|Gorse with flower and seed pods|
I initially turned to the Weeds Australia website, which provides a comprehensive manual on the biology and management of gorse. Gorse is extremely hardy and fast growing, and young shoots resprout from stumps and sticks that remain in soil. It was clear that any management required a range of strategies, including grazing, mechanical removal, slashing and competition. By far the most useful and easily understood description of gorse was found at this instructable, and if dealing with gorse, I'd recommend reading about the experience of gorse management there. It has been recommended as a nurse plant to establish forests in the UK, and is eventually shaded out as the trees establish.
|New gorse sprouting from pruned branches|
Gorse occupies an area of about 1000 square metres on our property of one hectare. The gorse forest was at least 15 years old when we turned up and was almost impenetrable as gorse is so prickly. The area it occupied was at the bottom edge of our property, far from the house and bounded by two neighbouring properties. We designated this area a permaculture zone 4/5, with potential development as a woodlot or wildlife zone. The land is fairly flat with some steep banks leading into a stormwater gully. This meant that it would be possible to get into most of the area with a tractor to slash the gorse back. Our management plan would begin with slashing, and we intended to promote competition by planting fast-growing and productive local indigenous species. In this way we could utilise the features of gorse that promote forest establishment, including their nitrogen fixing capacity, while providing competition and eventually shading them out once our trees and shrubs are established. We got our local machinery man on the job, with the instruction to try to maintain as much of the wattle and other plants that had self-established amongst the gorse.
|Wattle emerging through the gorse|
|Slashing the gorse forest|
|New plantings along edge of gully where gorse has been slashed|
|Where gorse has been slashed, deep mulch of gorse needles remains.|
|Where the root system was entirely pulled out, the soil is very disturbed.|
|Gorse has long tap roots. The length of root shown was entirely underground.|
During Spring, Yorkshire fog, a pasture weed, came up everywhere that the gorse had been slashed. Rosemary Morrow describes Yorkshire Fog in the Earth User's Guide to Permaculture as being caused by increased light and ground disturbance after tree removal, which is indeed what we have done by slashing the gorse.
|Yorkshire fog growing where the gorse was slashed.|