Gardening with weeds and ‘blomme’

The man wants to get a baby tractor. He mentioned a baby fire engine too, but that’s a want, not a need. When I look out over our backyard a baby tractor is entirely reasonable.

I remember once – stuck in a flat in Joburg – longing to look out over green fields in the morning. Now I have my own, at least half a soccer field.

I gather the green comes from a wonderfully diverse collection of weeds. It’s certainly not grass I recognise. Who cares. It’s easy on the eye and keeps the dust down. Cut short and seen from a distance it looks quite respectable, if not lavish. I do admit, though, that pushing our not-so-small lawnmower up and down is better than a gym contract. Hence the interest in a baby tractor.

Can natural grasses and groundcovers be considered weeds? They don’t appear in any gardening books I possess and some, I admit, are decidedly undesirable. The Man, a former farm boy who understands these things, pointed out some of them. Armed with digging tools we all marched up and down the yard digging up the three-pointed duwweltjies and those horrid burrs. I’m sure there will be more next year, but we made a dent. I can (almost) walk barefoot to the washing line.

Every place has its own idiosyncrasies, but Henley is weird, one minute the soil is as soft as butter, the next baked concrete. I’ve learnt not to even try to weed until after the rain.

We keep coming up with plans for the garden, but it will have to be a next year project, except perhaps the sidewalk outside. Our award-winning neighbours have set the bar high. Without a borehole we can’t compete, but we can at least be tidy. Whenever we take the dogs for a walk we note what others have done, and what is likely to survive and thrive.

Meanwhile I delight in the wildflowers popping up in the empty plots and coating the verges. We arrived in time to see the world turn purple and white with accents of yellow. So beautiful. I tried to transplant some, but we hit that heat wave and they withered. I’m hoping they left some seeds behind for next year.

Taking a short cut through an untouched plot behind us is delightful. The path meanders past feathery prickles, tall white lace, splashes of purple and blue, spires of fluffy yellow. Somehow, they survive in the bare iron-hard earth. Next month there will be more and different. I wish I knew more names, not the posh Latin ones, but the quaint, descriptive names like moederkappie, bobbejaanstert and cat’s whiskers.

Frankly, we never expected to end up with half a soccer field. We see some Henley homeowners have divided their plots, keeping half natural, or planting it with trees. I’m rather keen on an orchard, but I understand fruit trees have their own problems.

Perhaps Junior has the right idea … next spring we should simply throw handfuls of wildflower seeds into our weeds and see what happens.

I suspect we’ll also be in the market for a baby tractor!

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