I have never had real green fingers… We only had a very small garden in the house I grew up in and the apartment I owned in Voorburg only had a tiny balcony. I never had much luck with any indoor plants and the lavender I planted in little pots on my balcony didn’t survive my job as a flight attendant. I was just away too long at a time and too often to water the plants properly.
So having a big garden at my disposal in Letaba was a big change for me! Gardening itself is quite a challenge if you ask me. (I am a dummy at gardening after all) But gardening in Kruger is a challenge on a whole new level. Not only do you have all the ‘every day’ gardening issues to contend with, like when to plant what, when to cut and prune, what fertiliser to use, it is too hot, it is too cold, wet, dry etc. etc.
But trying to make a garden in Kruger comes with an added set of challenges. This in the form of Elephants breaking your fence and eating pretty much everything they can find; Impalas chewing the grass down to the roots; Warthogs digging up those roots; Tortoises eating all in our veggie patch; Porcupines and Vervet Monkeys also loving the veggies and succulents, Termites, Squirrels… But mostly: elephants!
We have been at Malelane Gate for a whole year this week! And in that whole year, what did I manage to achieve with the massive 800m2 garden that was nothing but dust and leaves when we moved here? Absolutely nothing! Well, we have about 9m2 of grass. That is it. Grass, leaves and dust.
Those of you that have been following my blog for a while know that I have tried to grow all sorts of things in our garden. From starting a whole vegetable garden from scratch to planting desert roses, aloes and Sansevierias. For as long as my veggie patch lasted, our vegetables were not only enjoyed by us but mostly by our Vervet Monkey neighbours, squirrels, porcupine and tortoises alike. And then three elephants whipped everything out one night and that was that.
The elephants came in and ate my Sansevierias and aloes on a few other occasions. And then there was something chewing on my desert roses too… I could for the life of me not figure out what it was that loved eating my beautiful succulents so much. I had my mini Trailcam pointed at the desert roses for a few nights, but that did not reveal the culprit! Eventually, I re-planted them into a big pot there they were thriving until whatever was eating them when they were under our ‘Haak and steek’ found them again.
I used my Trail camera and low and behold: check what animal has been eating the desert roses:
So, after trying to make a garden for the past year, if I were to write a ‘Gardening in Kruger for Dummies’ manual with tips, it would look something like this:
- If you want to start or maintain a garden in Kruger, make sure you have a fence.
- Make sure your fence is an elephant proof fence.
- If you want to grow your own vegetables, do so in a tunnel.
- Make sure the tunnel is elephant and monkey proof.
- If you want to keep Desert Roses, do so in a tunnel.
- Make sure the tunnel is squirrel proof.
- If, or should I say when an elephant breaks your fence, repeat steps 1-4 or 1-6 depending on the damage!
For us, no 2 is the biggest challenge. So I am currently experimenting with chillies to keep the elephants out: Chillies and chilli paste. Steven thinks that if they really want to come in, they will just come in bum first if there are chillies on the fence. We will have to see. For the moment we are just going to focus on getting some more grass growing. And maybe experiment with planting some plants that not a single animals like… if anyone has tips as to what those may be, please let me know!