Monthly Archives: August 2016
Think about how much time you spend at home — sleeping, relaxing, eating, hanging out with friends and family. You want the air you breathe while you’re in your house to be the cleanest and safest it can be. But even if your carpets, countertops, and furniture are as clean as a whistle, your indoor air quality might not be up to par. Perhaps it’s time to consider a clean air system.
How an Air Purifier Works
An air cleaning system or air purifier does just that — it removes certain pollutants from the air and improves indoor air quality. These systems use filtration or another method of pulling pollutants from the air you breathe.
Particles in the air that can be removed by some air cleaning systems include:
- Dander from pets and other animals
- Cigarette and pipe smoke
- Dust and dust mites
- Viruses and bacteria
- Smoke from cooking
Gases in the air that may be removed by some air cleaning systems include pollutant chemicals from:
- Paints, stains, and varnishes
- Cleaning products
- Gas ranges in the kitchen
- Adhesive substances
- Cigarette and pipe smoke
- Car exhaust
- Certain furniture and construction materials
Types of Air Cleaning Systems
Here are a few types of air cleaners, and what they remove from the air:
- Air filter. An air filter removes small particles from the air using materials or electrical charges to capture particles.
- Gas filter. A gas filter removes harmful gases using a material, often activated carbon, that absorbs them.
- PCO air cleaner. This device removes some harmful gases by turning them into a safe gas using a catalyst and UV light. They’re not the most effective at destroying harmful gases indoors. and they don’t remove any particles.
- UVGI air cleaner. This type of air cleaner uses UV light to remove germs such as mold, allergens, some bacteria, and viruses. Not all bacteria and viruses can be destroyed without longer exposure to UV light.
- Ozone generator air cleaner. An ozone generator air cleaner removes gases, particles, molds, allergens, bacteria, and viruses using ozone. But ozone itself is a harmful substance that can also cause health problems.
Do You Need A Clean Air System?
First, it’s important to figure out what’s in the air in your home and if it’s affecting your health. Contaminants like mold and allergens can impact your respiratory health, so there may be some benefit for you in installing an air purifier.
No air purifier can remove all contaminants and give you completely clean air, but the right system can certainly reduce pollutants and improve air quality.
Air purifiers have not been found to be particularly effective in improving health problems for people who are most susceptible to them: the very young and very old, asthmatics, and those who have allergies. They’ve also not been found to be very effective in reducing asthma and allergy symptoms caused by contaminants like cat dander, dust, and other allergens.
Whether you are limited on space, growing plants that don’t usually survive your local weather or just looking to create focal points, container trees and shrubs can be a lovely addition to your landscape. However, there are some considerations that you will need to remember in order to help them stay happy and healthy.
Research to Determine What Trees and Shrubs Are Best
One big mistake that some gardeners make is falling in love with a plant online or at a nursery and whisking it home with nary a thought as to whether it will actually work in your garden. This is especially true when you are trying to place a tree or shrub in a container. The cute little sapling that you spied at the garden center can turn into a tree that is over 100 feet tall.
The basics that you should check out for potential candidates include:
- Preferred hardiness zones
- Height and width at maturity
- Light and water requirements
- Potential for litter
Use Dwarf Cultivars as Available
You are asking a lot of a tree or shrub when you place it into a container.
The roots have far less space to work with and can naturally become crowded. When you choose dwarf cultivars and species that are naturally on the smaller size, it is easier for them to adapt to the limited area presented. This is especially important when you are working with fruit trees since they will need extra energy to produce fruit and you want a good root base.
Choose Your Pot Size Carefully
Picking the right size of container for your tree or shrub can be a bit tricky at first. You do not want one that is too small, of course, as this will leave little room for root growth and it is likely to become rootbound and struggle or die. Since it is a large plant, you might naturally think to place it in a very large container so it will have room even when it is fully grown.
However, you can definitely run into problems if the pot is too large for the plant’s current size. When there is an abundance of soil present and not enough roots to take up the water, it can retain moisture for too long and cause root rots that can ultimately kill the plant.
For best results, plan on moving up in 2” increments every couple of years until it reaches maturity. Repot sooner if you notice roots escaping from the drainage holes. If it is rootbound when you change containers, perform root pruning by use a box cutter or other sharp instrument to score along the sides of the root ball and remove the mass of roots. This will stimulate new root growth and keep the plant healthier.
Drainage is Essential
Even if you have the correct size of container, you can run into root rot and other problems if there are not enough drainage openings present. Check your pot (especially if you are using an alternative form of planter like a barrel or bucket that is not necessarily sold with drainage holes) and use a drill to create more as needed.
