How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill

October 2, 2018 by  
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Envision a garden — you probably picture rows of corn neatly spaced across a field or lettuce coming to life in large raised beds. What you might not realize is that produce can grow very well in limited spaces, too. You can transform the confined windowsill in your kitchen into an oasis of herbs, greens and other goodies. In addition to growing flavorful herbs and fresh food, you also bring visual appeal to the space and produce a natural  air filtration system . By growing plants organically, you know what you are eating, and you can save money. It’s also nice to be able to easily pluck fresh flowers, herbs or produce any season of the year. When you’re ready to tackle the challenge, here are some tips and tricks to get you started on growing your own windowsill garden. Picking the best plants for a windowsill garden There are myriad possibilities when it comes to selecting plants for your indoor garden. First, consider your preferences. Are you looking for unique, conversation-starting plants that draw interest, or is your goal to produce as much food as you can from your space? Also think about the amount of time you can dedicate to the garden. Since vegetables need frequent attention, consider durable houseplants if you have less of a green thumb. You can start plants from seed, cuttings or plants. Plants are the easiest and most productive option. Cuttings are started from existing plants. Simply trim off a 3-4 inch section and place it into a jar or glass with the bottom in water. Change your water about once a week to avoid bacterial growth. After roots appear (in a week or two), transfer your cuttings to soil. At first, help your cutting adjust by keeping it quite moist, and then gradually cut back the water as it stabilizes in the soil. If you want to start with seeds, seed trays are a good way to develop individual plants. Use a seed soil or potting soil rather than heavy garden soil , which can be too dense for seeds to grow through. Related: 6 foods you can regrow from kitchen scraps Most compact vegetables will do well in a windowsill garden. Look for dwarf varieties that remain small in size but produce a quantity similar to outdoor gardens . Snow peas, cucumbers, radishes, different types of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, green onions, garlic, chilies, sprouts and microgreens are all examples that will perform well in the right indoor conditions. Also consider porch tomato options, such as cherry tomatoes. Just about any herb will grow happily inside the kitchen. Some great options include basil, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, dill and tarragon. Choosing plant containers The containers you choose can make a unique, artistic statement or create a peaceful, uniform landscape. Consider whether you want them all to match or if you prefer an eclectic blend. Use terracotta pots in their natural form, or give them a fresh coat of paint.  For a DIY look, cover them in chalk paint and label each pot with the plant it contains. Alternately, select your favorite ceramic pots, baskets or vases; use an old canister, tea kettle, bowls or jars; or gather standard store-bought resin planters. When choosing your planting containers, size is the biggest factor. Make sure you have room for each plant to spread out its root system without confinement. Plants will not be happy with compressed roots. Also make sure that the container you choose will fit on the windowsill. Whether you’re using a rain boot or an antique tea cup, make sure you have a drainage hole in the bottom of your container with some sort of saucer to catch the water that filters through. Finding a home for your indoor garden The location of your windowsill garden can be the difference between success and failure. South-facing windows are best, because they do not suffer from the harsh afternoon heat or struggle to find light. Many plants will thrive in an east-facing window as a second option. Wherever you locate your plants, they should receive at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. If your space doesn’t allow adequate sunshine , artificial light via heat lamps can do the trick. Set them on a timer to help you out and also to provide more consistent light for the plant. Make sure that your plants don’t come into direct contact with the cold window glass during the winter months, and protect them from the blazing greenhouse effect on hot summer days. Also stay away from areas with drafts, such as fireplaces or central heating vents. Tending to the garden Once you’ve selected your plants, containers and location, it’s time to pamper, watch and wait. Label all of your plants for easy reference. You can also include any care instructions that you want to keep close at hand. Keep your plants moist without providing too much water . You can set up drip systems for consistent watering or simply dip your finger in each pot every few days to feel for moisture. Offer your plants fertilizer every few weeks to boost health and productivity. Watch for signs that your plants are not getting the proper amounts of food, water or sunlight, and make adjustments as needed. Related: Why are my plants turning yellow? After herbs are well-established, pinch them back frequently to encourage bushy growth and keep them from going to seed. If the air in your house is dry from a wood-burning stove or other heat source, lightly mist around your plants weekly to improve humidity. Also rinse your plants every few weeks to deter insects, and be sure to look under the leaves for evidence of bugs. When your garden is thriving, propagate your next round of plants. Take cuttings and get them in water. Cut your green onions without pulling them out of the soil, and they will regrow. After harvesting your garlic, replant individual bulbs to grow again. Windowsill gardens are a great way to enjoy your garden all year without concern for outdoor weather conditions. Plus, it keeps your harvest within arm’s reach, adds variety to your meal plan and sparks visual appeal. Start your own windowsill garden and discover the many joys of indoor gardening for yourself. Images via Till Westermayer , Gemma Evans ,  Cassidy Phillips and Shutterstock

