As efforts to protect the environment and slow global warming become more widespread, more and more people are discovering that one of the most effective ways to offset their individual carbon footprint is to plant trees.*
And home-owners have an added incentive to do so, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group. “Apart from being carbon sinks that trap carbon dioxide and so help to regulate weather patterns, air quality and even ambient temperatures, our experience shows that established trees in your garden or complex can increase the sale price of your home by between five and seven percent.
“Most buyers naturally favour ‘green’ areas with shady streets and lush-looking gardens with big trees. What is more, trees can help to cool your home and shelter it from strong winds, provide a habitat for birds and beneficial insects, create focal points in your garden, enrich the soil and produce bonuses such as flowers, fresh fruit or nuts.”
However, there are a few important things to consider when choosing which trees to plant and where to plant them, he notes. “For example, indigenous species are generally the best choice, as they tend to need less water but are also less susceptible to local pests – and more attractive to local birdlife.”
In addition, Kotzé says, you need to decide whether you want an evergreen or a deciduous tree, depending on where you intend to plant it. An evergreen that does not drop many leaves will probably be best close to a pool, for example, while a deciduous specimen that loses its leaves in autumn might be a better choice for an area where you want to let in extra warmth and light in winter.
The type of root system a tree has is also an important consideration because vigorous lateral roots can lift paving and even crack walls.
“When choosing a new tree, you also need to consider how big it is likely to get in a few years, and make sure this will be in proportion to the size of your garden – a huge spreading ‘umbrella tree’, for instance, could be a bit overpowering in a townhouse garden, but might look perfect in a landscape setting.”
The purpose of the tree – to provide screening for privacy, perhaps, or shade, or produce, will also influence the type of tree you choose, as will the hardiness or resistance of the tree when it comes to frost and drought, he says.
“In other words, it is best to do some homework before you go tree shopping. It is also best to buy your saplings from a reputable nursery or tree farm that can give you the proper advice about how to plant and look after your trees to ensure that they thrive.”
*If you already have enough trees in your immediate surroundings, you can help to improve other areas and benefit communities and the environment by donating a tree through Food and Trees for Africa. See https://trees.org.za/