Where I live in Portland, Oregon, the compost and recycling bins are picked up every week, but the trash bin only every second week. When the program first started (cutting back from weekly trash pickups), I was worried—how would composting suddenly reduce my trash output so much?
Well, it worked (mostly), and these days it's rare that I even fill the trash bin every two weeks. It turns out that a huge chunk of the trash I was creating is compostable, a lot is recyclable, and it has been an easy transition. But how does compost get made from the stuff I chuck into the green bin? In this video from KQED Science, we see how San Francisco creates their compost, and gives us an idea of why compost is so useful to plants. Have a look:
For a look at a different compost plant, here's a How It's Made segment on compost:
And if you want to make compost at home, there are a zillion videos explaining how.
Just because you are a little absentminded about your houseplants doesn’t mean you can’t be a gardener. In the 21st century, there are plenty of smart tech solutions to care for your plants. Here are five technological tools to keep your plants alive, no matter how terrible a plant parent you are:
1. HELLOPLANT; $26
Helloplant, a new Kickstarter project, is a sensor that you insert into the soil of your pot to keep tabs on your houseplant. The associated smartphone app will ping you if the Wi-Fi-connected sensor detects that your plant is drying out, and it can tell you where the plant is getting light. The recommendations are customized based on what kind of plant you label it as in the app. Best of all, it’s cheaper than other smart gardening solutions, coming in at just under $26 per sensor.
Parrot’s smart pots use embedded sensors to monitor and tend to your plants whether you’re home or not. They are self-watering, preventing you from under-watering or over-watering your delicate houseplants. You can go on vacation for up to a month and the Parrot Pot will take care of your precious basil plant for you. The four sensors measure light, temperature, moisture, and fertilizer levels and send the information to your phone so that you can analyze how your plant is doing. It’s the perfect assistant for someone who wants to develop a green thumb but isn’t quite sure how to start.
With GROWTH, you never have to worry about your plants outgrowing their pots. The origami-like containers can expand so your growing plant has more room as it gets bigger. Created by the London-based design shop Studio Ayaskan, the white pots will give your apartment a minimal, modern vibe. The pots are not widely available yet, sadly. The studio recommends you subscribe to its newsletter to get an alert when they go on sale.
4. PLANTLINK SENSOR; $70
PlantLink is another smart sensor that you can insert into your potting soil to detect the moisture level of your plant’s environment. Based on the type of plant, the device will text, email, or send a push alert to your smartphone to tell you when it needs to be watered. PlantLink also makes a smart valve that you hook up to your sprinklers to automatically water your plants. It has its own solar panel and can be programmed to water your plants based on changes in the weather.
If you’re serious about your indoor gardening operation, consider Replantable's Nanofarm, a Kickstarter-backed tabletop produce system that requires zero oversight. You set it up once and wait for your food to grow. It works using Replantable’s Plant Pads, all-in-one seed and nutrient sheets that come in a number of different herb and salad-green varieties. For the Nanofarm, you just fill the tray inside with water, put in a Plant Pad, and close the door until your basil or butter lettuce is ready to harvest.
What’s the secret to fresh, tasty produce that basically grows itself? A steady supply of fish poop, according to Aquapioneers. The brand's aquaponics kits recycle the natural waste from fish tanks into fertilizer for indoor gardens. And unlike some other home growing systems, these tanks are cheap and easy to assemble.
The Aquapioneers Ecosystem is intended to be an open-source digital file available online, Fast Company reports. Anyone can download the design and take the data to their local maker lab for printing. Once the plywood frame has been put together, it's ready to hold a standard-sized home aquarium.
The fish in the tank and the plants in the garden above them rely on one another to flourish. The fish produce waste, microorganisms in the water convert the waste to fertilizer, and the plants drink up the fertilizer, cleaning the tank in the process. “Think about it—fish and plants can harmoniously coexist in the same ecosystem,” the Aquapioneers website reads. “So why not put those fish to good use?”
The system yields produce faster than a traditional soil garden while using less water. Plants are nourished by a low-energy LED light, which means they can grow in the corner of a kitchen until they’re ready for harvest.
Home gardeners won’t be able to live on an aquaponics diet alone: The kit is best suited for growing herbs, greens, and strawberries. But for people looking to learn more about where their food comes from, the product is a great introduction to personal agriculture.
To reserve a digital download of the design, you can donate to Aquapioneers’ crowdfunding campaign today. The plans will be made available on an open-source basis at the campaign's conclusion.