Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Book review - How to Grow Fresh Air.

This month's eco book was 'How to Grow Fresh Air' by Dr B C Wolverton.

I liked...

1. It's based on the results of a NASA experiment to use plants to create an atmosphere that create the right balance of gases to sustain human life in a sealed unit, so you get to read all the sciencey thoughts behind it, in the first few chapters.
2. It has a growers guide section that gives you tips about the kinds of light, watering and pest control you need to take into account when growing houseplants (excellent for serial spider plant killers like myself!)
3. It then moves on to look at the top 50 plants that put oxygen back into the atmosphere and remove harmful toxins like formaldehyde that are present in modern buildings (in the carpets, furniture, paint, etc - scary thought!), there is a paragraph about each plant, as well as tips for it's care and it's rating out of ten, which is averaged from 4 areas - removal of chemical vapors, ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate (rate it releases oxygen into the environment).
4. The ratings are really helpful in choosing which plants you want to grow - I've decided to try to break my terrible spider plant killing spree and this little fellow has been living happily on my shelf for the past two weeks!
Spider plants have an overall rating of 5.4 - 6s for removal of chemical vapors and ease of growth and maintenance and 5s for resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate - maybe I'm onto a winner!?
5. I found it really inspiring, to be told explicitly and in detail how important houseplants can be to creating a healthier environment inside our homes and then being given practical tips so you feel more confident in having a go yourself.
I didn't like that some of the sciencey bit was sooo sciencey I had to skip it! And that most of the plants found to have the best rates for removal of chemical vapors and transpiration of oxygen seemed to be the hardest to grow, but I think that has more to do with my skill level than any problem with the book!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it's opened my eyes to a whole new world of indoor gardening!


  1. Interesting!

    I read an article on this a few months ago, and was wondering if it all was true..

    I also read on plants purifiying air through roots, and thus not getting toxic themselves (?) was there any talk of this there?

    I was thinking whether to grow a plant or two in my room, but not sure if it'd survive??
    (It's said to be bad feng shui to have plants in bedroom, no idea why?) Maybe better in the computer room/aka Home Office? And if those survive, we'll see?

    The neighbours' chimney is right under my bedroom window, so I air very little in winter :( Not sure if there'd be enough air for me & the plants?

    I'd totally prefer natural air purifiers than any bought gizmos!!

  2. You read right Layla, according to my book anyway, the toxins are absorbed by the leaves and are transported around the plant until they reach the roots, where microbes in the soil break them down and pretty much destroy them, or some of the chemicals absorbed by plants are detroyed by the plants own biological processes without involving any soil microbes (I think thats the gist of it anyway - it's all a bit complicatedly worded!)

    I'm not sure about the feng shui thing, I've heard that too!

    I think there probably would be enough air for you and some plants - plants take carbon dioxide from the air and make oxygen during the day, and take oxygen and release carbon dioxide during the night, I looked this up becuase I was like oooh noo the plant is going to breath all my oxgen at night! but apparently they produce about ten times more oxygen during the day than they use at night, but still, maybe thats a reason why you wouldn't want a lot of plants in your room! Although maybe they'd help to get rid of some of the fumes that come out of your neighbour's chimmney?!


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