Protect the Roots in Freezing Weather
Many trees and shrubs have adapted for survival through the harsh conditions present during winter. Growth slows and the plant goes into dormancy. The roots are protected by the ground surrounding them and the temperatures are at least a little higher than in the air above.
In a container, there is a lot less buffer present for the roots. It is much easier for the soil to freeze completely and cause damage. Options are to bring the plant inside, bury it in the ground or place it somewhere like a garage or basement. If you choose to bury them, add mulch on top for extra protection and leave a space around the trunk to prevent insect and disease damage.
Don’t Forget to Harden Off Your Plants
If you are trying to grow plants in containers so that you can bring them inside when the temperatures drop, take it slow when you reintroduce them to the outdoors in the following spring. This process is called hardening off and is an essential step in protecting your trees and shrubs from harm.
Imagine that you are used to sitting quietly on a couch while listening to classical music. One day you are drifting off into a nap, but suddenly are jolted awake as someone throws you into the front row of a rock concert. This is the sort of experience that a plant will be subjected to if you do not harden it off first and let it adjust. Outdoor conditions are harsher than indoors since the light is magnitudes brighter, environmental conditions like drought, salt and wind are present, and insects or diseases are more likely to strike.
Efficient methods like square foot gardening can be used to maximize production and are easy to lay out in a grid system within the box.
Types of Construction Materials
There are a variety of options available if you want to create a raised bed. Wood planks are a common choice. Make sure that chemicals have not been used to treat them, as these can leach into the soil and into your vegetables, fruits and herbs. For this reason, if you are going to re-use found wood or pallets, source them carefully as in many cases, they have toxins and/or pesticides present in the wood. Choose fastening materials like bolts or screws that are made of a substance that will not rust, like stainless steel.
Cinder blocks are another possible option for your raised bed. They will last almost indefinitely and weather better than wood. If you lay the concrete blocks so that the holes are facing up, the sides will create a solid wall. Use rebar inside each opening to keep the blocks from shifting. Plants that stay on the smaller side (some herbs, onions, radishes, etc.) can even be grown in the holes. Watch on your local classifieds, Freecycle and Facebook yard sale groups as they are sometimes offered for free if you haul them away.
If your garden is naturally rocky, use that to your advantage by building your raised bed for free with those stones. These are also a common item given away on classified groups if you are willing to pick them up.
Another great option is to buy a raised bed made of fabric. One of the advantages of a fabric bed is that at the end of the season, you can dump out the soil, wash off the fabric, fold it up and store it for the winter. You can even make a raised bed from a kiddie pool.
A raised bed is your opportunity to compensate for natural soil that is too sandy, full of rocks, poor in nutrients or otherwise problematic for your plants. The simplest method would be to buy bags of potting mix to fill the box. Depending on the type and brand you choose, as well as the height of your raised bed, this can turn out to be very expensive.
You can mix up your own potting soil using equal parts of materials like topsoil, peat moss and compost. Adding perlite or vermiculite is helpful to stop the soil from becoming compacted and make it easier for water and nutrients to flow through. Place your materials into a compost tumbler or large wheelbarrow and mix them together. Use this opportunity to add in organic, slow release fertilizer, following the directions for amounts. You can also to add aged manure or compost instead of fertilizer.
If you do not make your own compost, call your local waste management and recycling facilities. In some cities, green waste is collected and turned into composts and mulches that are usually priced competitively. They may deliver for a fee, but you can also use a pickup truck to transport it yourself.
When you are planning out your garden, it is tempting to maximize space by creating one large raised bed. However, it will work much better if you break it up into several boxes. If the bed is too wide, it will be very difficult to reach across to thin seedlings, keep weeds down and harvest your crops. You want to keep the width a maximum of four feet wide.
If you are working with an area that is not flat, remove soil or build up areas so that your planting area will be even. Smooth it out before adding your soil mixture to the container.
Filling your raised bed is also something to think about when you are planning. These boxes offer the opportunity to use potting soil or other mediums that mean you can still garden when your soil is poor. However, the cost can really start to add up when your box is bigger. However, if you want to grow deeper rooted plants you may want to start with a 12″ height.
If you are designing it for someone with illnesses or disabilities, make sure that the pathways are wide enough to accommodate assistive devices like wheelchairs and walkers. Allow space to go around corners and exit successfully. Make the sides two feet high to make it accessible for the gardener to reach towards the plants from a seated position. Wider pathways will also mean that wheelbarrows can be used in the area.