The Nature of the Land

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Making the Change to Impactful Practices

The quest for a fulfilled life encompasses not only personal and societal well-being, but also the nurturing of the terrain. As a landscaper that has focussed on natural gardening principles for over twenty years, Sarchen Bassingthwaighte of Natural Gardening Principles explores the essence of caring for the landscape while pursuing the pleasure of beauty and functionality.

Change is a near-universally feared concept, but we often forget that it can be as good as a holiday. Unfortunately, this rule does not get applied to the landscape as much as it deserves. Between business and personal lives, it is all too easy to become preoccupied, even if we have the intention to make positive changes to our surroundings. Our landscape, realistically, cannot wait until we remember to love it, and it can be easier than expected to incorporate it into our lifestyles.

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A shift as seemingly simple as changing from chemical to natural gardening and landscaping practices is the kind of change that makes an impact in the long term. Based on the principles of nourishing life forces, providing comprehensive nutrition, maintaining and boosting beneficial microorganisms, and conditioning the soil, natural gardening incorporates a multifaceted approach that nurtures the ground and boosts progress in landscaping endeavours. With the interrelationships between soil, water, life, and plants, the natural approach works with the organic systems of the ground.

It is now widely known that soil holds onto large quantities of water compared to what was previously thought — in fact, the amount of moisture in a living soil ecosystem is upwards of 50%. Evidence of poor soil quality is seen when pools are left standing after rain, whilst healthy soil absorbs and retains the surface water.

The soil’s topography can also be adjusted by adding swales, with runoff water directed into them, and on a small scale the concept of Ziapits can also be creatively utilised. Planting directly into these pits further slows the flow of surface water for reduced soil erosion, increased water retention, and improved plant health.

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Considering the multipurpose nature of plants, this approach is also beneficial because aesthetically pleasing plants can double up as soil builders, compost ingredients, biomass suppliers, habitats for creatures, and much more. More carefully considered utility areas need to be included in approaches to the landscape, and the techniques used in garden designs should not be underestimated in a broader scope.

Natural gardening principles begin at the design phase of landscaping, the practice of which has also been explored by landscape designers such as Margot van der Westhuizen and Melanie Durrheim. This approach improves the success quotient of the land or garden and requires less corrective work when the maintenance team takes over.

As part of integrating these principles, I further encourage us to take time for ourselves in order to learn from natural and personal observations, and then open source our experiences, which, most importantly, helps us hold steadfast our vision of vibrant living, and caring for the terrain.

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