fantastic! If not, it might be worth considering adding mulch to help retain moisture and stifle weed growth where there is a local source of material available. Make sure the mulch is permeable to allow rain or watering to continue to provide moisture to plant roots.
    Take care not to use mulches that may contain seeds or fragments of weed species that could sprout; the last thing you want to do is give tenacious weeds such as tradescantia or periwinkle a free lift to your planting site!


Work together

It’s hard mahi maintaining plantings through summer, and the old adage ‘many hands make light work’ has never been more appropriate. It’s much easier to weed if you haven’t left it too long since the last weeding, so keep a close eye on sites and schedule in timely releasing of your planted natives.

While everyone is keen to plant native trees, there are also ways to incentivise the less attractive tasks. Why not host a “Wine and Weed Evening”, “Mulching and a Meal”, or a “Collective Carpeting Day” cutting carpet squares!

You can also think about planning events away from the hottest parts of the day—why not do a few hours’ evening weeding together, and then have a shared dinner or picnic? A well-fed volunteer who isn’t sunburned is usually a happy one.