How’s this for a shocking twist? Tomatoes, long thought to be peaceful delicious denizens of our vegetable gardens, may actually be a giant red threat to insects. Scientists say that the tomato and potato are among 325 new species suspected of harboring an appetite for flesh, including the potato, ornamental tobacco plants and petunia flowers. (Ed note: I always knew petunias were up to no good.)
Unlike more obvious carnivorous plants, like the Venus Fly Trap, tomatoes do not have the physical means to digest their victims. Instead, they ensnare small insects in sticky hairs on their stems, wait for them to fall to the ground dead, and absorb the nutrients via their root system. Self-fertilization! From UK Telegraph,
It is thought that the technique was developed in the wild in order to supplement the nutrients in poor quality soil â€“ but even domestic varieties grown in your vegetable patch retain the ability. The killer plants have been identified as among a host of species that are thought to have been overlooked by botanists and explorers searching the worldâ€™s remotest regions for carnivorous species.
The number of carnivorous plants is thought to have been underestimated by up to 50 per cent and many of them have until now been regarded as among the most benign of plants.
Said one researcher, â€œWe may be surrounded by many more murderous plants than we think.”
via UK Telegraph
If you aren’t already, you need to check out the Urban Sustainable Living Magazine published by the Garden Girl.Â It’s delivered to your inbox (free!) every month, or two, and it’s chocked full of good useful information each and every time.
Their website is even interactive featuring videos with Mel Bartholomew discussing Sq Foot Gardening, among other topics.
This month they are discussing honey, sheet mulching and composting, among other topics.Â (You can see this month’s cover to the left)
Check it out when you get a chance.
(IfÂ you have a chance, you can search for the Garden Girl in our video library as well)
When you hear the words “rain collector”, the first thing that probably comes to mind are of barrels next to gutters. A company called Second Rain, however, thought that there might be a more aesthetic way to capture water — and as they say on their site “No offense to rain barrels, but they’re not easy to sit on.”
Hence, their multi-use rainwater collection system was born. Each “box of rain” holds about 40 gallons of water and is made from durable, 98% recycled premium grade HDPE plastic (2% is UV & color additive). They are also modular (so you can easily connect another unit) and include liner, fittings, adapters, valve, and tubing needed to connect to a garden hose.
Obviously, the greatest benefit to using a second rain system is that you can easily hide it within a patio. The demonstration design on their homepage shows that such a setup can store 495 gallons of water.
The major downside is that each of these boxes costs $299 — which for a 40 gallon capacity is quite expensive. You’re obviously paying more for the modular and aesthetic options this system gives you. But for those that want a certain look, perhaps Second Rain might be just the product they’re looking for.
Check out more details and pictures over on their website here.
When you think about it, parking lots are useful for only one things: cars. There’s very little in the way that benefits anything else. They’re almost like artificial deserts — nothing grows, it’s barren, and moisture is whisked away through a system of gutters and sewers. Most parking lots I know are somewhat busy from 9am-5pm on weekdays — and empty for the most part in-between. The only exception might be the holiday buying season when cars seem to overflow from every corner.
And we devote an insane amount of land to parking. According to a study, if you took all of the parking spaces in the Los Angeles Central Business District and spread them horizontally in a surface lot, they would cover 81 percent of the CBDâ€™s land area. Now imagine instead if all that land could function for both parking and as a green space.
A couple years ago, a landscape architect named Veenu Jayaram presented a thesis addressing parking lots (particularly in Los Angeles) and how they might better serve the planet and people. Her idea was to create a space that might function as a parking space during the work day — and a green space/sports/farmers market area for the off hours. The simple incorporation of trees (something that’s finally starting to happen more) is especially important for providing shade and improving air quality. Jayaram also suggested laying “permeable and alternate paving” solutions that might reduce water runoff and support some additional greenery. The use of solar overhangs (something that Google currently uses in its lots) would also help create energy for office buildings, lights, or other uses.
I encourage you to visit Land+Living and take a look at her diagrams. What’s fascinating about them is how simple such ideas would be to implement. Imagine a Target parking lot that not only has spaces for customers, but also features small community gardens, benches, trees, and solar arrays. It’s something bizarre to visualize — but damn it would beautiful.
Do you know of a parking lots design that’s similar to the above? Would love to hear if any communities/businesses have tried this very thing.
Fish tanks are great, but serve very little purpose beyond their beauty and function as “pets”. Designer Mathieu Lehanneur, however, decided to take things a step further. He was inspired by the Locavore movement — essentially the idea of gathering all of your food within a radius of 100 mile — and decided to create a functional tank; one that would feed as well as entertain. Here’s the general idea:
This DIY fish-farm-cum-kitchen-garden is based on the principle of aquaponics coupled with the exchange and interdependence of two living organisms – plants and fish. The plants extract nutrients from the nitrate-rich dejecta of the fish. In doing so they act as a natural filter that purifies the water and maintains a vital balance for the eco-system in which the fish live.
Basically, with such a system in place, you could have closed loop environment to feed yourself. Granted, you better make sure one or two pairs of fish survive to keep the system flowing (as well as seeds from the plants), but you get the idea. Lehannuer’s design was on display last April in NYC. We have no idea if the creation is still in use — but if he invites you over for dinner, expect something fresh to hit your plate.
