When we bought that piece of land, we noticed that there is a heap of soil in the middle of the paddock. The previous owners told us that’s all top soil from the building platform excavation works. Cool, these folks thought ahead and saved the most precious soil for us.
When we finished the major earth works in late summer this year, we used all that soil to level the new terraces in front of our deck. Then we spread heaps of mixed wild flower seeds in that area to provide a bit more colors than just the standard grass. Many of the seeds germinated in late autumn and we even had a few flowers during the winter months.
One particular type of seedling made us suspicious though. It looked a bit similar to gorse, the most unwanted pest plant in New Zealand. First we thought, nah, that’s just another flower that looks similar, and why would anyone add gorse seeds to wildflower seeds? But when these seedlings started to grow distinctive gorse-thorns, we knew there is something very wrong going on in our garden.
Gorse. Thousands of them!
Gorse is the local name for the Spanish plant Ulex, that early settlers brought to New Zealand for hedging and soil improvement. What they didn’t know is that Gorse spreads incredibly fast in this climate. Today it covers 700,000 hectares or 5% of New Zealands land area and its seeds can lie dormant on the ground for up to 50 year. In our heap of soil they probably only sat there for about 10 years, but obviously they were all just waiting to get closer to the surface and sprout.
I set out one square meter and counted 135 seedlings. There were about 300 m2 like that. How would we remove all of them? We’re strictly against using any poison on our land, but we didn’t see any reasonable alternatives really. Plucking more than 40,000 plants would take us a full work week of time. Time that we don’t have at the moment because spring is at its peak and our attention is urgently needed in other areas of the garden.
People in the local community suggested us to get woofers and so we created user profiles on the main platforms wwoof.co.nz and helpx.net. We thought about having woofers here for a while before, but this gorse problem really pushed the project forward.
Three weeks and four helpers later, the gorse is finally gone! Some of the roots snapped while pulling them out, so we may need to go over it again in a couple of weeks, but overall I think we won the gorse battle, and even made some new friends with travellers from Germany and France. :)