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Planning a Garden

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South Africa is a country with four distinct seasons, which makes horticulture and landscaping a lot easier to plan for. The summers are hot and dry, and the winters are cool and wet. Autumn and spring are in between, which allows one to plan for colour and scent all year around. Whether you are living in a detached house on a plot of land or in a security village, gardens bring coolness and tranquillity in the summer and life in winter.

The design of a garden is personal. Some people want zero to low maintenance, while others need a garden to tend while unwinding from a stressful job. In between, there are a variety of approaches, which make landscape design and construction a hugely rewarding field to be in.

Designing the Garden’s Layout

To start, first create a ‘site plan’ or draw a basic plot plan from which you can get a birds-eye view of the open space you want to develop. Using a tape measure, determine the various lengths and widths, making sure to mark out doors, windows, driveways and existing features that cannot change. Once you have drawn this up to scale, figure out where you want footpaths, walls, ponds, paving and garden beds to go and sketch them on the plan. At this stage of the planning, there are landscaping programs out there you could use to lay this all out, however it can be more satisfying drawing it and being able to rub out and fine tune flowing beds or pathways.

Watering or Irrigation Systems

When it comes to hosepipe bans and wanting to save water, it has been proved that a well-designed irrigation system that works off your tap or mainline pressure uses less water than standing with a hosepipe or putting a sprinkler on the grass. For beds and pot plants, one has the option of a drip irrigation system or a mist system. People often prefer the mist system because of the cooling sound as well as the wet-plant effect, which always makes a garden look and smell fresh.

For your lawns, pop-up sprinklers are fantastic, provided your installer places the tops within a sleeve that is 5-10mm below the turf level so that you or your garden service doesn’t cut the tops off, something that can get costly.

Lastly, you have the choice of manual or irrigation systems. Again make sure that your installer uses 1-2mm multi-strand wire and not telephone wire; telephone wire is very thin and can crack at a bend, so the watering station it is connected to will not work anymore. The good thing is that if you cannot afford an automatic system, it is very easy to convert a manual system to an automatic system later.

There are a few things to keep in mind when asking a company to install an irrigation system for you:

  • Make sure they do a pressure test and a flow test.
  • Let them show you a design. If they use the circle design – the circles must overlap to the centres.
  • There must be a shut off valve or isolation valve off the mainline or tap.
  • Automatic valve wiring should use gel connectors, and the common wire should be linked on all valves.
  • If your controller is indoors, the drill hole through your exterior wall should be angled down towards the outside. This will ensure no rain can drip in to the house.
  • Fittings are either push-in or clamped. High pressure systems must use the clamp system, as push on fittings can come loose underground.

Lastly, make sure every line is tested and the system is explained thoroughly to you. Ask for a year guarantee on workmanship, which will cover you through the first winter and summer launches when problems can arise.

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