Property Investor Advice Column: Part 20
Scape your land
Easy, cost-effective ways to beautify your property
Not everybody is a gardener. Some are simply more gifted at growing plants than others.
However, everybody should at least take an interest in keeping their garden attractive. The outside of the house is always the first thing people see and a well-tended approach through a neat yard not only makes a property more appealing but will ultimately become a selling point and increase the value of your home.
It needn’t cost a fortune to keep a garden in good shape. The real sweet-spot in landscaping is to use techniques and plants that are inexpensive, attractive and water-wise.
A good place to start is testing your soil. This will not only identify what it might lack, but will also help you to know what kinds of plants will grow best. This can save you from spending a lot of money buying greenery that isn’t suited to your garden’s specific conditions.
Also consider getting an earthworm farm to turn your kitchen waste into natural fertilizer. It’s a great way to go green, and it’s also a fun opportunity for children to learn about recycling.
In South Africa, everybody loves a lawn, but grass can be expensive to maintain and it demands a lot of water. More people are now reducing the size of their lawns and introducing ground-cover alternatives that grow more easily and need less watering. These are especially good in shady areas where grass struggles to grow and on slopes or inaccessible spots that are difficult to water and mow. Alternatives include dymondia, white carpet and water mint.
As with all plants, it’s important to consider using indigenous options. These are more suited to the environment and so are likely to be hardier and need less water and attention than exotics.
Another option to decrease the garden workload is through hardscaping, which is replacing grass with low-maintenance alternatives such as gravel, slate or a rockery. In South Africa these areas needn’t be bare, either, as there are many colourful and textured aloes and succulents that can be used to give life to stony areas. Also consider proteas, cycads and indigenous bulbs such as crinums, cyranthus and gladioli.
When deciding where to leave lawn and where to try other options, don’t only think about the edges of the property, but consider island beds that ‘float’ in the lawn. This creates wonderful contrasts, particularly if you add height to the middle of the garden.
Also consider placing garden pots elsewhere – not just the veranda or outside the front door. Using containers in your beds and around your borders can add colour and contrast to the garden. Putting more than one pot together at different heights and levels gives you options to play with, too.
Once you’ve done your landscaping, don’t squander all your good work by neglecting it. All gardens need to be maintained, so remember to water as necessary, weed, trim and thin out anything that looks like it wants to take over more than its fair share.
Next issue: optimising your relationship with your agent
Text Patrick Cairns