Gardening in Kruger NP for Dummies

Gardening in Kruger NP for Dummies

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:
  1. If you want to start or maintain a garden in Kruger, make sure you have a fence.
  2. Make sure your fence is an elephant proof fence.
  3. If you want to grow your own vegetables, do so in a tunnel.
  4. Make sure the tunnel is elephant and monkey proof.
  5. If you want to keep Desert Roses, do so in a tunnel.
  6. Make sure the tunnel is squirrel proof.
  7. 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!

13 thoughts on “Gardening in Kruger NP for Dummies

  1. Wow Linda , this is a major challenge.To have tried for an entire year shows immense fortitude and determination!

    I love your desert Rose pot. Maybe you can cover it with chicken wire to keep the squirrels off? There is a lady in Kruger called Dorris Khoza who used to work at Tshokwane as a cleaner. She was, a couple of years ago, transferred to Lower Sabie. When at Tshokwane she worked very hard to beautify the area for which she was responsible- sweeping paths and outlining them in stones, making plant beds and planting them with indigenous aloes and other bush plants. She also had a big problem with hungry visitors – and no fences. She eventually decided to cover all her beds with vicious thorny branches – and – success! When we arrived the following year, the aloes were in flower and all sorts of plants were forming an attractive tapestry in her beds. I know you can’t do this because of Alex and Jack and the thorns but I did think that veg might grow beneath a thorny covering if only you could isolate it from the boys.

    In the meantime, I am never going to complain about problems in my garden again -if I even get near that I shall think of you and your Kruger Gardening Tips for Dummies and count myself so lucky!!!

  2. Having banged on about chilis for so long I am intrigued and hope that I will not be proven WRONG and have to hang my head in shame.
    so a SQUIRREL was the culprit!
    Every time I see a reference to a DESERT ROSE I think of the bush urinals we had when on ops/exercises. dig up a small area to loosen the soil and insert these oversized, very long-necked galvanised funnels and drape some hessian around it and…hey-ho the gents is pretty much ready!

  3. Now I don’t know if my comment went through or not…seems I pressed the POST button twice by accident…

  4. Oh my, never thought about those challenges! Elephants too…. I thought about all the other usual suspects, from our stay at Jocelyn’s. Fun, wow! Keep growing, everyone loves your mecca!

  5. I love your blog, hope the chili ? works. I have grown herbs and cherry tomatoes on a sunny windowsill. Not sure if that would work for you. Not veggies but great to have fresh herbs.

  6. Maybe you should contact the scientists in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. At least some of them are also trying hives with bees along the fences which border the crop fields of the villagers. That is besides the chilli (paste). I am sure you are aware of the conflict with especially elephants in those areas, but there are people working with them to try and combat the crop raiding issue to avoid the inevitable slaughter which often is the result (obviously not in Kruger).

  7. Goodness what a challenge. I have followed your gardening and am amazed that your are still game to keep trying. Only thing I can think of is Impala lilies. Wonder if the nursery at Skukuza has any input. Following this with great interest.

  8. As others have said; all your trying just puts me to shame. I have enough rain and only foxes who come to eat the windfall plums. The only moan I have is clay soil, so difficult to dig.
    Good luck with the grass but I’m sure your boys are happy to play grass or not.
    Love your blog

  9. Hallo Linda, just as a matter of interest, the lapa and the barbecue place in your garden was built by Craig Beaton round about 1992.We were both trails rangers doing the Wolhuter trail. I lived next door. I believe it is not a trails ranger house anymore. We never had elephant problems although we had lush gardens. Your blog brings back good memories. Kind regards Frans du Toit.

  10. Hello. I do have green fingers… But met my match in Malelane. Wow, it’s hard to grow a pretty garden…. Even without your large and small visitors!

  11. Ons het nie besef dit is so moeilik om tuin te maak in die wildtuin nie. Julle woon in die mooiste natuurtuin in die wereld net soos dit is. Ek sal nie ”worrie” oor tuin maak nie. Die mooi bome en omgewing is mooi genoeg. Nogtans sterkte met julle pogings. Groete

  12. We have a similar problem, without the elephants, thank goodness, as we have game on our estate so we erected a small electric fence and voila, so far so good. No more warthogs, dunkers, impala or zebras eating everything .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *