Very few people, if any, can honestly say that they don’t see beauty in nature. Beautifying our surroundings has become a hobby on its own and, just as we keep our houses clean and decorate them, investing in maintaining the integrity of our immediate natural environment can bring immense pride and joy, decrease stress, increase serenity, and add value to your property.
No matter what you enjoy, the list of activities that green spaces (that includes your gardens) provides us with is endless. Some examples include:
Butterfly and bird watching
• Sports and games
• Enjoying time with family and pets
You can decrease your food costs and make your household more resilient to economic changes and food price increases by growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables. An added bonus is that you will know exactly where your food comes from and that (depending on the pesticides and fertilisers you use) it is organic. Later on in this guide, you will see that even if you are in a flat or have a small space, you can still grow a garden. By growing your own veggie garden you also contribute to reducing the biodiversity impacts related to large scale agriculture, as well as to offsetting your own carbon footprint.
We all know that plants provide us with the very air we breathe by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen. This is an essential service wherever we live but urban areas in particular are those sites that need this service more than others because so much of the carbon dioxide and other pollutants created by industrial and commercial activities originates in cities. Green vegetation, particularly trees, in urban areas helps to mitigate against the effects of air pollution. Apart from this very basic, yet essential, service that greening our surroundings provides, there are other health benefits that result from green living in and outside of cities, including less water, ground and air pollution from the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and mental and emotional wellbeing.
Reduced maintenance requirements and expenses
By implementing water and energy efficiency approaches, in addition to minimising your negative impacts on our natural resources you also start saving money and you become economically more resilient as you are not as vulnerable to prices hikes.
- Less money spent on water
- By collecting rain water in tanks or barrels, and practising water-wise gardening techniques (see www.waterwise.co.za for details), you can significantly lower your monthly water bill
- Less money spent on chemical herbicides and fertilisers
- Less money spent on energy
- Planting deciduous trees and shrubs on the south sides of buildings can block direct sunlight in the summer, reducing cooling costs, and let sun through in the winter, reducing heating costs
- Plants around buildings can also reduce heating requirements by providing a wind buffer
On a monthly basis, a family of four living on an average size property could easily save R 1000 a month. So yes the initial investment might be slightly high but you will reap the direct financial return and it will also make your property more attractive when you resell it, especially after ten years of inflation and commodities price increases.
Contribution to the preservation of biodiversity and connectivity
One of the most significant requirements of green living is to practice Ecological Landscaping
Ecological Landscaping seeks to create a seamless transition from one backyard to another and from one habitat to the next. By choosing native plants for the landscape, the amount of natural habitat is not only protected, but also increased.
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts
Living in an environmentally friendly way and practising Ecological Landscaping, primarily through the use of indigenous plants, will entice all sorts of wildlife to your garden and provide a functional ecosystem that will contribute to the ecology of the broader area in which you live. A string of such properties can go a long way to mitigating the effects of habitat fragmentation by creating pathways made up of green stepping stones between green areas in the city. The pockets of habitats that make up these pathways between urban green areas greatly benefit genetic and species richness in all areas of the city through connecting populations and reducing pressure on isolated sites. Please see our section on gardening for wildlife for more on this!
Water health and availability
Ecological Landscaping is based on, among others, principles of wise water usage, dividing gardens into hydro-zones and scheduling irrigation accordingly. Additionally, indigenous plants are adapted to our weather conditions and therefore don’t require as much additional watering as exotic plants do, placing less pressure on ground water stores and dwindling catchment areas. Indigenous gardening reduces the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which in turn decreases the pollution levels of our water sources, providing a larger supply of clean water for our ever increasing populations.
Indigenous plants often have deeper root systems and provide better erosion protection, particularly in sloped or exposed areas. Allowing indigenous plant material to decay in your garden also increases the nutrient content of your soil and reduces the need for additional fertiliser.