by Charlene Burgi
Do you ever think of nature and marvel? Things occur in nature that we take for granted. For example, I was amazed when I learned about the ability of compost and worms to clean oil spills. A few years ago a Ph.D. student, Thomas Azwell from UC Berkeley, experimented with material contaminated with crude oil. He introduced the oil to compost and discovered that the bacteria found in compost broke down the oil into a by-product that the worms loved. The process eliminated the contaminants and resulted in enriched amendments called vermicompost (worm castings). Who would have thought compost and worms held such magic!*
Most of us learned plants clean the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen which improves our air quality. However, did you know your indoor plants also remove formaldehyde often found in carpets, insulation and cleaning products, or trichloroethylene and benzene found in paints, ink and adhesives? While I won’t go into the process of how the plants clean the air, I can suggest you include indoor plants as part of your décor. They will not only brighten up a room, but provide quality air to your home.
Some plants are better “air cleaners” and easier to grow than others. Spathiphyllum (peace lily) and golden pothos are staple plants in my home. They require very little care, get watered once a week, and rarely need to be fertilized. They are surprisingly high on the list of most effective plants for removing toxins in the air. Dracaenas(cane plants), bamboo palms, Sansevieria (mother-in-law or snake plant) and Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen) are also high on the list.
Place indoor plants in suitable lighting and avoid direct drafts. They do collect dust and, just like furniture, will benefit from having the dust removed. Plants will “breathe” easier when they are clean. Either wash the foliage by placing them under a gentle spray of lukewarm water in the shower or sink, or wiping each leaf with milk and a soft cloth.
The ability of nature to clean our environment is a wonder. And it makes me wonder what I can give back to nature in return . . .
*You can learn more about harnessing the magic of compost through making and using compost teas at the “See What’s Springing Up!” workshop we are hosting at the College of Marin – Indian Valley Campus in Ignacio on January 25 from 1-5 p.m. This free workshop is targeted to our landscape professionals, but we reserved a large room that will accommodate many people. Please call 945-1512 to reserve a space if you plan to attend. The workshop will also cover the installation of gray and rainwater systems.