Durban North resident Charli Wiggill's lockdown project: a caged enclosure to house a veggie garden. Picture: Duncan Guy
Durban North resident Charli Wiggill's lockdown project: a caged enclosure to house a veggie garden. Picture: Duncan Guy

How to keep your veggies out of the hands of monkeys

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Apr 18, 2020

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Durban - The uncertain future caused by the Covid-19 outbreak has put food security at the forefront of many people’s minds during lockdown.

Green fingers have suddenly emerged from people’s well-washed hands as they’ve risen to the challenge of rustling up wood and chicken mesh to cope with an iconic KwaZulu-Natal gardening challenge: monkeys.

“The chicken mesh is almost done to keep the monkeys out,” said Durban North resident Charli Wiggill, who has made building a vegetable garden his lockdown challenge. “Our garden already supplies them with bananas and avos.”  

He said he had made his enclosure from materials he had on his property, because hardware stores had been closed. This week, hardware stores were allowed to open for essential goods only.

Sheila Philogene of Yellowwood Park has used various methods to keep her vegetables her own.

“You just have to outsmart the monkeys,” she said, recalling how she had once placed toy snakes among her crops until the monkeys realised they were fake. “Monkeys are very clever little guys.”

When her butternuts behaved “out the box” and sprouted in her compost heap, away from her main monkey-proofed caged vegetable garden she came up with a new innovation. “I made little individual cages to cover the developing butternuts.”

Philogene said her garden was visited by the local monkey troop two to three times a week. 

“They try to reach through the mesh and get things. You just have to make sure they are out of their reach.

“When we first put the little cages over the butternuts they sat on top, trying to figure how they would get at the growing plant. They had already taken bites out of a developing butternut, which of course killed it.”

Another of Philogene’s ideas was to install automatic sprinklers – if you can watch for the troop, you can turn on the water. “They eventually associate getting wet with the vegetables and  stay away.”

Marcello van Rooyen, from Mbombela, has had some success with a model windmill made from wire, with a plastic card stuck in the fans so it makes a noise. He could not send a photo of his device this week because it was damaged on Tuesday morning “when a troop of monkeys decided to declare World War 3 in my yard.

“I had to resort to an unloaded paint ball gun and imitating their danger call.”

However, Van Rooyen said the windmill worked well and he had applied the card after calling up childhood memories. “Like when we used to put cards in our bicycle spokes. In this case it’s just powered by the wind”.

Van Rooyen also recommended planting chillies among crops. “They seem to avoid anything around my chillies.”

Steve Smit of Monkey Helpline said people who shared an area with monkeys would have to accept that their crops would be eaten. “You cannot grow veggies free range. Just build an enclosed vegetable garden area.”

He said gum poles, wire and netting were not costly. However, during lockdown they would not be easily available.

“But nothing is going to come up and be ready in a couple of days. It takes weeks, even months to be ready. In the meantime, make makeshift enclosed areas and plant.”
He also urged people not to use toxic pesticides, which were harmful to birds as well as monkeys.
“There are lots of problems veggie growers face. Mould, insects, aphids but the monkeys get so much of the blame.”

  • Word has been out on social media that supermarkets have forbidden customers to buy seed. Supermarket chains had not commented by the time of publication. However, the Independent on Saturday bought vegetable and herb seeds at Checkers in Windermere Centre and at Shoprite in City View. 

The Independent on Saturday

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