Compound care: Beauty vs functionality

Wednesday July 31 2019

A complete landscaping project. Courtesy Photo

A complete landscaping project. Courtesy Photo  

By Janet Napio

When one thinks of landscaping, they are usually thinking about beauty. However, this beauty needs to revolve around the specific use of the compound. There’s need to balance aesthetics and functionality. Sam Chemery, a landscaper attached to IY Group Ltd, delves into a few basics on landscaping and compound care.

Chemery says, there is a delicate balance between funtionality and aesthetics which is propagated by other factors such as taste and preferences, lifestyle, size of the compound, the human and vehicular traffic expected on the grounds, how much of green plant cover is required vis-a-vis hard landscaping features such as concrete for driveways and walkways.

“Other factors include how much variety of plants/ colours, and variation in plant height one wants, whether they want to partition the compound into separate zones for different activities or if they’d rather have an open space,” Chemery says.
He adds that if you are a naturist you may want to have plants that attract certain insects/birds.

Trees are attractive in a compound but depending on the size of the compound one should avoid trees whose roots will in the long run damage the buildings and suppress growth of other plants. Trees such as the Jacaranda and hybrid poplar trees have invasive roots.
If you must have them, then they should be at least 20metres from any structure.

Before planting grass
Many times, after the construction of a house, builders are instructed to plant grass.
Unfortunately, they usually don’t take time to first level the ground to make the surface even.
Chemery says this leaves an awkward look on the ground surface which is further exacerbated each time the grass is cut.
“A simple way to improve this is to look out for the surfaces that are somewhat below the general level and backfill with soil. If the section is big it may require replanting grass on the new surface so that it matches the rest of the lawn,” he adds.

He advises that if the compound has a hedge, there is need to trim it to a reasonable height and in tandem with the pattern in which it was planted.
“If the hedge is overgrown in height it may require cutting down to near ground level such that it regenerates and is much easier to manipulate the required pattern,” he says.


Concrete drive/walkways
Most urban compounds are surrounded with concrete; the driveways, walkways, the house, the perimeter wall, the tiles. In such circumstances, it is important to introduce plants to ‘soften the compound and make it come alive.
The night view can be spiced up by use of garden lighting placed at strategic points through out the compound.

Balcony view
The view of the compound from the balcony should be excellent. This may require removing certain items that obstract that view. Unless such items were deliberately out there to create partitions within the compound.

Chemery says no two projects cost the same because of the different requirements. However, landscaping a 50*100ft compound can range between Shs10 to Shs15m for material and labour inclusive.
The cost variations are due to factors like material specifications. Topography of an area also factors into the cost.

“It takes much more material and labour to create functional spaces from steep slopes as compared to relatively flat spaces,” he points out.
The cost can also be substantially lower if one opts not to use paving (the cost of concrete products form a substantial percentage of the cost) and instead uses gravel or murrum. However, the aesthetic appeal of this option is much lower.

Household waste
No amount of landscaping will matter if a compound is not kept clean. This brings us to the sticky issue of waste disposal.

When you dump waste in a corner in the compound, over time, it turns into an ugly heap of rubbish. Chemery says every household should hire garbage collectors.
Waste collection companies usually charge a monthly fee of atleast Shs20,000 and more depending on the average amount of garbage expected.

About 90 per cent of household waste is made up of biodegradable matter while a small percentage is made up of non-biodegradable substance such as plastics. The challenge is that most people mix both categories of waste.

“It is easier to deal with waste when it’s separated. The biodegradable material could be placed back in the soil to conserve fertility while it’s only the non-degradable one that could either be burnt or handed to waste collectors depending on the availability of that service,” Chemery says.

Plant care
The plants in the compound need periodic maintenance by way of removal of excess plants/ branches, removal of dead plant matter that may still be attached to the respective plants and watering them. In cases where there are designated flower gardens; they need weeding to maintain the neatness.

Soapy/dirty water
Avoid pouring soapy water on compound plants.
“It’s a common tendency to pour water used for laundry on the lawn or shrubs. This gradually affects the plant quality and eventually kills the plants. It’s also not a good idea to pour soapy water on paved areas because they become slippery over time and when the water dries up, unpleasant whitish stains are left on the pavers,” says Chemery.

The same maybe said of kitchen water. He advises that this water be channeled through the drains instead of being disposed off in the compound. The oils, soap or hot water from the kitchen affect plant appearance.

Compound care
The secret to a beautiful compound is a deliberate effort to take care of it. Chemery points out some simple ways to take care of your compound.

1.Regular maintenance of the lawn. The lawn should be cut at least once every month. During the rainy season, depending on the soil type, it may even require cutting twice a month.

2.Weed the lawn. Most people only mow the lawn but they never weed it. Weeding helps to eliminate other plants that if left unchecked will over a period of time spread and compromise the beauty of the lawn.

3. Clean the compound if possible on a daily basis. This includes sweeping paved areas and raking or sweeping leaves that have fallen off trees.