The Green File by Johan Wentzel
The change of season is always exciting times for gardeners sensitive to the habitat that they have created around them.
Some birds, such as the swallows and swifts are preparing for long journeys across the oceans that boggle the mind – just to return to the same spot next year. And that has been happening eons before the concept of a GPS was even considered. The behaviour of the paradise flycatchers in my garden can at the moment only be described as frantic.
The red widows will soon be drab again and will be able to be grouped with the LBJs. The baby of the Burchell’s coucal is beginning to challenge his Mom and I think he will be requested to part soon. A mother’s nerve can also only last that long.
Most frogs seem to be getting lazy and a lot quieter for that matter. It is only the platannas that seem to be oblivious of the seasons. The pond in the garden is still alive with tadpoles that can very easily be confused with small fish. Since platannas stay permanently in the water, the seasons do not seem to bother them that much. But for the chubby guys it is a different story. They require a secluded spot where they will simply dig themselves in for the winter. The ideal spot would be secluded from garden traffic with a nice mulch cover to ensure that the ground temperature stays fairly even.
The lizards and geckos require some shelter under a rock or even a log that will protect them from temperature extremes as well as predators. In cold weather they are pretty lethargic and easy prey for anything with that sort of taste.
So where does the avid gardener come into the picture you might ask? During the last months the emphasis was on gardening as a hobby that, apart from the pleasure the gardener derives from it, should also be a safe haven for “all creatures great and small”. It can be so easily achieved.
For frogs to hibernate, you need an exclusion area in your garden that should stay as undisturbed as possible.
Do not pick up fallen leaves because they will provide part of the temperature regulating layer that is required by the frogs (and actually by many other small creatures as well). In spring, the earthworms will turn the leaves into compost for you while they are aerating your soil. When the frogs emerge they will find many appetizing tidbits in the compost and so will Burchell’s coucal.
So please gardeners do not sweep away those fallen leaves, except from the stoep and the paving because you will deprive many creatures of a comfortable winter habitat as well as from a good start in spring. And don’t till the soil.
Something that is also of great help is a rock or two. That is where the lizards and geckos survive during the night. In the morning they will come to the surface to be heated up by the sun before they day really begins.
Please share your experiences with us. Anybody with bullfrogs in the garden? I suspect most gardens will be too small for them, but you never know. In the next edition, we will talk about plant protection. For a start, water as little as possible.
The gardening in harmony competition is progressing very well. Unfortunately I am not so fresh at the moment, but should be up and running again in the near future.
Please e-mail me to obtain a registration form. A talk is planned for the second half of May, but the date and venue will be confirmed.
Dr Johan Wentzel can be contacted at 082 801 1741 or at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note change in e-mail address) for any constructive inputs to