Grow Your Own Fresh Air

If you follow me on Twitter, then you may know I recently started back up in UCLA’s interior design program. I’m easing into it with a light schedule this quarter, and one of the classes I’m taking is all about ecological and sustainable design. Fun!

Our professor mentioned this building in Milan, which is currently being built. Apparently Milan has terrible air quality, so the goal in building this high rise is for all of the air that comes into the building to pass through a series of plants first, naturally filtering the air. Because as they taught us in elementary school science class, plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen! Brilliant! (I’m hoping for a trip to Italy sometime in the near future, and hoping even more that this will be built by then so I can go see it in real life!)

Many plants also have a natural ability to filter out toxins that travel through the air, such as those nasty fumes from VOC’s used in paints, glues, and even carpeting. SOM designed a living air filter that could cut down VOC’s in a typical office building by 80%. That’s a whole lot more fresh air at work!

So I got to thinking. What other ways are people using plants and vertical gardens to improve their quality of life and the quality of the air they breath? Well for one, there has been a significant movement in vertical gardening lately, and Patrick Blanc seems to be at the head of it.

Blanc had the record for the world’s largest living wall (located in Madrid), until Francesco Bollani one-up’ed him with this one in Milan.

Patrick Blanc is also responsible for this overpass in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be magical if all of Los Angeles’ overpasses looked like this? Less concrete, more plants!

What about underused indoor spaces, you say? Well last time my husband and I traveled to the East coast we had a layover at Chicago O’Hare and discovered this incredible vertical garden (video). And it’s not just for show! It’s a fully functioning hydroponic vegetable garden, and the restaurants in the airport are welcome to use these fresh veggies and herbs in the meals they prepare for you while you wait for your next flight. (This was probably my favorite discovery in an airport, ever… so much more exciting than realizing an airport has not one but TWO Dunkin’ Donuts…)

If you want to bring more fresh air into your own home (and especially if simply opening a window is more like inviting smog in and letting oxygen out), Kamal Meattle suggests the Areca Palm, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and the Money Plant in this video. I’ll admit this is not the most entertaining Ted Talk I’ve ever seen, but he talks about his involvement in a huge project in India where they have brought a veritable forest of these plants inside to vastly improve the air quality in some huge office buildings in Delhi. Adding a few of these plants to your house seems a simple way to boost your oxygen levels at home in the same way.

Do you have indoor plants in your house? Will you be adding any to your indoor environment now?

Spring Garden: Cozy and Delicious

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the flowers that overhang our back patio

We’ve been diving into Spring, and we’re so excited it’s here! I know, I do live in Southern California, and it’s pretty temperate most of the year. But still, Spring is the best time of year. The temperatures stop dropping into the low 40’s, the Winter rain takes a break, and just like on the East coast everything becomes new and green and lush again.

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our back patio (the “lounge”), great for reading, grilling, and chilling

On the first warm weekend, we jumped at the chance to get our outdoor space ready, starting with a refresh of our back patio (which I lovingly like to call our “lounge”). Last week I mentioned our first bbq of Spring; this is where the ladies watched from as the guys battled it out over a game of bocci ball!

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I love to cozy up here with a book

Plus, we have long aspired to be herb gardeners, and since this is the first Spring since we moved into our house last year, we finally have the space for a modest vegetable and herb garden. The hubby cleared out the garden left by the last owners, mainly because it was mostly berries and berries can be impossible to wrangle! (If you’re not familiar with growing berries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are travelers so they can quickly take over your garden if you’re not careful!) We put in a 4×4 raised garden bed and a collection of pots (most of them found around our yard in unexpected places, left lying around by the past two owners of the house).

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our raised herb and vegetable garden

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4 x 4 raised garden bed for the vegetables

We included all our favorite herbs, the ones we use the most in the kitchen.

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thyme

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cilantro

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basil

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rosemary

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chives

We have four types of peppers and a tomato plant, which we hope one day to combine with our young lime and avocado trees (they live in the front yard) to make completely home grown guacamole.

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4 kinds of peppers

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tomato

We threw in a zucchini and a cucumber, because you can’t go wrong with either of those.

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zucchini

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cucumber

And as lovers of strawberries, we decided to replace the ones we pulled out of the original garden with a few in large pots, so they can travel all they want within the confines of a controlled environment.

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strawberries (and one of the inherited gnomes that live in our garden)

I love peeking over at the garden to see how it’s doing, while lounging out back. And it’s especially satisfying when we need some thyme or basil for a meal and we simply go outside and snip off a sprig from our garden. Hooray for Spring!

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the view of our garden from our lounge (and another inherited gnome; we decided to let them stay for good luck)

What have you done to prepare your outdoor space for Spring?