Make the most of your garden space

LANDSCAPE DESIGNING

Landscaping is an important criterion for apartment owners or those who live in communities. The realty market today has many interesting landscape options to offer.

The ever-increasing space crunch has even given way to gardens being laid out above car parks or on terraces. Whatever be their nature, landscaping has meant huge investments from buyers’ pockets at the time of purchase and residents’ pockets as part of maintenance. Landscaping makes a property look appealing, and also reflects how well it is being looked after. Eventually, it is the quality of maintenance that extends the life and beauty of a landscaped garden.

Because a community garden has many owners but none of them responsible enough, little importance is given to economic and sustainable maintenance practices. Quick ways of beautifying are adopted. Unfortunately the myopic approach quickly translates into an ever-deteriorating garden which never seems to resume its glory even after investing more in it. That is where it is inevitable to follow a more sustainable and ecologically responsible way to landscape your garden space. 

New-age landscapes are spaces emerging from a harmonious mix of a variety of elements. They serve as wow factors, a relaxing space, a recreation area, a stroll path, play area, focal zone and much more simultaneously. At the same time, they all come together as part of the bigger picture and not as isolated treatments to various areas.

Since it is designed around a vision and choice of various elements is aimed to bring a certain cohesive experience, it needs to be appreciated and treated with a new awareness. Prettying up is no more the only primary goal. The appeal goes beyond the visual and impacts the psyche. This is precisely the success of a well-conceived landscape. 

Design and sustainability

Keep in mind that in a modern landscape, there is always a reason for the choice of a certain element and its positioning. Never substitute randomly as it will sabotage the design. Following this principle makes sustainability easier to achieve. Plants must serve a purpose and still be low maintenance. A plant may work as an accent at a prominent location or as a screen or a partition in a sitting zone. Perennials, striking foliage form and foliage colour bring year-long interest to the space. Substitution of unused grass stretches with attractive groundcover is a smart step towards low input/maintenance.

For an immediate green screen, many times, a builder’s landscape may have high plant density which will eventually not thrive because of competition for resources. Instead of increasing the fertiliser application there, it’s wiser to thin down the dense planting. 

But when attempting sustainability, soil is the first important factor. A simple formula for a great landscape is healthy soil = sturdy plants. If the soil stays organically fertile, structure of the landscape in natural balance, most problems leading to plant loss and high maintenance do not arise. The most common problems in apartment community landscapes is that unskilled labour overloads soil with indiscriminate chemical fertilisers to achieve quick greening up. Within a couple of years, this skews soil ph, and sets a vicious cycle of deteriorating plant health followed by more chemicals as fertilisers and pesticides.

Organic manure is best

A simple practice of adding organic manure from time to time is best for both soil and plant health. It adds nutrition and builds the soil’s physical and biological properties. All that translates to reduced maintenance, which results in economic and sustainable practice. Using dry leaves as mulch is a great way to conserve soil moisture and add organic matter indirectly.

Even the hardiest plant, if becomes weak, will be susceptible to disease. To curb disease, pesticides that are sprayed indiscriminately harm beneficial garden friends too. Numerous insects in the garden quietly keep feeding on the common pests and are nature’s way of keeping the balance. Once the balance goes off, pests can quickly take over. Good soil hygiene and cultural practices deter pests and pest harbour. Adopting organic practices and encouraging beneficial insects is a cheaper and sustainable way to go about landscaping your garden.

Roof or terrace type garden maintenance goes several steps further because these are inbuilt and ordinary container handling skills do not apply. Specialised root trimming must be undertaken periodically and nothing with deep taproot system should be planted as it is bound to damage the building. Nutrition incorporation and cultural practices have to be followed systematically as it is an enclosed volume of earth. 

Conserving resources is essential and irrigating with recycled water is mandatory for all gardens. A great step towards sustainability in apartment communities is to start in-ground or in-bin composting. Garden waste combined with kitchen waste is the perfect way to manage garbage and generate compost. Fill and cover pits with soil followed by easy growing groundcover to blend it in the greenery. With multiple pits, compost supply will be maintained through the year.

To meet a garden’s plant requirement, it is highly recommended to dedicate some sheltered spots that are shade-giving for an inhouse nursery. Raise low-cost plants from seeds and cuttings in discarded milk packets, juice cartons from households. Generate some income by selling the surplus saplings and reinvest in the garden. Such practices at the community level encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility towards landscape, apart from enticing people to bring in some greenery to their own balconies.
 
Gardens have always been great community builders. An informed, eco-friendly approach to our landscapes will help achieve sustainable and self-sufficient gardens which will provide adequate return of investment for decades to come.  

(The writer is a landscape designer.)

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