Dr Anil Kush and Sameer Wadhwa, May 29, 2015: 21:22 IST
If you have shied away from indoor gardening because of the cleanliness factor, it’s time you said hello to plant gel - a wonder soil of sorts that comes with all the goodness of natural earth, minus the hassles, write Dr Anil Kush and Sameer Wadhwa.
Bengaluru is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia with a population of over eight million and it’s growing rapidly in all directions. Uncontrolled urbanisation and technological, industrial development, coupled with accelerated population growth, has led to a significant deterioration in the environmental air quality of the City.
Considering that urban population is set to double by 2050, resulting in reduced green cover, fewer trees and eventually, lesser atmospheric oxygen, not just outdoor air, but indoor air quality will also suffer a lot. Moreover, solvents in glues, paints and varnishes commonly used in the production of carpets, drywall and pressed wood furniture, such as toluene and formaldehyde are omnipresent. This petrochemical-based lifestyle from paint to computers has resulted in serious accumulation of toxic chemicals in our indoor micro-climate posing serious threat to health and lifestyle.
One of the ways to tackle this issue would be indoor gardening. Nothing beats indoor plants when it comes to decorating the living room, dining table corners or a covered balcony. By adding plants, you can decorate your house and improve the indoor air quality to a great extent. Most importantly, you can keep many diseases at bay. Plants are natural air purifiers that add an eco-friendly vibe to your home. Some of the plants that you could add to your abode are heartleaf philodendron, spider plant, snake plant and aloe vera. Some gel for your plants?
During a research involving sending of manned aircraft to space without too much payload for oxygen (using biological systems of atmospheric regeneration), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists found that indoor air pollution can be effectively handled by indoor plants and this approach can also be applied to increasing indoor air pollution across the world. NASA dedicated an entire facility called Biohome in its Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, USA to study the impact of indoor plants in removing indoor air pollution.
But managing indoor plants is a difficult task as they need special care. Apart from routine activities like watering, plants also need regular pruning and shaping. Many fear indoor gardening because they feel its dirty. Sometimes, the mud gets on the surrounding walls and water gets splashed everywhere. But thanks to technology, today you can forget about all the hassles associated with indoor gardening.
For starters, you can toy with an innovative product called plant gel. Yes, you heard it right. Plant gel is a type of cross-polymer that holds water and nutrients around the base of your plants and slowly releases them to the root system of the plant. The product inspired by NASA research on indoor air pollution control can interestingly be used even without soil to grow your favourite plants.
This method has also been proven to enhance the lifespan of your plants and makes them more vibrant. Plant gel allows over 90 per cent of the water and plant food to be directly available to the plant’s root system.
No other component used in growing mixes allows this much absorption by plants. For example, clay soils retain a great amount of water, but less than 50 per cent of the water is released to the root systems. An aesthetic touch What’s more, this gel comes in multiple colours and can provide a beautiful contrast to the indoor plants, especially terrarium plants, lucky bamboo and so on. Add some fancy lighting and a beautiful glass vase to this and you are all set. Using different colours of pots and gels can be a beautiful solution to improve oxygen inflow inside your home.
It can be crafted in different colours to give it a unique ornamental and aesthetic look, which gets further amplified with optimal light arrangements. Plant gel is an ideal material to nurture your love for plants and also brings out your creativity.
With such new innovations, there is renewed hope to reverse the trend of increasing air pollution and improving the green footprint across the globe. Plant gel also suits every kind of space. Be it huge apartment complexes where indoor oxygen percentage is comparatively poor, or office spaces where electronic gadgets are in great numbers.
So, get going and welcome in a new age of gardening with plant gel.
(Dr Anil Kush is chief scientist, Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation, department of biotechnology, Government of India and Sameer Wadhwa is CEO, Eco Works)