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The benefits of sustainable landscaping

Sustainable landscaping is more than just planting a few indigenous shrubs in the flower beds. It’s about creating a lifestyle in which both we and the environment benefit. The best way to start is by planning correctly and to design a garden that will suit your budget. We asked a prominent garden landscape to offer advice on sustainable landscaping.

 

Whenever I think of sustainable landscaping, I think of my grandparents’ garden and how unsustainable it is. While they are keen gardeners and have lived at the same house for the past 40 years, their ability to maintain it has declined radically. This once lush, colourful and impressive garden has been left to its own devices and has thus wasted away, to a patchy lawn and a mass of alien, self seeding Metrosiderus trees (New Zealand Christmas tree).

During the last two decades, it’s very apparent that people’s consciousness has shifted in respect to gardening. Gone are the days of exotic shrubs, large sweeping lawns and alien trees, lining the periphery of the yard. Indigenous planting is now the order of the day, water is turning into our most precious resource and the environment we live in, is being observed. There is still much work to be done though...

Sustainable landscaping is more than just planting a few indigenous shrubs in the flower beds. It’s about creating a lifestyle in which both we and the environment benefit. The best way to start is by planning correctly. I always advise measuring up a plot and drawing a plan to scale. It’s really important to draw trees and shrubs at their matured sizes. All too often, I come across gardens in my work, which are so overplanted and dense, so many of the flowering shrubs and perennials are lost. Resulting in much of the garden and money being wasted.

Plan a garden that will suit your budget; indigenous shrubs and trees grow fast and do best planted in the winter months, when wind has dissipated and rainfall is plentiful. Ten kilogram bagged trees and shrubs won’t cost a lot and will fill out quickly once planted. I like to plan compartments into the garden, for example, play area (for kids, etc.), entertainment area: this could be paving, braai area or fire pit. Compost area and food garden; herbs and vegetable can be mixed together and are lovely to have in a garden and to use daily in the kitchen.

Compost is really easy to make and really impacts positively on a garden. Use all organic kitchen waste, leaves, small sticks and a moderate amount of grass cuttings. The heap should be turned monthly in order for the top layers to receive heat from the middle body and speed up the decomposing process. If done correctly, compost can be produced in 4-6 weeks.

Gray water is useful too, but bear in mind that organic bio degradable detergents must be used in order for this water to be beneficial. I also try and use drip irrigation where possible, this really saves on water costs and most indigenous plants grow sufficiently with this amount of water volume.

A sustainable garden will offer much pleasure and satisfaction over the years and will survive through years of good and low rainfall, unlike many old gardens (like that of my grandparents), which when left without water and unattended, turn into a barren wasteland.

Article by Greg Heathcote-Marks at www.Hedgehogs.co.za