Portulacaria afra ( Pork bush / Elephant's Food / Spekboom. ) This miracle plant that removes more carbon than the Amazon jungle!
Hectare for hectare, a Spekboom thicket is ten times more effective than the Amazon rainforest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One hectare of Spekboom can absorb between 4 and 10 tonnes of carbon per year!
How does it manage this?
The Porkbush is different to other plants, as it has the ability to make use of two different photosynthetic pathways. when conditions are favourable it manufactures its food to sustain growth by using the same method that most other plants use. However, when conditions are not favourable and other plants have to shut down and wait for sufficient rain, or cooler weather, the porkbush can switch to a different pathway called CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) whereby it can continue to grow and slurp up huge amounts of carbon despite adverse climatic conditions. Another unique trait this plant has, is that it stores solar energy to perform photosynthesis at night. All these factors combined, make the plant more effective than any other plant. This means that this plant will basically “do its work” for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
What does the plant do with the carbon it absorbs?
The plant uses the carbon to make new plant tissue which helps it to grow thicker and larger. Further to its carbon habit, the large spreading shrub covers and shades the soil from the harmful rays of the sun creating a favourable environment under the bush for insects and other wildlife to inhabit, while the dead organic matter which accumulates under the bushes has an enriching effect on the soil. This further enrichment of the soil improves its water-holding capacity which further benefits the porkbush as well as other plants and animals including micro-organisms in the soil.
Will it be suited to our Zululand gardens?
Most definitely, YES! It is an evergreen plant and prefers a sunny position. (it is generally suited to all areas of South Africa, but does struggle with heavy frost) This plant can reach about 3 metres tall, but can be successfully pruned into a neat hedge. The plant gives a splash of late winter/spring pink flowers, which have a rich nectar. This attracts the insects and birds. With this being a drought tolerant carbon sponge, with excellent soil binding properties which prevent soil erosion, we should all be doing our bit for the environment !
Pick up one at your local garden centre or give me a call should you require any further assistance.
With the recent rains and hopefully loads more on the way, our plants are going to “jump” out the ground!
Now is the time to fertilise so as to give your lawn and plants a good boost for the coming season.
It is recommended to fertilise with organic fertiliser, so as to increase the microbial activity in the soil and encourage the earthworms. Bounceback, Bioganic and Organo-plus are readily available at all leading garden centres and agricultural depots.
Alternatively, you can use 2:3:4 on your flower beds, and 5:1:5 or LAN on your lawn. (Should your lawn just need greening up, then LAN, being a high nitrogen fertiliser, would be the best choice. If you need to encourage a stronger root system, then use 5:1:5. With this fertiliser you will get the nitrogen boost, and the high Potassium base will help with the roots.
Topdressing your grass with lawn dressing or fine compost, will insulate the roots and assist with the soils water holding capacity. (use roughly one 30dm bag per 3-4m2)
Should you be struggling with weeds, then apply MCPA which is a selective weedicide. This will kill all the broadleaf in your lawn and not damage the grass itself. (avoid applying to Kearsney lawn, as this is a broadleaf grass!)
If you have not pruned your fruit trees yet, then do so as soon as possible. Remove all dead or diseased branches.
Clear away all fallen fruit, so as not to attract pests and diseases for the upcoming season. You can set up some effective home-made, organic insect traps now. To prevent coddling moth, mash one banana + 1 cup of sugar + 1 cup of vinegar, place in a cup and hang at a slight angle in your tree. To catch fruit fly, use a red tennis ball covered with petroleum jelly. The colour of the ball will attract the fruit fly before the actual fruit does!
Consider changing your insecticides to a safer method, which won’t harm our bees and butterflies.
NEEM OIL has taken the market by storm! This is an organic insecticide from the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) . It is an oil spray, which will only kill sucking insects, such as aphids, mealy bug, thrips etc. Butterflies and bees collect pollen or nectar and do not bite into your plants, so won’t be affected by this chemical. (apply once a week at a rate of 1 tsp Neem oil, 1 tsp dishwashing liquid and 1 litre of warm water)
Lastly, don’t forget to clean out your gutters. The fallen leaves from winter accumulate in our gutters and inhibit the natural flow of the water away from the house. Furthermore, this debri affects the water in the rain tanks. Remember, once you have cleaned your gutters, add this partially decomposed matter to your compost heaps!
Happy gardening everyone!