Micro Gardening and Container Gardening, The Best Way to Fight Global Warming

Everybody is talking about global warming.  Some are for it.  Some are against it.  Some are taking advantage of the issue to achieve other goals.  The discussions become so crazy that one just wants to check out and enjoy playing some Intertops Casino Red games.

But then you look at your red chrysanthemums, your red carnations, and your red roses and you start to wonder if there is a different way.

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991

Going back to the pre-electricity days is impossible (a major solution is one direction).  Continuing to believe that “doing nothing” about protecting the environment can continue indefinitely is also impossible (a major solution is the opposite direction).   So that leaves only path C, smaller solutions.

You may be thinking, “It is not enough.  It is not enough.  We have to think big.”  But big is not working, and it is not possible.  So we need to think small.

Can micro gardening in cities help with global warming?

Yes.  But first, let’s look at what city life is like in terms of the environment.

What is city life like in terms of the environment?

In places like Manhattan, the average size of buildings is 10 stories high.  That is why the highest fire engine ladder can reach 13 stories high.  One would think that if a city is covered with block after block of skyscrapers that anything remotely looking green would be missing, but that is not the truth.

This was true during the 1800s, when building after building was built with no real urban planning.  But today, in most cities in the United States, before any major city construction project is implemented, an environmental impact analysis is done.

An environmental impact reports shows how changing 10 two story buildings to 10 thirty story buildings is going to impact the community in terms of clean water usage, sewage, parking, electricity, and even the flow of traffic.  Even things like cellular towers and solar panels are taken into account.  These reports also include information about changes in water pollution, soil pollution, air pollution, noise, vibration, light, heat, and radiation.

You may be thinking, “How does building a skyscraper affect heat (make a city warmer)?

Here are two examples, London and Singapore.

20 Fenchurch Street building, London, England

First let’s talk about London.  Have you ever heard about the 20 Fenchurch Street building?  20 Fenchurch Street was a building that was nicknamed “Walkie Scorchie”.  It made headlines when a Jaguar owner who parked his car at the foot of the building returned to his car to discover that the building melted part of his car.

Due to the windows that act like mirrors, along with the concave design of the building, essentially created a focal point of sunlight.  Think about this in terms of a magnifying glass and a leaf on a semi-warm spring day.  Admit it, you tried it.  Every kid has tried this at some point in their life.  Now imagine instead of having a “magnifying glass” around the size of a 30 story building, and instead of “burning” some dry leaves, you are “burning / melting” a Jaguar car.  That is what we are talking about here.

This is definitely a case of somebody making a really “cool” building design on paper, but never tried out a prototype of the design.

Singapore

Singapore is one of the most populated cities in the world.  They are on the forefront of creating “Vertical Cities”.  Instead of city planners building outward (as is done in many suburban areas in the United States) they are building upwards.  Nothing out of the ordinary here.  Cities like Manhattan, Chicago, and London have been dealing with these building designs for a long time.

So instead of reinventing the wheel, Singapore hired the “best and brightest” of these cities to help Singapore build their city.  Except these “best and brightest” people did not quite live up to their reputation.  They forgot to take into account that you cannot just take a building design that was “great” in NYC (a cold and snowy city) and just plop it into Singapore, and very hot city.  It became an environmental disaster.  The environmentally sealed building design that is a great design in a cold city, is a horrible building design in a hot Singapore city.

So Singapore needed to come up with another solution.  Not a “new” solution, but a solution that had not been previously implemented to the level that Singapore implemented it.

The theory is simple.  City Skyscrapers are built with a lot of balconies, and container gardens are placed on the balconies.  I do not know the exact mathematics, but if every balcony in a skyscraper building had plants on it, it has a very positive impact on the environment.  In some places the building owners or even the city government is taking responsibility for putting in these container gardens on skyscraper balconies.  In other places individuals take on the responsibility themselves.

Singapore is a city that is taking on the responsibility of container gardening, but let’s hope they do not make the same mistakes that China did.