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Zaha Hadid Architects wins bid for Russias new Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall

October 2, 2018 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has won an international design competition for the new Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall in Yekaterinburg, Russia . Conceived with the firm’s signature curves, the futuristic design beat out 47 competing teams. The proposed building will supplement the existing Sverdlovsk Philharmonic building that dates back to 1936 and provide a new inspirational venue for housing the city’s acclaimed Ural Philharmonic Orchestra. Organized by the Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure Development of the Sverdlovsk Region, the international design competition sought an updated and enlarged concert hall to match the rapid population growth and popularity of Yekaterinburg, a city considered the capital of the Urals and Russia’s third largest economy. Renowned as a cultural and artistic center with a rich musical tradition, Yekaterinburg is home to the celebrated Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, which has performed in over 20 countries as well as to full houses year-round in the existing Sverdlovsk Philharmonic building. Zaha Hadid Architects’ contemporary vision for the Sverdlovsk Philharmonic building will not only expand seating capacity but will also create a new public plaza as well as a preservation and renovation plan for the current concert hall. Located between the heritage Sverdlovsk Philharmonic Concert Hall and the Weiner Gardens, the new development will include a 1,600-seat Concert Hall as well as a 400-seat Chamber Music Hall. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects unveils designs for sculptural Maltese tower “Echoing the physical aspects of sound waves , the design of the new Philharmonic Concert Hall is based on the properties of musical sound resonance creating wave vibrations in a continuous smooth surface,” explained the architects of the building’s sinuous interior and exterior. “The design re-interprets these physical acoustic properties to define spaces for the auditoria that are suspended within the canopy, appearing to float above the new civic plaza that is both the lobby of the Philharmonic Concert Hall and an enclosed urban square .” + Zaha Hadid Architects Images by VA, via Zaha Hadid Architects

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Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

May 18, 2018 by  
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Year after year, cities expand and pristine natural habitats are turned into farms and pastures to support the world’s growing population . But despite our encroachment into the environment, we still struggle to feed everyone. Vertical farms could offer a solution by producing higher crop yields year-round in less space than conventional agriculture. What is vertical farming? With land for crops and pastures growing scarce — plus the threat of pesticides and herbicides taking a toll on our health and the environment — people are exploring new ways to grow food, such as urban agriculture. In general, this is the process of growing food within city limits – whether on rooftops, in backyards or on balconies. The goal is to provide families with fresh, healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals — and when you grow your own crops, you can control these elements. Vertical farming is a type of urban agriculture – but vertical farms are often constructed indoors in extremely controlled environments. Crops are grown on shelves that extend upward instead of outward, and the environment is carefully monitored, so crops grow year-round. In addition to growing crops, some vertical farmers have developed ways to grow fish in a self-sustaining system. Water from the plants is recycled into fish tanks, and the waste from the fish becomes fertilizer for the plants. Then, both the plants and fish can be harvested for food. The benefits of vertical farming The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. Farmers can control the crops’ environment in vertical farms, so the plants aren’t subjected to nasty weather conditions or droughts . Humidity, nutrients and water are administered to growing plants to achieve optimum growing conditions. Because of the controlled environment, crops can be harvested more than once a year, resulting in higher yields than traditional farming. Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai Vertical farms are more sustainable than conventional farms because they use less water (which is often recycled through the system), they take up less space and they use less fossil fuels because they don’t rely on heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters. Technology helps vertical farmers get the best output from the farm. Tailored lamps help plants get more light exposure, which encourages them to grow faster than crops that rely on the sun. Vertical farms also provide greater protection from insects, thus decreasing the need for harmful chemical products. Downsides to vertical farming While vertical farms can help with local hunger issues and sustainability, there are some barriers that may keep them from gaining worldwide traction. The cost of setting up a vertical farm can be prohibitive. Conservative estimates put the initial start-up cost at around $110,000 , but there are estimates upward of millions of dollars. Finding an abandoned warehouse or building in an urban setting for a reasonable price might be difficult. Since vertical farms rely on electricity for growing lamps and strict environmental controls, the location has to have reliable power — not just any old abandoned building will do. Vertical farms also depend heavily on technology, which can be costly. Keeping the lights on and the environmental controls running will impact energy use — and your budget. Related: The “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world” will grow 30X more produce Not every crop that is grown traditionally can be raised successfully in a vertical farm. Leafy greens and herbs do the best in an indoor environment, while staple crops like wheat and potatoes are difficult to grow indoors, as are some fruits and vegetables. The crops that can be harvested from a vertical garden are limited. Growing food to feed the hungry is a noble gesture, but it also has to be profitable, especially when the initial cost to set up a vertical farm is so high. If there isn’t a market in your area, it’s a waste of time to grow large amounts of food that you won’t be able to sell. The verdict Despite the downsides, the positives are plentiful. In addition to embracing sustainability and helping combat hunger , vertical farms can also encourage support for local economies. These farms can create jobs, turn a profit and provide a healthy source of food for locals. As technology continues to advance, new approaches will improve the efficiency and productivity of vertical farms. If nothing else, the idea sparks the conversation about changing the agricultural industry and gives us a place to start for finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food. Images via Depositphotos , Aqua Mechanical and Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife

