Make the best of your compound

By: Constance Obonyo

When building houses, people put up different structures in different types of soils. These could be soils with poor drainage (read water logged places), very fertile soils, sandy soils and other different types. The most common way in which most people choose to make their compounds look nice is by growing grass. For grass to grow, it matters the kind of soil one has.

According to John Meddie Segane, a landscape artist with E.I. Designers, while in the process of putting up a house in place, first start with taking a sample to find out the soil type that is in your compound. This will help you to choose a way to design your compound, it gives you a go ahead of whether to grow grass in your compound or look for a different option of making your compound look good besides growing grass.

We highlight the most common compound types basing on the type of soil they have.

Fertile compounds

These are compounds with very fertile soils and therefore lead to fast growth of any seed that is disposed on it. If not well taken care of, seeds of different plants can grow haphazardly making the compound look unkempt. To make sure that this does not happen, such a compound would need regular weeding and uprooting of unwanted plants

Owen Lord of Fir Tree Landscape Designers recommends planting grass on the largest part of the compound, some flowers on the sides and put some gravel on the walkway with a very nice looking pavement, for compounds with very fertile soil.

Lord says apart from planting grass, compounds can be made attractive through creativity. You can use natural rocks to create elevated walls, terraces and pathways gives your garden a natural and relaxing feel. He adds that ensuring that there is a variety of different plant shapes, colours and arrangements can make your garden look pleasing to the eye.


If you decide to plant flowers, maintain them by weeding and pruning so that the compound looks nice. For one to ensure that weeds do not grow quickly in flowerbeds, remove them thoroughly and cover the flowerbeds with wood chippings or shavings, these acts as a cover that can prevent weeds and also acts as mulch for the plants, giving them added nutrients.

If maintaining the compound yourself is too much, you can hire a gardener and most charge between Shs20,000 and Shs70,000 depending on the kind of work you want done.

Sandy compounds

Segane explains that since sandy soil does not support growth of grass and most of the popular plants, you can create a desert garden, which is unique and beautiful. For starters a desert garden is one that mimics the look and feel of the garden. The desert plants that can easily be got in Uganda include sisal and cactus. You can also add some rocks to this arrangement, adding a rugged beauty to the compound.

But if you really want to have grass and plants that grow only in fertile soils, Owen says you can work around the sand by digging manure and black soil into it, which will make the ground fertile and enable you to plant a variety of shrubs, plants and trees. In areas of high sand it is recommended that you add manure every six to eight months to maintain fertility.

You can also put pavers on and apply manure on a few patches around them for plants and flowers.

Water-logged compounds

Segane explains that a waterlogged compound comes about when the house is built in a swampy area.

While building in swampy areas is illegal, some people build their houses in these areas because they probably do not know that it is swampy.

If you find yourself in this situation, Segane says first of all, to prevent the poor drainage, add soil to the ground to prevent the water from flowing all over the compound. You can still make the water-logged compound look beautiful by taking advantage of the nature of the ground, if there is a lot of water flowing.

You can construct a trench to direct the flow of water. Around the trench, you can put stones on the sides to make it look beautiful. The different types of stones can include the field stones which are round in shape and flag stones which are flat in shape.

To add on the beauty, Segane says you can build a simple bridge over the trench and garden benches where you and your family can relax.

Rock gardens also work well with such a compound. The rocks can be placed strategically to create natural fountains that look like little water falls, with plants grown in different places.

“In areas that are waterlogged it is essential to install a good drainage system in the form of perimeter drainage and the use of gravel and stones to make water runoff drain away easily,” says Lord.

If you go for flowers

“I am Stephen Kigwe. I head GAN Design Services, a landscaping and gardening company located in Kabalagala, along Muyenga Road.

Growing blossoming plants is a great idea for a beautiful garden in the compound. By blossoming, I mean plants that produce flowers. They add beauty and contrast to a garden.

You can also harvest some of these flowers and put them on your dining table or the living room or even in your bedroom.

Also, the flowers attract birds and bees, because flowers have nectar. Bees, birds and butterflies are beautiful to watch, because they are colourful.

However, for the plants to produce flowers, plant them in places where they can receive direct sunlight for example along walkways. You can also interchange them – plant them in intervals, with other shrubs that don’t produce flowers, to brighten the garden; because it can be dull with just the green.

You can plant annuals like Portulaca and Verbenna. These blossom and then die, so you have to keep planting them. You can also plant perennials, which flower all year round. When some grow old, new ones come up. For others, after a certain period, there will be more flowers than leaves, like Lantana Camara. It also has many flower colours, so you can plant them next to each other, to add contrast. There’s white, yellow, orange and so on.

It is not good to mix flower colours. For you to be able to enjoy the colours, don’t mix yellow, white and red, for example; but plant red, yellow and white, each on their own in their groups.

A shrub like Ixora is also good, not only for its colours, but the arrangement of its petals and sepals. The majority of people look at only colours, but they should start taking a closer look at flowers.

Other flowering plants may be low-lying, but are beautiful. Those that grow 20 to 30 centimetres off the ground like Clossandra are best planted along walkways. Plant it in groups or in a long line, without mixing it with other plants.

Give these blossoming plants priority around your verandah, balcony, bedroom window and your walkways.”

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