ELT Inc. living wall in private residence
Ever since moving to Durango, Colorado, I have become fascinated with the concept of indoor gardening. I am used to being outdoors working on gardens year round in the forgiving Austin climate. Durango is another case. I am patiently waiting until April 1st, to begin my new landscaping job. In the meantime I have been filling my days trying to pursue and fulfill my creative endeavours. That is where indoor gardening came to mind. Of course. I’m sure it is old news to many people, but the only indoor gardening that I was used to were the typical spider plants and ferns found in every office and most homes. Don’t get me wrong, all plants are beautiful, and actually spider plants are one of the top plants which help purify the air. The point is, no matter how small your space, or how cold the climate, you can grow edibles and beautiful, beneficial plants in your home.
There are countless varieties, so I will mainly focus on the concept of indoor gardening. I’ll leave it up to the reader to familiarize themself with a local nursery and have some fun mixing textures and colors amongst plants and vines, edible, aromatic or just aesthetically interesting. Just be aware of which plants may be poisonous to little beings.
First of all, my intrigue was sparked with a company by the name of ELT Easy Green. Their creation was spawned from the idea of green roofs. Some roofs are too steep to grow vegetation, so they designed a system where they pre-grew plants and implemented them on steep slopes and then walls. While many of their designs have been on the grander, high-rise scale, they have designed a smaller version for the individual.
Their walls are a cedar box frame with cubby holes. The cubby holes are formed using a recyclable black plastic call HDPE ( High Density Polyethylene). This plastic is commonly used as pond liner. It has a long life and can be recycled back into itself fully. ELT living walls are easy to install and plant yourself. Their irrigation system is simple, allowing you to pour water through an opening in the top and it filters through the cubbies, to a catchment at the bottom. The water caught, can be reused to water the plants immediately or at a later time. I wish I had invented this!
If you cannot afford a living wall system, which currently I cannot, there are still numerous, innovative ways for you to grow plants indoors. If space is limited, then vertical is the key. Vines! You can train them to follow any direction or form, or let them hang from baskets. As long as there is a window nearby that allows about five hours of light, then you are set. Some vines that are edible include peas, passionflower and runner beans.
Other indoor vines include Purple heart, pothos and many varieties of ivy. Pothos is an excellent plant and will grow vigorously with little water and medium light. You can think of vines as another decorative element to your home or apartment and train them to grow all over the walls, mirrors or doorways. I have always loved the idea of the bathroom mirror being draped in some foliage.
Most plants which are variegated are good options for indoors. They can most likely withstand more shade than the average plant. Plus, the light and dark greens and whites of their leaves offer a dramatic contrast indoors.
As for other indoor plants, herbs are excellent! Especially in a window planter. Basil, bay, thyme, sage, rosemary, dill, parsley, chives, lemon balm, mint, oregano and savory to name a few. Herbs will definitely need about five to six hours of light, so you may think of a south facing window. Plus they will need more water attention. However, to make a mojito and use fresh mint from your window garden can not be beat. Or making pasta and garnishing it with fresh basil! YUM! The aroma from the herbs alone would be well worth the effort.
For indoor plants, take care to watch their water needs and know their water needs when you purchase them. They will most likely need to be watered more often than if they were in the ground, and an organic fertilizer would be beneficial to use on them a few times a year. Know, they are not receiving the same level of nutritive recycling as if they were in the ground. So, love them and nourish them. A good way to salvage some water is to use water from your shower, before you shower. We all let the water run a bit until it gets to that desirable temperature, well in the mean time precious water is swimming down the drain. Place a bucket under the shower head while it warms up and catch that water. Then move the bucket so you can enjoy a nice wash. Another option is to use the water used from steaming or boiling vegetables like potatoes, beets or broccoli. Even from cooking pasta. Let the water cool before using it on your plants. At least this way, you can make the most of the nutrients lost in the boiling process and recycle them onto your plants!
Be creative! Use anything for planters, just make sure the containers are big enough and do not leach out toxins. Do not use anything painted or stained. Although, you may use old plastic bottles, cans, water troughs from the feed store, terra cotta pots or make wood planters. Yes, the wood will eventually deteriorate, but not for a few years. You may also line it with some pond liner if you can salvage a bit and extend the life of the wood. Wine barrels! Not only are they excellent to use as a rain barrel, but they can be used as a mega planter! Look up a local winery and see how much they’ll sell their old barrels. I’ve inquired and the price was always pretty agreeable. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom of your containers. Plants do not like to be soggy, well at least not these plants.
I hope with spring approaching that this will inspire some people to bring some color and life into their homes, despite the square footage. Being innovative with your plant purchases and designing where they go is definitely a fun spice up your space and beat out any winter blues.