The Wonthaggi Seed Bank & Nursery started with a few local farmers planting shelter belts. Today it’s helping to re-vegetate hundreds of hectares of public land.
From ‘The Seed of an Idea’, an article by Terri Allen published at BassCoastPost.com
The Wonthaggi Seed Bank had its genesis in Cape Paterson Coastal Plains Landcare. This group of dedicated farmers espoused the cause of indigenous plants for shelter belts, eradication of pest species, and experimentation with direct seeding methods and education.
Ably led by Landcare officer Geoff Trease, they made a difference to the local landscape. One group mapped and monitored roadside weeds and began to remove them. Farmers used chainsaws and utes to collect branches of indigenous plants; these branches were dried on sheets in sheds. Fallen seed on the sheets was dealt with in kitchens, cleaned, sorted and weighed. The use of Asquith’s old dairy was a godsend, a depot for collected seed, igloos to dry seed and a place to clean and sort seed. Direct seeding on members’ farms enabled research into and trialling of methods.
The seed bank soon became a separate entity, working with a group of seed banks under the auspices of the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority to produce guidelines such as types of seed to be collected, amounts (10 per cent of a plant), permits needed, and the use and sale of seed.
A band of collectors met weekly. They learned about the plants, where they were located, how to collect, when to harvest. Another band dealt with the seed, drying, cleaning, weighing, storing. Some prepared the seed mixes for direct seeding.
As the value of public land and its protection was realized, these same people sought grants to re-vegetate, in conjunction with local environment groups such as the Friends of Wonthaggi Heathland and the South Gippsland Conservation Society.
Schools participated in the projects with seed collection, propagation and planting out. Some planting days fielded 300 planters.
Revegetation included planting of tube stock and direct seeding. Revegetation sites include Tent Town, the Wonthaggi Wetlands, Five Brace, Rifle Range, Wonthaggi Bushland Reserve, Tank Hill, Wonthaggi Heathland, Baxter’s Wetlands and West Area Block.
The Wonthaggi Seed Bank expanded in 2014 to include a nursery at the State Coal Mine. Here plants are propagated from locally collected indigenous seed. Volunteers work on Wednesdays and Fridays cleaning and sorting seed, sowing seed, pricking out, watering and caring for plant stock.
Plants have been supplied to projects such as wetland refurbishment, Five Brace and West Area revegetation, Cape Paterson Residents and Ratepayers and South Gippsland Conservation Society projects.
The images below show the enormous commitment made by Volunteers and contracted workers at the time (circa 2016) to build the Nursery grounds, the Nursery shed and to construct appropriate environments for the indigenous plants propagation. Local people working together. Look back and see the level of ingenuity and resourcefulness that the group undertook to re create environments for propagation such as for the wetland plants! Big plastic tubs were retrieved from local farms, cut in half and re-furbished for the wetland plants. Basic ‘cheap’ building materials (besser blocks, black plastics, foam mats, planks etc) were utilised to simulate ‘wetlands’. These materials were constructed to contain the wetland plants and also could be adjusted to control the depth that some plants preferred to grow in. The inaugural indigenous Wetland plants were retrieved for future propagation from Inverloch November- December 2016.