Verge spraying draws flak in Bergvliet, Meadowridge

A verge in Newton Drive, Meadowridge.

Some grassed verges in Bergvliet and Meadowridge are being ruined by a City contractor spraying herbicide, say residents.

Andrew Buhagiar sent pictures of verges in and around Newton Drive where grass has died after being sprayed to stop it growing over the kerb.

“Whilst, in theory, it may be sound, the practical application falls very short of the mark,” he says.

“Residents spend money and time in keeping their verges neat and presentable for the good of the whole neighbourhood. This lawn has been maintained and did not require the City’s intervention,” said Mr Buhagiar who claims he has seen other verges in Meadowridge that have suffered a similar fate.

Bergvliet Meadowridge Residents’ Association chairman Mark Schäfer blames outsourcing, insufficient supervision or incorrect application for the dead verges.

“The council should be doing this on verges only where grass is invading paved areas to preserve the quality of the pavements. This has been successfully done on a section of Ladies Mile between the circle and Heerengracht Road, although the follow-up step would be to then physically remove the dead vegetation to reveal the bricked edge of the walkway,” said Mr Schäfer.

Mayoral committee member for transport Rob Quintas said the spraying of the verges was outsourced to a contractor, but the City checked the work done.

The contractor used Kleenup, a herbicide registered in South Africa for use in agriculture, horticulture and in gardens, he said.

Mr Quintas said spraying could only happen when there was no wind or rain and the contractor’s staff had to wear protective gear and clothing.

The contractors returned to remove dead weeds upon instruction from the City, he said.

Bergvliet resident Professor Tony Rebelo is in favour of letting nature take its course.

No-mow areas allowed indigenous bulbs and annuals to grow, flower and set seeds, he said.

“This is why we have spectacular flower displays up the West Coast in spring. Residents should be encouraged to leave a patch unmowed on their verges and observe what comes up from the seedbanks in spring. This is the difference between a garden and the wild.”

He said it was important to harmonise with the seasons – watering road verges in summer would kill the wild bulbs because they were adapted to summer drought and would rot if too wet in summer.

“Also one needs to balance the flowers and seeds, with the annual grasses – most of which are of Mediterranean origin – many of which are pollen allergens. So it is a fine balance of allowing the bulbs and annuals to flower, and then to set seed, but to cut back the grasses before they peak pollen production.

“The wild-flower displays are well worth it though. After all, why do we need to drive to Namaqualand, when historically the mass flower displays also used to occur in Cape Town itself? All it takes to have mass flower displays in our parks and verges is to delay mowing by a week or two after flowering for the seeds to set.”

Mayoral committee member for community services Patricia van der Ross said the City’s recreation and parks department did not mow residential verges, but there was a programme to suspend mowing at specific parks and public open spaces during spring to allow flowers to seed and bloom. When mowing took place it was generally done on a six-to-eight-week cycle.

A verge in Meadowridge after spraying.
Some residents have transformed public open space into attractive gardens, such as this spot in Timber Road, Meadowridge where Trevor Taylor and his gardener, Willem Southgate, are planting mostly indigenous plants.