Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Deforestation, Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Global Warming/Climate Change, Nurseries & Propogation, Trees.

by Frank Gapinski

Recently whilst filming at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms near Canberra we spotted a lone figure in the barren landscape quietly digging a series of holes on a 2 kilometer stretch of swales that were designed by Geoff Lawton. Matt Kilby has been on the farm now for 12 months and in that time has developed a system of giving the trees he plants a successful start to life. Planting trees in heavily compacted soil is not easy as Matt will tell you, but it can be done if you follow some basic tips. In this video Matt explains the right way to plant a tree on a swale, especially if it’s located in a fairly inhospitable landscape and how to make sure that the trees you plant have a high success rate. The pink tree guards that Matt created are not cosmetic. They have a particular part to play in speeding plant growth as Matt explains.

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Matt’s life is trees. He’s been inspired by the words of Richard St. Barbe Baker’s book “My Life, My Trees” and is determined to build a beautiful oasis on this planet by planting as many trees as he can. Matt has a vision of this planet and it’s a beautiful one. Where some people see problems, Matt sees a lush food forest fed by a cleverly designed water harvesting swale. A model of sustainable design.

Visit Matt’s website at and say “G’day Matt, Well done!”

6 Responses to “A Man of a Thousand Trees”

  1. cecilia macaulay

    Beautiful project, wonderful bloke.
    Maybe I will think about this project on the cold mornings I don’t want to be yanked out of bed, and up I will spring, try and do something lovely. Something well-prepared, that will work.

  2. greg

    This is going to paint me as a jerk, and I bow to Matt’s experience, BUT… the additives bug me.

    You could go broke using all the additives that are available. Seaweed extract, tree tonic, tree starter, fungal-dominated compost, hydrating gel, fish emulsion… those are the ones Matt uses. Have the experiments been done to show they are each effective and worth it on trees?

    And what about biochar, rock dust, compost tea, microbe innoculants, etc.? Each of those also has its fans.

    Lastly, I understand the science behind the thick layer of mulch, but if rain only comes 5mm at a time, I find that the mulch absorbs all that moisture, and the earth underneath is actually dry…

  3. Geoff Lawton

    Hi Greg
    I am on the site where Matt lives right now and have been out looking at some of his jobs and I know he is way to busy to answer your questions, so I will answer for him. Matt is a very a successful tree planter and gets over 85% success which is very high in tree planting circles when you plant those numbers of trees over large areas that are often degraded. All the ingredients he uses are natural and commercially available through people like Nutritech Solutions and there for convenient and accountable and a successful formula he has developed and evolved over time.
    Biochar, rock dust work are useful additions only if compost tea which contains microbe inoculants is added because you need the microbes to process the rock dust to become plant soluble and the biochar with its enormous surface area is a great habitat for the microbes, so all really great stuff and absolutely works a treat, but over a large and often awkward landscape difficult. The compost tea needs excellent compost with high quality microbes judge by viewing with a microscope and brewing and feeding with specialized microbial foods for 24 hours then it has to be used within 6 to 8 hours and transporting a cubic meter of liquid is very awkward so this is best to brew on site which is also hard to do on remote sites often without power so a generator would be needed for the electric air pump etc. Matt’s clients want to pay for trees that survive and as quickly as possible and become forests so he has developed a successful business model.
    The thick mulch and each planted tree is watered in with 10 liters of water and regularly re-watered with 10 liters of water every week until the first good rains or the trees show growth and demonstrate that they are settled in with root growth, after this the growing tree retains its own moisture in the root net insulated from evaporation by the mulch.
    In smaller and less awkward sites all kinds tree planting system work as long as you have passion which is typical of permaculture.


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