The last job planted in the season

Posted on March 27, 2018

Who would have thought that in November and December, when we were looking at the ground drying out and experiencing record temperatures, that we would be heading straight on into a wet tropical summer like we haven’t experienced in years.

Every season, after completing our winter and spring plantings, there is always that last project of the season – should we do it or should we not? Well this was that project this season. A stunning subdivision in the hills of Whitford, looking out at panoramic views of the Waitemata harbor stretching from Waiheke Island, Rangitoto Island and all the way back to Auckland CBD.

The Whitford soil types tend to dry out quickly in the Summer, due to a lack of topsoil on a fine clay base. The project covered an area of 16 hectares. The client was waiting on consents that seemed to be taking forever. They were finally given the go ahead in early September. The project was a large investment of 100,000 plants, so the client was skeptical about planting so close to summer.

I met the client on site. The ground was so wet that ground water was seeping out of side of the hills around the slopes. I told the client that normally the risk of planting this close to summer was too great and suggested leaving it till next season. The client was torn between getting the plants in the ground and getting a head start on consent requirements, or potentially risk losing plants. Kauri Park agreed to guarantee the survivability and the contract was signed. By mid-September we were underway, combining two planting teams of around 20 planters, and we completed the job in 10 days. The rains kept coming until labour weekend, and then they turned off like a tap.

The client rang in mid-November and said it looks like we are losing plants, you had better take a visit. Thinking the worst on my drive down to Whitford, my concerns were soon expelled. When undertaking a full site assessment of the 16 hectares, I was blown away by the active growth in just 6 weeks and only found a small percentage of plants that had dried out in the light clay soils on the tops of the ridges. This was a maximum of about 1000 plants, which we will be replacing in the coming season. I reported back to the client and said it looks really great and I think it will be okay.

The dry continued till just after Christmas and the plants were starting to look like they might not hang on forever, but on the flip side, the weeds hadn’t germinated either, so we were making some savings on maintenance. Then the heavens opened and those tropical rains kept coming and coming.

The maintenance crews were there for the first 3 weeks of February trying to control the escalating growth of kikuyu, tobacco weed, gorse, and other weeds. I visited the site again recently and was amazed at the growth of the plants. It is very close to 100% survival and almost reaching canopy cover in just 6 months post planting. The client is one happy camper and is looking to get his 224c and get right on with selling the multi-million-dollar sections.

By Phil Wearmouth