March 30, 2018 by  
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If it is ever built, Trump’s US-Mexico border wall would pose a threat to vulnerable wildlife and plants, as well as to the growing ecotourism industry in the border regions of Texas . Norma Fowler and Tim Keitt, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, have published a letter that outlines the potential ecological damage from such a major project. Currently, Texas has walls along approximately 100 miles of its border with Mexico. “Up to now, the wall has either gone through cities or deserts,” said Fowler . “This is the Rio Grande we’re talking about here. It’s totally different.” The proposed wall is set to cut through hundreds of miles of protected federal land, including much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. “We have high biodiversity because of the river and because Texas extends so far south,” explained Fowler. “I and other Texas biologists are very concerned about the impact this will have on our rich natural heritage.” Fowler and Keitt conducted a scientific literature review of 14 other publications to support the concerns outlined in the letter. The authors express particular interest in the protection of the threatened Tamaulipan thornscrub ecosystem , which once covered much of South Texas. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science The wall could also divide breeding populations of vulnerable animals, such as the ocelot. With only 120 left in the Lone Star State, ocelots could suffer from decreased reproduction and eventually disappear completely from Texas. “Even small segments of new wall on federal lands will devastate habitats and local recreation and ecotourism,” said Keitt. The authors suggested alternatives if the United States does ultimately go forward in its efforts to strengthen the border. According to Keitt and Fowler, “Negative impacts could be lessened by limiting the extent of physical barriers and associated roads, designing barriers to permit animal passage and substituting less biologically harmful methods, such as electronic sensors, for physical barriers.” Via Phys.org Images via  Alejandro Santillana/University of Texas at Austin Insects Unlocked Project and  Andrew Morffew

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This plant-based spray makes fruits and veggies last up to four times longer

