The Creation of a Sanctuary

How Ian returned parts of our property to native bushland


  • Extensive weed-clearing by selective spraying combined with whipper-snippering, mowing/slashing, machete slashing or hand-weeding. In some cases total removal of weeds by digging and burning
  • Cover with carpet/ blinds
  • Mulch (with wood chips or hay bales)
  • Prepare the tubestocks by soaking them in water in a bucket/ filling a wheelbarrow with water
  • Carry the bucket/ wheelbarrow to the new site
  • Turn plant tubes upside down and tap them against a surface and the plant comes out easily…then when  all have been planted, use the water in the bucket to soak each of the plants into their new ground
  • Put in hardy plants that are native to the area and stake them (don’t use the plastic covers as they blow away) (paint the stakes a bright yellow on the tips so they are obvious once the grass grows high around the new plant)
  • Create access to water – water tanks, dam, river (pump), bore water
  • Water often to begin (if there is no rain) and gradually extend the period of time between watering until the plants are established
  • Weed incessantly – pull out by the roots (balloon vine and glycine), dig out (crown of asparagus fern)
  • Weed after rain when the soil releases the weeds more easily
  • Cut back swathes of grass around each plant and use as further mulch
  • Continuously sweep through the new area, weeding and cutting back grass until the plants are firmly established and are higher than the grassline

Let nature take its course…with occasional bursts of hand weeding, re-staking plants that are bending.

EXAMPLE of transforming the gully

The land that sat alongside the Brisbane River had been allowed to turn into an impenetrable tangle of lantana, blackberry bushes, long grass, Chinese Elms, guavas and some native trees including eucalypts. A veil of glycine, climbing asparagus fern and balloon vine trailed over the vegetation especially on plants and trees closest to the river.

This wall of lantana was typical of the difficulty of gaining access to the river and gives an indication of the huge task of returning the riverbank to native habitat.

Eventually a path was cut through the gully to the river.

By the time a path was cut through the centre of the gully, one was still faced with another host of riparian weeds draped over the vegetation.


In the following photo – of an area adjoining the gully – most of the lantana and blackberry bushes have been removed so that the ground can next be covered with the rolls of carpet.


The deep part of the gully had actually been used as a place for dumping machinery and smaller items of rubbish such as glass bottles. It was quite dangerous in parts with sharp pieces of metal protruding or holes gaping but it was easier to drape the large implements and mechanical devices with carpet than to attempt to remove them.

Besides the heavy work of dragging and spreading carpet, there followed afterwards the strenuous work of carting the mulch and shovelling it over the carpet. Andrew and Luke helped Ian accomplish this  – all by hand.

Then the carpet had to be cut  in the form of crosses so that each native plant could be dug into the soil. After a colossal effort over many months of 2005, Ian succeeded in carpeting the entire gully, mulching it and planting natives that are indigenous to this area.

It is virtually impossible now to take a photo of the gully from the same angle as the view is completely obscured by tall trees, however the next aerial photo in September 2010 shows the area that was almost completely covered in carpet and staked plants. This restoration of bushland has created a natural sanctuary  for native wildlife.

Be properly prepared for restoring the land to bush

  • Personal: good hat, gloves, proper gumboots/ canvas shoes, insect repellent, water bottles, sunscreen
  • Good equipment: shovel, kamakiri (small scythe which can be ordered through Forestry Tools at,  stakes with painted tops (plunge stakes into old tins of paint then stand upright to dry off), saw,weed sprayer, whipper-snipper, spare buckets, secateurs and poison spray bottle (to deal with some nasty plants immediately), small digging tool for smaller asparagus vines or stubborn weeds
  • Work in the coolest parts of the day and take your mobile phone (snake bite / take photos of wildlife) with you as well as snacks, bandaids etc. Plant when the season promises to be wet.
  • Set up a workbench for gathering seeds, pods, cultivate own natives – or dig up the good ones that have seeded from bird-droppings etc. and place them in tubs of potting mix til they are healthy then transfer to the next area of re-vegetation
  • Note: We no longer place plastic tree guards around our new plants as they are blown away too easily and become eco-unfriendly
  • Note Well: After the enormous rainfall of late 2010 leading into 2011 Ian purchased two truckloads of hay bales that had been spoiled by the rain and consequently were much cheaper. He used this as a fast way of providing mulch to other garden areas where old mulch had virtually broken down. He could cart a number of bales to a site then split them in half (pulling them apart into two or three layers) and then lay them thickly. This proved to be such an easier job than shovelling traditional mulch. We now have dozens of lengths of pink plastic twine that tied the bales into groups!!

See the Post, April 2012, for more ideas on how to reclaim grassy land for planting:

April 2012

See Plants page on Menu for tips on how to acquire native plants more cheaply.

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