What To Plant

Good Plant – Bad Plant
What to plant in your garden

Everyone thinks that growing a garden in Noordhoek is hard. It is but if you do it right its not. We will show you how to do it right, first time, no messing around.

We all know that our suburban sprawl displaces natural systems and varieties of vegetation. Noordhoek is no different.

It is important that we attempt to replace what we displace and reduce our impact on our sensitive local environment, as we all wish to do, as responsible citizens! I must tell you this as this is our local environmental groups website.

Luckily it’s not hard to make things grow well here. Waterwise gardening has become popular in the past few years and we know that local plants can outgrow exotic plants every time – after all they have had thousands of years of practice.

The real trick here is to fool plants that they are indeed growing in nature and not in our backyard. We have to study how the wind (that never stops in summer, parching everything) blows around our property. There will be calm and drafty spots. There are wet and dry spots. Don’t put your hammock in the wet spot.

Learn where all of these components of the microclimate are situated. Check out the soil. Is it sand or soil? If its sand, help it – add lots of compost, a bit of clay helps too. Keep adding compost and plant matter and you will have good soil in a few years.

You want trees? Remember, trees never grow in isolation. Show me a one-tree forest. Solution; fool the trees that they are in a forest. Difficult? No, not really. Luckily we have lots of fast growing plants like the Chrisanthemoides and Euryops family (large daisy like bushes) that will give shelter to the more sensitive plants, while providing a haven for them to get established in.

Mimic nature. Use the fast growing plants to shelter the slower growing. So use the daisy bushes, camphor bushes and so forth to give shelter to slightly slower growing Protea family plants – conebushes (Leucadendrons), pincushions (Leucospermum) and proteas (proteas!). Plant thatch. Its very pretty and grows anywhere.

Now use your Protea bushes to give shelter to the trees. Some proteas are trees and do not mind some wind. The silver tree is a good example which does well in Noordhoek. Plant wild peach, wild olive, wild plum, wild fig (lots of local wild things to plant, hey?!) amongst your proteas. Now they will think they are in a forest and behave accordingly.

If you have a corner of the garden that is too windy to grow anything – and don’t we all – don’t despair. There are always alternatives. Some succulents like aloes, botterboom, vygies and others really don’t mind a gale. Neither do pincushions. In fact, given a chance there are several trees such as coastal silver oak, which will grow in a salt laden gale.

So don’t despair, anything is possible. If you have a calm corner, use that to grow more sensitive plants and trees such as yellowoods and karee.

Now for a few don’ts. Don’t think that Australian trees are better. Like their rugby and cricket players, they are not. Australian cherry (Eugenia) may look like an easy option but they are (like the sportsmen) boring, monotonous and predictable. Local wildlife like birds and insects don’t like them. They spread and become weedy. Same with Myoporum/ manatoka. They look like an easy option but they are hell to get rid of and now that we have got most of the stinkbean, wattles, rooikrans and other Ozzie trash out of the neighbourhood (who let them in?) the manatoka are making themselves equally obnoxious.

Same with kikuyu grass. Get rid of it, it’s awful and it makes you itch when you roll in it. Buffalo grass is okay but best is Cape Kweek. This is the grass that surrounds the old Pick n Pay centre. It is never watered, it has football played on it 365 days a year, it is on salt soil and it thrives. It is soft it is local and its lekker.

So whenever possible, go local. And it is always possible. In fact go as local as possible and use plants that are not just indigenous but endemic, that is that are from the area. You will save water, you will have a beautiful garden and you will be the envy of the neighbourhood. In fact if you are a woman and single the men will come running. If you are a man the women (and men – its Cape Town deah!) will come running too! Go indigenous and be cool and popular!

So have fun, go local and make it lekker.

If you want a great book to point you in the right direction go and buy, immediately, ‘Fast and Easy Waterwise Gardens, Cape Town to Mossel Bay’ by Glenn Ashton. Available at Wordsworths, Kirstenbosch and www.loot.com for a ridiculously reasonable price.

This article was written by Glenn Ashton and he is not promoting his book at all. But the book does go into things in a bit more detail on how to get your garden thriving and has complete lists of plants to assist you.

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