Who wouldn’t want to be greeted by sweet-smelling fresh air, a 360-degree view of nature and the sound of bird calls when we look out of the window every morning? Yet, every time we unfortunate city dwellers open a window, we are greeted with noise, dust and pollution. Believe it or not, but India’s pollution rivals that of China as one of the most polluted countries in the world. With rapid urbanisation and poor planning, green cover is rapidly declining and the resultant rise in pollution levels has led to skyrocketing rates of respiratory diseases.
The question we ask ourselves, naturally, is: how can I protect myself and my family from these?
Well, all hope isn’t lost yet. There is something you can do to make our cities cleaner and greener; even from the limited spaces of your homes, all the while creating an island of greenery for yourself.
Vertical Gardening: The Green Alternative for Cramped Cities
When you say ‘gardening’, the first thing you think about are acres of gardens with rows of well-manicured plants. Not so much for the city-dweller though, which is very sad because greenery has been shown to make us healthier, happier and calmer. That’s a dream long forgotten as most city-dwellers just don’t have the option of sprawling gardens anymore, thus losing out on the positive effects of being amidst greenery when living in cities.
Luckily it is now possible to have plants, and all their benefits, even when you can’t spare much floor space for a garden. Vertical gardening is a clever and practical way of utilising the indoor and outdoor walls in our urban homes, office and public spaces.
Outdoor walls can be easily adapted to vertical gardening with the discriminating use of trellises and wall-mounted flower pots. However, the most intriguing and attractive form of vertical gardening is the Living Wall or Green Wall, which can be adapted indoors or outdoors. Green Walls are beloved the world over to absorb indoor pollutants and improve air quality, while adding a living element of interest to a space. Here, a wall is densely populated with plants to lend an effect of thick, lush forest. Following the success of Heathrow Airport, London, Singapore Changi Airport, Edmonton International Airport, Canada and Christchurch Airport, New Zealand in using Green Walls in reducing travellers’ stress, Mumbai’s own Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport also features verdant Living Walls.
Vertical Gardening has immense environmental advantages:
- All plants act as natural air filters which enrich the air with oxygen, and plants in vertical gardens are no exceptions. They reduce smog, pollutants, Volatile Organic Compounds, toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde, and dust.
- Vertical Walls also form effective sound barriers, reducing the impact of sound pollution, which- let’s be honest- is a very real problem for city dwellers.
- Since they form an easily-controlled environment, they can be designed such that vertical gardens have little or no wastage of water.
- Further, they have fewer pests, making maintenance easier, and reducing the usage of pesticides.
- Have you noticed how much cooler the temperature is when you take a long drive, even a few hours away from the city? This is called the Urban Heat Island Effect, which is a phenomenon wherein an urban area is significantly warmer than the surrounding rural areas. And guess what can help reduce it, and make our cities cooler? Planting more plants! And vertical gardens are a great way to do this!
- These vertical gardens, apart from protecting the wall from the elements, further insulate the exterior walls, making the interiors cooler, reducing the need for airconditioning.
- All these factors contribute to reducing your carbon footprint.
- Studies have shown a dramatic increase in biodiversity around urban farms, and vertical gardens fulfil a similar role by providing a comfortable environment for small birds and beneficial insects.
- By using a vertical garden to grow food sustainably, one can get the freshest organic food with the lowest environmental impact.
Points to Consider While Setting Up A Vertical Garden
Creating your own vertical garden is actually easier than you might imagine. All you really need is a wall, a little know-how, a bit of creativity and dedication! A freestanding Green Wall makes a stunning room partition, or you can use an existing wall. To mount a frame onto a wall, experts advise the use of a plastic sheet behind a corrosion-resistant frame, further padded with fabric, to protect the wall from possible damage.
One important decision is the selection of plants based on what the purpose of your vertical garden is, the time you’re willing to invest in setup and maintenance, availability of sunlight etc. Indoor walls do well with a wide range of shade-loving plants such as ferns; balconies with indirect sunlight are ideal for shade-loving plants, while walls which get four or more hours of sunlight look delightful with a wide array of tropical plants, flowering plants and most vegetables. An experienced gardener or a horticulturist can help you in this decision.
To make maintenance easier, a drip irrigation system is ideal, because it automatically waters your plants for you for however long you want. You can also link it to a tank with liquid fertilizer which can deliver the required nourishment to your plants periodically. If you choose to make your vertical garden organic, a few hours a week is all you will need to nourish your plant with an organic fertilizer, or with organic mulch from your own garden and kitchen waste.
It does require a fair bit of planning and upkeep, but the payoff is definitely every bit worth the effort.
With just a little bit of creativity, you could turn a blank, boring wall into an oasis that is good for you and your family. Not only will it make your home cleaner, healthier and cooler, (and can possibly provide you with wholesome, organic vegetables and herbs), but it will also help cleanse the air around your home. A win-win if there was ever one.