food garden

Cape Garden 1.0

Ladies and gents, meet my first garden in the Cape. Cape Garden 1.0, if you will. We’re in Observatory, so plots are small, but we got lucky with a great courtyard and garden space. Three months after moving in, and having pulled up the masses of weeds which grew during winter’s wet season, my wife and I now have a nice little kitchen garden up and running, from which we eat daily. Hell, enterprising woman that she is, she’s just taken to making sundried tomatoes with the surplus. She’s learnt trick from a blog she found: dry them on your car’s dashboard during the heat of the day. Best sundried tomatoes I ever ate.

Our list of herbs and vegetables are: coriander, basil, lemon grass, tomato (large, rosa and pomodori), sorrel, lettuce (3 kinds), marjoram, oregano, lavender, rosemary, parsley, mint, spearmint, pennyroyal, lemon thyme, celery, rocket, leeks, spring onion, wild sage, wild rosemary, catnip and comfrey. These take up most of our space, but we’ve saved a patch for indigenous species, which we’ve mostly gotten by taking slips from plants growing in and around Cape Town, on wild patches, roadsides and on walks around The Mountain. Some I can identify, such as the daisy-like Compositaes (or Asteracaes, after ‘aster’, a Greek term for star, which South Africans would recognise in the Afrikaans for star, ‘ster’. English too, come to think of it), and Gazanias, which it turns out also belong to the Asteracae family. It’s a big family, the ‘largest family of vascular plants’ according to the venerable Wiki. We also have a couple different Pelargoniums, bulbines, aloes and a dozen or so vygies (Mesembryanthemacae), arum lilies, clivia and portulacaria (spekboom & co). Others, like the beautiful purple-flowering Question Mark plant which grows en masse in any open space here, I have no clue about (and if anyone can identify it from the photo, I’m all ears).

It’s interesting, getting used to the Cape’s climate, and the fact that it’s pretty much bone dry in summer and utterly wet in winter (as opposed to the Durban cycle, which is roughly opposite). To counteract the baking dry heat of this time of year, I put down a thick layer of mulch. This consists of quite a few layers of wood chips from a municipal garden’s timber yard, and grass clippings from a sports club down the road. Amongst the wood mulch, an Yellowwood (Podocarpus Latifolius) has germinated, as has a Weeping Boerbean (Schotia brachypetala).

It’s early days yet, but I think my first Cape garden is doing alright, thus far.


(Apologies for the low-quality pics, they had to be taken on my phone)

10 replies on “Cape Garden 1.0”

Where is this municipal garden’s timber yard you speak of? I am new to this area and getting around is proving a tad difficult. My soil is bone dry at the top and this layer of mulch sounds exactly what I need as the wind is pretty hefty here.
Great blog. I am planting only indigenous too and your blog helps a lot. Although finding trees and shrubs at the nursery is a bit difficult as they hardly have a wide variety.

@Elephants Eye: could well be lobostemon, flowers start out pinkish and morph to purple
@Nicky: the mulch I got was the result of a wangle with a security guard (it’s not a ‘public’ service), sorry!

hey trav. garden is looking great, and in a relatively short time. think I saw some facebook photos of you harvesting produce for christmas dinner!

Hey Niall, thanks. Yep, we’re pulling a regular supply of salad greens, tomatoes and herbs out, pretty much daily. Wish we had more space!

Have an idea that the last pic is of an invasive weed…..I’m also from Durban so am not that familiar with the Cape stuff…..common name “Somebody’s Folly”

Enjoyed the write-up and pix

Hi Jean,

Turns out it is Lobostemon argenteus, according to ‘Wild Flowers Of The Cape Peninsula’ By Mary Maytham Kidd. It’s a beautiful plant, from the Boraginacae family.

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