As we saw yesterday, there are plenty of clever ways to go about integrating your rain barrel into something a bit more in tune with nature. This beautiful new concept rain water harvester called CISTA from MOSS SUND and figlforty takes things a step further by essentially combining a vining plant and a vertical rain barrel in one. This grouping gives homes a sort of vertical garden — and its place in urban environments, where space is tight — would certainly be welcome. As Inhabitat writes,
It can collect up to 100 gallons of water at a time, creating enough water pressure to operate a soaker hose housed in a storage compartment at the base of the unit. A climbing plant like ivy is planted at the base and naturally winds its way up into the frame. The LED water-level indicator lets you know if the CISTA needs a little help, the system can be expanded both horizontally and vertically, and thanks to its nesting design it can be efficiently shipped.
What’s intriguing about this design is that it could easily also be done as a Do-It-Yourself project. Sans the LED water-monitoring, integrating a water bladder with a vetical structure conducive to vining plants might be something anyone could try. In fact, the CISTA plans for showing how all of this could come together is readily available in their PDF on the concept. I’m not saying it would be easy, but in terms of saving money, it would probably be worth it.
CISTA will be appearing next at the 2009 Green Living Show in Toronto as part of the Green-Ovations feature display from April 24 – 26 at the Direct Energy Centre.
There are green roofs — and then there are green roofs that cover over 60,000 square feet. Such is the living behemoth above the Gate’s Foundation garage in Seattle. From the article,
The Gates roof has five inches of soil over a layer of synthetic drainage. Other styles of constructing green roofs include sod-based roofs and planter-based roofs. Models predict the roof will treat about 90 percent of the water that falls on it. The other 10 percent goes into the local combined sewer overflow system.
The garage, which is now complete, resides next to the under-construction $500 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters. Both buildings are expected to receive Gold LEED certification.
More pictures available after the jump.
With Spring so close I can barely stand to wait, I’m making plans for the garden, ordering seeds, and getting ready to reorganize my compost pile. See, during the winter months I’ve been reading up on what an absolutely shitty job I’ve done with my current compost layout. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but I could be getting my food and yard scraps to break down much faster with a bit of proper setup.
Anyways, while continuing this research, I came upon a post over on CleanTechnica discussing the composting technique called Bokashi. Basically, it’s a high-speed breakdown process that takes advantage of anaerobic mirobes. Instead of placing your food scraps in an outdoor, open-air bin — you shove them into an air-tight bin. CleanTechnica gives us the deets:
Making bokashi compost is simple.Â You need a couple of big containers with tight-fitting lids (to keep the oxygen out), some kitchen scraps, and bokashi mix.Â The mix contains wheat bran, molasses, and EMâ€™s – the efficient microorganisms that drive the process.Â DIY bokashi help is available online but if you want to get started quickly, you can find ready-to-go bokashi kits at many gardening and eco-shopping sites like gaiam, or at specialty suppliers like Bokashicycle.
From Bokashicycle, you can pick up one of their kits for just under $90. For people living in urban areas — or tight on space — this a great option for breaking down food quickly (supposedly, in only a matter of days).
Anyone else have any luck with this composting technique?
As gardening season fast approaches one thing any gardener should be thinking about is how to water their plants.Â Why not use rainwater to water them?Â Check out this product called the Handytank.
The majority of barrels currently available are unable to water an
entire lawn, help fill a pool, wash a car etc. Â Our tank is not only able to
do these things, but it is portable, comes in a full color- flat-pack box,
can easily fit in the trunk of a car and the tanks have a 3 year warranty.\
The Handytank was developed by an Australian gentleman to help deal with
Australia’s extreme water shortage crisis. Â I realize that Canada does not
have the same water shortage issues that Australia is experiencing but we
have experienced municipality water bans in the past, and Canadians are
going green- respecting their environment and realizing the impact we are
making on the environment. Â I used the 450L all summer in my yard- they are
simple to set up, and simple to use. Â I like to think of it as the modern
version of a rain barrel- much more efficient and economical than the
According to the website this tank holds a ton of water!Â OK, maybe not a ton but 450 liters for the small one is a lot of water.Â I do have to admit though, it’s not very attractive.
But, what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up in utility.Â It folds flat!Â That means you can transport it home from the store in your car, not a truck like I had to use with my rain barrels.Â Not to mention that packing it away in the winter sounds very appealing.
If you have a chance to look over the Handytank drop us a line.Â As of right now it seems to only be available in Canada.
If you want to know more about harvesting rainwater do a quick search in our search tab and check out the results.
Image courtesy of the company’s press packet.
I’ve always wanted a rain barrel. In fact, back in June, I wrote a post declaring as much and announcing my quest to pick something up that was both eye pleasing and practical. Living in Ithaca, NY, I don’t have many problems with drought — but watching all that water roll off my roof, I figured it was a waste to simply see it hit my lawn and disappear. Besides, why pay that much more for municipal water for my garden when I could capture that which fell from the sky?
I’ll admit that writing about water issues in the southwest U.S. and visiting friends in Arizona also made me curious why water conservation tactics (like rain barrels) weren’t used more. Was it because they’re still relatively unknown? Were they a pain to setup and use? I was curious and therefore wanted one. Thankfully, the folks at Garden Supermart heard my cry and hooked me up with one of their Cascata Rain Barrels. After playing around with it (I use that term loosely) for two weeks, I can sum up my reaction in one sentence: Everyone should have one.
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