High Maintenance

I don't just love designing gardens I also like to work in them. I find it cathartically satisfying to pull out weeds, to dig up old roots, to lay a foundation of loam and organic compost, to sweep walkways and plant seedlings - so working in my clients garden's isn't exactly a hardship and this week we did a lot of it.


From a hilltop Potager garden to a rooftop herb garden in Sandton, to weeding under tomatoes and sowing seeds directly into willow containers on the pavement - my finger nails are shredded, my face is brown. I'm happy! 


One of our favourite garden's is high on the ridge in Parktown. It's a beautiful, rambling vegetable and herb garden under an umbrella of fruit trees. We installed the garden in September last year and we've been back twice since to maintain it. This was our third call out and after the rains in December it felt as if nature was trying to tell us something and not so subtely.  


The fruit trees are sadly infested with Oriental Fruit Moth - sap is oozing out of all peaches, blister beetles have had a go at the horseradish and beans and black aphids are nesting in the artichoke globes. The companion herbs and edible flowers we'd planted are working overtime but are having little effect against natures ruthlessness.

The small, greyish Oriental Fruit Moth isn't easy to detect as it mostly flies around at dawn and dusk. It lays its eggs on leaves which later hatch larvae that are capable of destroying an entire orchard as they can produce up to 5 generations of pests within a single season. They are the enemy of many a orchardist. Is that the correct terminology? Anyone know?


The larvae cocoon during winter and bore into ripened stone fruit. Once infestation occurs it is difficult to get rid of them organically. Sanitation is very important and we spent most of the morning picking up rotting fruit from the ground and pulling it off branches. You can't even put the rotten fruit and branches on the compost heap as it spreads its disease 


We cut back  the most infested branches, which brought much needed light to the planters. 


Sadly, the fruit trees won't produce any good fruit for the remainder of the season. We'll have to wait for Spring to start an integrated organic programme using botanical insecticides and pheromone ties.


We replanted were there were gaps, we trimmed back the black beauty eggplant, we laid down organic snail and slug bait, and soaked some of the beds with worm juice before planting red cabbage and broccoli.