One of the nicest things about the wide green Earth we live on is the plant life that kindly mops up carbon dioxide while it creates energy. If you haven’t got a green thumb, but have a love of leafy decor like I do, you can still get the leafy living greens into your home. Why do that? Well, I’m not kidding about plants improving indoor air quality. And what else are you going to do with the backwash from all your sippy cups?
Green planting 101: use organic potting soil and compost (leaf mold or compost tea) to enrich it. Forget the chemical fertilizers – the miracle really is in the growing, after all. Nurture your plants by getting some organic, natural soil enhancers like fish emulsion or kelp to throw on them once a month or so. Roots need room to grow and good soil to grow down into – so make sure you have good quality soil at the bottom of your roomy pot (not the dregs from last year’s mums). Plants need good drainage, so if you pot doesn’t have lots of holes, drill some extras. Finally, make sure you aren’t over-watering. Most plants like to dry all the way out before you load ‘em up again. Mold on the soil is a huge tip you’re over-watering, as are yellow leaves.
Before you leap in and start decorating your house with hardy plants, you’ll need to check out this list of poisonous houseplants to make sure you avoid any that might threaten a child or pet in your family. Only you know if Junior’s got the wingspan to take a swipe at a beautiful bloom — and the inclination to munch it on down.
Here are a couple of plant categories I happen to know lots about: shade plants and desert aka drought tolerant plants. In our house, it’s either feast or famine. Sun porch with skylight roof? Check. Aloe plants, lipstick plants, spiders, and jade thrive. Shady almost-no-light areas? Check. Asparagus and Boston ferns, and pothos (poisonous so keep ‘em trimmed but keep ‘em ’cause they will grow anywhere and tolerate astonishing neglect) are your best bets.
How to get started without breaking the bank? Beg for cuttings or starter plants on freecycle or your local community listserv. People with healthy plants should have more than enough healthy baby spiders or aloe offshoots to get you started. If you get a baby or a cutting, you can sit it in a cup in your windowsill until it sprouts roots (keep it in water and check to make sure it doesn’t dry out).
Didn’t get around to planting a garden this summer? Well, it’s just the right time to throw some plants in the ground for the fall. Depending on where you live, you can either sow seeds for fall harvest (cold-weather crops like broccoli, kale, beets, and lettuce) or, in a couple months, begin preparing for your early spring harvest. Check out these recs I got from my buddy at Andrea’s Recipes. Which brings me to my last tip: find a friend who knows a lot about gardening. Sure, you can read books on caring for plants and tending a garden, but humans with real-life green thumbs are an invaluable resource.
Why do I urge you to tend plants? Not just ’cause they will benefit your indoor air quality (’cause you can accomplish that just by opening your windows) or because I think you’re going to be the next self-sufficient homesteader (although that would be so cool). It’s because seeing living things grow, and learning about how to care for plants, fascinates my children and makes them more curious about the world around them. We have our tried-and-true indoor plants, container plants on our patios (complete with edible flowers and an upside down cherry tomato plant), and a plot at the community garden. Please note that I don’t have a huge yard! Nor am I a superb gardener. Hothouse flowers come and go in my life (I really did appreciate the gifts, folks! Just think of them as much-loved compost fodder. Almost like cut flowers!). But here for the long haul? Yin and yang: boatloads of water-loving basil in the garden and aloes on my sunny windowsills. Won’t you join me?
Original post for 5 MInutes for Going Green.