The Move – the garden

One of the things that we really loved about the house when we first saw it was the garden. And the pecan nut tree of course. It’s got several tall trees, some covered with ivy, little nooks and crannies and a teensy pool. It’s also got four – yes FOUR – wendy houses! In the back yard. Then there is still the front yard which is not that tiny either. After being incarcerated in the complex with 5 square meters of garden – this is total heaven.

The third time, several weeks later, when we took mom to see the house, the garden was still lovely but that much drier, as it gets in Pretoria in the winter. We laughed a bit and said that perhaps we would not have been quite so smitten had we seen it at this time of year. Of course, by that time we had already signed papers and there was no turning back.

In the six weeks that passed between then and the date we got the keys, the previous owners managed to turn that lovely garden into a bit of a droopy wilderness. Crunchy brown grass, sad looking plants, and oh my goodness – piles and piles of dead leaves stacked up against the wall.

See what I mean! Both Chris and I had visions of snakes and rats…

The soil is red and plenty of it was visible too. But we were totally undaunted. A poke around the property yielded a treasure trove of stuff, garden tools, hanging baskets of all shapes, sizes and variations of loveliness – full of dead or scanty plants of course – but just waiting to be filled again.

Emma found all sorts of hanging things that tingled and jangled. She retrieved them and hung them from the bougainvillea that rambles between their flatlet and mom’s granny flat.

There’s a divine bird feeder and a bird-poop covered old wooden bench.

Then there are an assorted collection of pots and statues of various oddness. Some will stay, some will be buried in the ivy.

The first weekend we were so busy moving there was no time to do anything in the garden. Then we were so busy settling into the house all I did was unearth the garden hose (they left those too, although we did have a piss-willy little one ourselves that would have been most inadequate) and unleash jets of water on the wasteland.

There was peculiar black dust on many of the plants – we are not sure if it’s from one of the trees or if maybe somebody tried to make a bonfire out of the leaves and it was a sooty residue. It washed off rather easily – so we’ll see if it comes back next year.(It turned out to be black mould-from aphids)

We were loathe to dig up any bits of the garden at that stage because we’re sure it is full of bulbs and all sorts of other exciting stuff that will start growing when the rains come (although I am watering and the grass is starting to turn green again). Luckily Pretoria does not have water restrictions at this stage.

The second weekend came around – the Saturday was Em’s birthday and she had invited some friends over for a braai in the evening. Chris was on a mission to just clear all the stuff that was lying around outside. Most of it came from our double garage. This house does not have a garage. It has two large car ports and the four wendy houses. Originally we thought we might remove one or two of them. I mean – we are not running a campsite for heaven’s sake! But then I’d started thinking that I could possibly run workshops out of the newest one in the middle, and the scary ramshackley one with covered ivy next to the veggie garden could house the garden tools. Chris could have the one nearest to the house as a sort of work shed and the one in the furthest corner could be used to store arb stuff. Em shunned having a wendy as a studio and opted to snag the laundry area instead.

Problem was – they were all scary and needed to be cleaned, painted or fixed up a bit and sorted out. The previous owners had left lovely shelving in two of them, but the shelves had all sorts of stuff on them too. Chris did not want to pack anything away before taking ownership of the wendies.

He’d been busy at work and taking odd bits and pieces of leave during that first week – a few hours here and there – but there was just so much to do. He, with the help of Luan, managed to get them more or less sorted, so that he was happy to pack things into them by the Saturday.

The back courtyard was finally cleared and Ems was able to have her birthday braai.

My hands were a tad destroyed from the moving. I had fingers covered with plasters that kept falling off and they were too sore to do anything, but of course, I persisted doing ridiculous things and the little nicks turned into full blown cuts. Garden gloves were scant protection – but I managed to prune the roses on the Sunday, once again messing up my arm that I had hurt moving initially.

It’s a bugger getting older! Hanging curtains, shifting boxes and moving things into places that you actually want them takes its toll. Moving is not for sissies.

By the end of the second week the house was almost straight (not quite – and that’s when you get to the lazy stage and leave the odd box for later… which is a long time in coming).

The second Saturday we leapt up early. By 10h00 we had gone grocery shopping, hardware shopping, wine shopping and had also hit the mall to buy some gizmo that Chris needed for the TV.

We were ready to get stuck into the garden.

Must say – I sort of envisaged some gentle pottering around. But Chris had other plans. We were going to make a compost heap. He’d bought some compost activator at the hardware store and had it all planned out. We’d dig up part of the veggie bed. The square in the corner next to my going-to-be-fabulous once it is summer again grenadilla vine.

I thought not. No ways. Hell no!

So we agreed to make it in the other section closest to the garden instead. We needed to dig out a square – 1.5m x 1.5m and it had to be about 20cm deep. The soil taken out would then be used to cover the heap – when we were finished. Chris had come up with the clever plan of using the lawnmower to mash up the leaves – which would make them decompose more easily.

Digging that soil was a bitch but we did it. Then I raked the leaves that were scattered around the grass into piles to be mowed. Chris broke out our trusty mower machine that had been in exile for 8 years. Okay I lie, it had been used two or three times whilst we lived in the complex – when the blue dudes were on Xmas break.

Between Chris and the lawnmower they mashed and gobbled those leaves like a hungry monster. I shuttled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow off to the fast growing compost heap. Somehow, I had heard that there would be two layers. 20cm of leafy mulch, a sprinkle of activator, then another 20cm of mulchy stuff – then the soil.

Hmmm…. Turned out I also have defective hearing. There were, in fact to be four layers.


Halfway through, the job ceased to be fun and became a mindless drudge of snorting leaf dust and aching arms. But the pile of leaves banked up against the wall diminished considerably and the compost heap grew. Em and Charl went off to have a braai – with nary an offer of help. Luan took a break from studying to see what we were doing. Said he’s help for a bit, then cavorted around the place digging out all the musty pecan nuts that he could find. Think he might have ferried one wheelbarrow full of leaf smoosh. Once he’d exhausted all the manky nuts – he took himself back to his room like a squirrel with his haul of nuts to study.

Eventually… much much later… we got to the stage where we could cover the heap with the soil that we had removed several hours earlier.

It was exhausting but also exhilarating, and knowing that we are going to have a fat pile of lovely compost to lavish on our garden at some stage in the future is simply fabulous.