An inspiring little book on the gentle art of regenerating the bush with minimum disturbance.

One of my teachers, Diane Harwood, has kindly given me permission to share the notes she’s developed on bushland regeneration.  These are based on an inspiring little book by Joanna Bradley plus Diane’s many years out in the Denmark bush, weeding and caring for local reserves, finding out what works and what doesn’t by trial and error.  I have copied these notes below and included an image of the book jacket, in case you want to source a copy for yourself.  We’re reading it as part of our course and it’s a delightful story of two sisters in New South Wales in the sixties who were dismayed by the widespread infestation of weeds along their local walking tracks and decided to take matters into their own hands.  Over the years, they proved  that “systematic hand weeding, carefully done, was a spectacular success.”  Both women were in their fifties and claim they did not work hard, but were persistent, selective and particular about their methods.  Joanne Bradley says, “Bringing back the bush is a gentle art, demanding a strong will and patience.”

I’ve used this gentle approach to bushland regeneration as a metaphor for the personal journey towards sustainable living and creative expression in other posts.  It’s given me new hope that I and others can make a difference to the future of this planet by gently plugging away in our own areas of interest and skill.

I’ve copied Diane’s notes below for your inspiration and education.


Notes by Diane Harwood

Inspired by
Bringing Back the Bush: The Bradley Method of Bush Regeneration by Joanna Bradley

The “Bradley” Principles of Bush Regeneration

  • Work from good (ie weed-free) areas towards bad
    (ie weedy) areas
  • Make minimum disturbance
  • Allow the regeneration of native plants to dictate the rate of weed removal

Words of Warning

Don’t start on a large weed infestation unless you are sure you will get back to do the follow-up work. Removing the parent plants may create light and space for hundreds of new weed seedlings.

Don’t remove anything you are not sure of. Many weeds have a native look-a-like, and some of the weediest-looking plants are important members of the local plant community.

Aim for control, not eradication, and tipping the balance in favour of the local native plants.

Applying the Bradley Principles

  • Assess extent of area to be weeded, taking into account surrounding land-use, and considering potential sources of weeds. (When assessing, be careful not to brush against seed-bearing weeds.)
  • Note which weeds are present, their growth habits and life cycles, and the density of the infestation. (Remember some plants have dormancy periods.)
  • Plan to prevent the least weed-infested bush from becoming degraded.  Aim for control, not eradication, and to tip the balance in favour of the local native plants.
  • First step is to remove any seed-bearing trees, plants or parts of plants without spreading the seeds.  Catch on tarp or place into bags.
  • You may need to make a traffic plan, especially when working with a group.  This is important to avoid trampling and damaging native plants and spreading weed seeds through clean bush.
  • Next, dig out or cut any isolated weeds or ones that are directly inhibiting native plants.
  • Use a fork or crow-bar to loosen the soil, then pull weed out, allowing all soil to remain in place. Replace leaf litter. This helps to deter further weed outbreaks.  Leave fallen logs, twigs, bark etc from native species to provide shelter and nutrients.
  • In some cases the uprooted plant can be left as mulch, but generally it is best to remove all weed material from the site.
  • Do not allow piles of weeds to get too big to handle; always consider the next step – removal from the site and disposal.
  • Disposal can be a problem: if possible put the material through a mulcher, then compost it if necessary to kill seeds.  Alternatively, place in pit and cover, or burn.
  • Whichever method is used, take care not to infect new areas!

A tangle of Dolichos Pea, Bridal Creeper and other weeds in the Morgan Street bush reserve close to Denmark town