Howzit again Spriggers, here’s the next instalment in my Cape Garden series.
Travis Lyle Observatory, Cape Town
Ladies and gents, meet my second garden in the Cape. Cape Garden 2.0, in the tradition of my last Sprig garden post. The Wife and I bought a lovely little semi-detached Victorian in Observatory, which came with a much larger garden than the place we’d previously rented. Here’s the before photo:
As you can see, we inherited a patch of…well…nothing, really. OK, to be fair, we did in fact inherit one times badly made gumpole pergola, one raggedy Bauhinia (camelfoot) tree, a couple of yucca, some ratty decorative vines, a whole lot of kikuyu, sedge, onion weed and one very determined Strelitzia nicolai (‘wild banana’) which was dead set on both destroying that icon of kak urban design, the vibracrete wall. You can’t see it, because it lost the war. How? I chopped it down with a pruning saw, and dug a hole down into its roots, which we used to host two luau-style braais. So basically, we cooked the roots to death, and hacked the rest out with a pickaxe. Why? The Strelitzia’s fibrous roots are incredibly hardcore, they don’t belong in the Western Cape, and nectar-loving birds drop their ever-viable seed whilst hanging out on fences and walls. Result? Predictable wall and fence carnage. So, goodbye everything and hello, sheet mulching.
Sheet mulching? Sure. Hey, what else to do with a hundred or so cardboard boxes from moving house and a healthy crop of kikuyu and sedge, right? Once the beds had been dug up, the cardboard boxes were stripped of all their plastic packaging tape, wetted down and mulched over with a thick layer of organic matter,, in this case grass trimmings. Then it was time to reinstate all the plants which were transplanted from Cape Garden 1.0. That gave us a good head start, which was good, considering we moved in three months ago, just as spring was warming up. The result? Here we go:
The nasty pergola? That’ll be the bed borders you see. The Strelitzia, bauhinia and everything else? Rotting down nicely in that pile in the far left corner, doing time as compost. Spare bricks found lying around were used for the paths. With the addition of layers of free grass clippings (which you can get anywhere, just watch for your municipality mowing the grass and do a drive-by to pick up the bagged trimmings) and the generosity of neighbours and friends, compost and chicken manure are adding to the layers. Weeds, what weeds? Everything has settled in nicely, and we have few pest issues. Organic snail and slug bait nailed those guys, night patrols are keeping down the number of free-range nocturnal vegetarians, and a fiscal shrike and family of sparrows we’ve encouraged to hang out are doing duty as daytime bug patrol. Result.
It’s early days yet, and on the advice of local eminent permaculturists there’ll be more modifications over time such as terracing the slight slope and making best use of space by training (pleaching) fruit trees such as pear, apple and fig along the fences. Water being scarce during Cape summers, we’re also looking at how best to harvest rainwater using a series of stacked, recycled 220-litre plastic drums. That’s it for now; an update will come once things have settled in properly. Until then enjoy your gardens and remember – if it’s not dirty, you’re doing it wrong!