March 23, 2018 by  
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How do you preserve fruits and vegetables after harvest? Generally, you need cold temperatures. But what if there were an alternative to refrigeration ? That question inspired Santa Barbara-based Apeel Sciences  to create  Edipeel , a post-harvest protection product made with edible extracts from plants . Inhabitat spoke with CEO and founder James Rogers about the product, which forms a micro-climate around each piece of food so it lasts around double the amount of time it would untreated — at least. Hunger continues to be a pressing problem, and as the population grows, humanity must figure out how to feed 10 billion people. This issue formed the basis of a podcast Rogers was listening to while driving through the Salinas Valley. He looked out the window at the greenery of the valley, dubbed the “Salad Bowl of the World,” and wondered how people could go hungry if we were growing so much food. Digging into the issue, he discovered it’s not so much about growing enough calories to feed the planet as it is about keeping what we do grow from perishing. Related: This company wants to turn food waste into building materials — here’s how Rogers found out fruits and vegetables rot through water loss and oxidation. “As a materials scientist, immediately this rang a bell with how people solve this problem for steel ,” he told Inhabitat. “Most people don’t think about it, but steel is highly perishable. It rusts. Metallurgists solved this problem in creating stainless steel, and the way that they did that was by adding additional elements, like chromium or nickel.” Edipeel creates an invisible, edible barrier to keep oxygen out and water in. Apeel recombines edible oils from plants in blends tailored for different kinds of food; think citrus or avocados. The result is a powder that Apeel mixes with water and sprays on the surface of food. It dries into a thin added peel, creating a micro-climate for each piece of produce. “The result is that it can last two, three, four times longer, even without refrigeration,” said Rogers. Worried about harmful chemicals on your food? So were Rogers’ friends. “They said, ‘Hey, sounds like a cool idea, bro, but we don’t want any chemicals,’” Rogers said. Although food is technically comprised of chemicals, some people don’t always think about it that way, so he wondered, “What if we could relegate ourselves only to using those materials that are found in high concentrations in the fruits and vegetables we eat every day to make formulations to use food to preserve food?” Apeel has been developing Edipeel for around six years now with that goal in mind. “We’re not a large chemical manufacturing company saying ‘let’s manufacture a new chemical to solve this problem.’ We’re looking at it from this perspective of: how do we work with nature to solve this problem the right way — not the fast way, not the cheap way, not the way that sacrifices the long-term health of the planet, but how do we solve this with the tool set nature has provided us?” Rogers told Inhabitat. The extracts for Edipeel can come from any vegetable or fruit. “We’re not looking for any weird botanical extract from some crazy flower in the Amazon,” Rogers said. “The materials we need are ubiquitous. If it grows above the surface of the earth, basically we can use it to create our formulations. The materials we’re using are all inert materials. They don’t have any action in and of themselves; they’re just structural. We recompose that structure on the outside of produce. “ Since spoilage is so significant, the way Apeel prices Edipeel means it’s more expensive for retailers not to have it. According to Rogers, “If you’re a retailer and you’re throwing away eight percent of your avocados, we’re able to price our product such that by paying us, you’re still going to save enough money to pay us for the product.” Edipeel is designated “Generally Recognized As Safe” by the Food and Drug Administration and can be used on organic produce. “As soon as you see how it works, you know that this is going to be a thing in the world,” Rogers told Inhabitat. “Seeing it work, even at a small scale, it was like, ‘This is the future.’ It just feels like an eventuality.” This year, Apeel is gearing up to offer Edipeel to commercial partners. Rogers couldn’t say who those partners might be quite yet, but he did say they are premier retailers. + Apeel Sciences Images courtesy of Apeel

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Simple genetic modification causes crops to need 25% less water

March 9, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered that a simple genetic modification may result in crops needing up to 25 percent less water than unaltered plants to produce the same yield. An international team led by scientists at the University of Illinois identified a specific protein called Photosystem II Subunit S (PsbS), which can be altered to encourage a plant to partially close its stomata, the small pores that facilitate gas exchange between plants and their environment. The scientists hypothesized that the closing of stomata would allow plants to retain more water without sacrificing its need for carbon dioxide, the atmospheric concentration of which has increased by 25 percent in less than a century. Stephen Long, study co-author and director of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), the international research project behind the study, said in a statement: “Evolution has not kept pace with this rapid change, so scientists have given it a helping hand”. As the world adapts to climate change , less water-intensive crops could be a game changer. “This is a major breakthrough,” explained Long. “Crop yields have steadily improved over the past 60 years, but the amount of water required to produce one ton of grain remains unchanged—which led most to assume that this factor could not change. Proving that our theory works in practice should open the door to much more research and development to achieve this all-important goal for the future.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study Approximately 90 percent of the world’s freshwater supply is used for agricultural purposes. As populations grow and resources become strained, more efficient plants could be a simple yet effective tool to sustain healthy communities. The research team published their positive results on the modification of a tobacco plant; their next step is to do the same for food crops. “Making crop plants more water-use efficient is arguably the greatest challenge for current and future plant scientists,” said study co-author Johannes Kromdijk in a statement . “Our results show that increased PsbS expression allows crop plants to be more conservative with water use, which we think will help to better distribute available water resources over the duration of the growing season and keep the crop more productive during dry spells .” Via New Atlas Images via University of Illinois

