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Weeds, work and sticky date pudding

Published 21 Dec 2005 

Wendy Radford was a volunteer at the recent weeding blitz at Charles Darwin Reserve, Western Australia.

Some of our intrepid weeders. Photo Leigh Whisson.Some of our intrepid weeders. Photo Leigh Whisson.

In August 2005 Charles Darwin Reserve was a rippling sea of white and pink paper daisies, and we were struck by the beauty of the woodlands and the spectacular variety of flowers.

Our intrepid crew of weeders was primed to do battle against double gee, cape weed and London rocket, weeds that posed a threat to this wonderland of biodiversity.

Months earlier, in a flash of audacity, Reserve Manager Leigh and his wife Jackie had conceived of achieving a weed-free reserve. Leigh was not sure how his plan would work with the wide range of volunteers who arrived to help, but the evenings spent sharing expertise with novices and experts alike helped to fine tune the details.

Hand weeding the comfortable way. Photo Leigh Whisson.Some of our intrepid weeders. Photo Leigh Whisson.

At Charles Darwin Reserve, weeds occur where there have been farming activities and disturbance of the ground, whether by vehicles, stock or water. The wells, stock traps and roads are the chief repositories of weeds, and the wild goats and vehicles the main vectors.

Thirty-seven sites have been identified as problem areas, occupying less than 2% of the reserve. Our work at Quandong Well was an example of how we tackled the problem. It took the team five days to clear this area. Our aim was to allow the plentiful native vegetation to out-compete the weeds.

Satisfaction by the bucketful. Photo Leigh Whisson.Satisfaction by the bucketful. Photo Leigh Whisson.

This meant weeding the infested areas by hand rather than spraying, including along drainage lines out into the bush.

Where weeds had completely taken over it was possible to spray, but only if the seed was still immature.

At night we enjoyed the company around the pot-belly stove after hearty meals prepared by Jackie, Leigh and the gang. Yes,‘Donga’s Restaurant’ provided some memorable culinary delights, including sumptuous chocolate cheesecake and sticky date pudding.

A view of the stars from the roofless shower after a hard day’s weeding was just one of the many impressions I took with me from Charles Darwin Reserve.

Thanks, Jackie and Leigh and all of our fellow workers, for a thoroughly memorable time.

A heartfelt thanks to all those who participated with such commitment in the inaugural weeding bee at Charles Darwin Reserve. With a total of 42 participants and nearly 300 person-days of work, it was a huge success. Of the 37 sites surveyed, 25 were completely weeded and seven partly weeded. Only five sites were not visited. A fantastic effort! Please join us again next year.

– Leigh Whisson, Reserve Manager, Charles Darwin Reserve

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