China

China built a skyscraper with balconies and container gardens.  The building was completed in 2019, but before people could move in, mosquitoes took up residence to a level that prevented any humans from residing in the building.  Something went majorly wrong.

Each of the 826 units (which have all sold) has its own plant-filled balcony that looks like an overgrown back yard in the sky. But here’s the catch: mosquitoes, and lots of them. They love the gardens — and they also love sucking the blood of people who live in them.

Lesson learned:  Forest skyscrapers are not a bad idea, but “urban planning” definitely needs to be done before implementing.

“Just because it looks cool, absorbs CO2, is a noise buffer, and offers psychological benefits, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it properly,” Beyers says. “And I think [the developers] rushed into it. They didn’t think about the maintenance.”

First, somebody needs to take care of the garden.  If a resident of the apartment of the garden does not have a “green thumb”, so to speak, what started as a beautiful garden will within a couple of months, turn into a huge mess.

Second, the plants were grown in containers on the balcony (obviously).  The water from the rain collected in the containers, which from a mosquitoes perspective, was a dream come true.  From a human’s perspective, it was quite the opposite.

Third, the balconies themselves don’t have proper drainage.  Did you ever wonder what the holes in the walls of balconies or even someone’s yard is for?  It is for water drainage.  Not to mention that the balcony has to be built at an ever slight angle, so the water will go away from the house (and if there is drainage) will drain off of the balcony.

When you see garden balconies implemented correctly it looks strange.  A building down the street from me just replaced all of their balconies with container garden balconies.  You can definitely see the slope of the balcony going down and outward.  There is also a gap between the floor of the balcony and railing.  If you do not realize that it is a container garden balcony, you will think that somebody screwed up the balcony design.  But the design is not a mistake or esthetics.  The design is to encourage balcony container gardens without causing a mosquito infestation.

Note:  If you are worried about children and toys falling over (with a small child trying to go after the toy), just install a banister guard net.  It is just a mesh you tie along the banister to prevent toys (and small children) from falling through the banister of the balcony.

Finally, when picking which plants to grow, take into account not only how the plant looks today, but also how the plant will look in a year or two.  In China’s garden skyscraper, the plants, which were chosen for their noise-reducing and pollution-absorbing traits, are overgrown — providing lots of shade for the mosquitoes to thrive in.

Realistically, container gardens need to be maintained once a week to make sure they are not overgrown, not to mention, if the location is not rainy, that the plants get watered.  Beyers, an expert on city gardens and roof gardens, suggests that building developers make sure that the balconies are designed to encourage container gardening, but leave the choice of plants to the residents.  That way the residents will take responsibility to take care of the plants.

With vertical farming systems, some residents may just choose to plant a food garden.  Envision it.  You are sitting on your balcony, and you just have to go to the wall, pick out salad, and enjoy.  VerticalField is the company that produces these wall gardens.  With the products that VerticalFields created, plants can go successfully both indoors or outdoors in a wide variety of climates.

If the architect, landscape designer, and horticulturists listen to one another (and the gardens are actively tended to), the plantings can be successful. Beyers suspects that didn’t happen in Chengdu.

Gardening in Limited Space

Balcony gardens do not just have to be flowers. They can also be food plants.  There is an excellent chapter about gardening in limited spaces here:

“Back To Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills”, edited by Abigail R. Gehring pp. 148 – 153.

This chapter includes everything you would want to know about container gardening, including proper drainage and artificial lighting (if needed) as well as product yields.

And if you live in an area that is the complete opposite of China, for example, Israel, you can use drip irrigation.  This will also prevent the pooling of water.

Another option is a Lazy Pot or Self Watering Pot.  These pots are designed to allow the pooling of water in the bottom of the pot.  Then there is a rope that is placed in the water and leads to the dirt.  The plants then continuously get water, without there being the pooling of water that will attract mosquitos.

Bottom line is that you, as an individual, can make a change to “fight global warming” without having to redesign modern society.  It just takes a little bit of micro uban planning.