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World’s first rechargeable proton battery requires zero lithium

March 9, 2018 by  
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Scientists have created the world’s first working rechargeable proton battery . Designed as an environmentally friendly alternative to lithium ion batteries , it could even store more energy — with further development. Lead researcher John Andrews, professor at RMIT University , said in a statement , “Our latest advance is a crucial step towards cheap, sustainable proton batteries that can help meet our future energy needs without further damaging our already fragile environment .” The proton battery relies on water and carbon, instead of lithium. According to The Guardian , it’s a small-scale prototype that has potential to compete with lithium ion batteries that help us use renewable energy to power homes and cars. RMIT also said when scaled up, proton battery technology could be utilized for “medium-scale storage on electricity grids ,” pointing specifically to the giant South Australia energy storage project as an example. Related: New paper batteries can be discarded with zero ecological impact The working prototype utilizes “a carbon electrode as a hydrogen store, coupled with a reversible fuel cell to produce electricity ,” according to RMIT. Proton batteries could be more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and store more energy than lithium ion ones thanks to the carbon electrode and protons from water, according to Andrews. He told The Guardian this new technology, which could be commercially available in five to 10 years, would potentially compete with Tesla’s Powerwall . He said in the statement, “Future work will now focus on further improving performance and energy density through use of atomically-thin layered carbon-based materials such as graphene , with the target of a proton battery that is truly competitive with lithium ion batteries firmly in sight.” The International Journal of Hydrogen Energy made the corrected proof of an article on the research available online earlier this month. Along with three scientists from RMIT, an engineer from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology in India contributed. + RMIT University + International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Via The Guardian Images via RMIT University

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World’s first rechargeable proton battery requires zero lithium

This Search Engine Plants Trees

February 21, 2018 by  
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If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time surfing the web. … The post This Search Engine Plants Trees appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Amazon Takes Plants in the Office to the Next Level

January 29, 2018 by  
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It’s not surprising why our article on the best office … The post Amazon Takes Plants in the Office to the Next Level appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study

December 19, 2017 by  
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It turns out mushrooms aren’t just great to eat, but played an essential role in creating an atmosphere suitable for animal life, according to a new study. The earliest plants to dwell on land did not have well developed roots or vascular systems. Fungi, among the earliest colonizers of land, helped facilitate the transfer of phosphorus from rocky soil to the primitive plants , which required the mineral to photosynthesize. “The results of including data on fungal interactions present a significant advance in our understanding of Earth’s early development,” said Benjamin Mills, co-author of a report on the research published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B . “Our work clearly shows the importance of fungi in the creation of an oxygenated atmosphere.” The recent research shines a light on a process that remains mysterious, even in modern times. “Photosynthesis by land plants is ultimately responsible for about half of the oxygen generation on Earth, and requires phosphorus, but we currently have a poor understanding of how the global supply of this nutrient to plants works,” said Mills. Without fungi helping them acquire their necessary phosphorus, the earliest land plants would not have been able to survive. The oldest fossil of a land-living organism is of a fungi species, one of many which moved on land and helped to break down the rocky mantle into soil, enabling plants with roots to more easily extract their minerals . Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies To test fungi’s symbiotic relationship with early plants, a research team at the University of Leeds incorporated computer modeling and laboratory experiments which involved ancient species of fungus that still endure today. The researchers observed the differing rates at which different species of fungi exchanged phosphorus and carbon, which indicated how quickly plants might have produced oxygen. “We used a computer model to simulate what might have happened to the climate throughout the Palaeozoic era if the different types of early plant-fungal symbioses were included in the global phosphorus and carbon cycles,” said Katie Field, study co-author and plant biologist. “We found the effect was potentially dramatic, with the differences in plant-fungal carbon-for-nutrient exchange greatly altering Earth’s climate through plant-powered drawdown of CO2 for photosynthesis , substantially changing the timing of the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.” Via Science Alert Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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