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Vermont Garden Journal: Air Quality

Jackson and Perkins
Peace lily

I recently heard a story about NASA sending basil and turnip seeds to the moon in grow chambers to see how they will germinate in that gravity-less, high radiation environment. It prompted me to remember the now famous research NASA also did on house plants.

When looking at long term stays on the space station, one of the challenges was to produce clean air for astronauts to breathe. We all know plants are the reason we're alive today for their ability to exude oxygen into the atmosphere. But plants just don't produce oxygen. During this research, scientists found certain common house plants are able to absorb toxins out of the air, making it cleaner. This research was written up in a book called 'How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office' by B.C. Wolverton.

Air quality indoors in winter in our climate really suffers. Rugs, paints, glues, and furniture can emit  gases such as formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia. Since our windows and doors are sealed shut for winter, these gases often accumulate in the home causing a runny nose, scratchy eyes, coughing and headaches. We often attribute these conditions to a cold, but sometimes they're compounded by our air quality.

House plants to the rescue! Wolverton found that placing two, 8 to 10 inch house plants in a 100 square foot room, is probably enough to clean the air. The top house plants to use to clean up your office or home air are pretty common characters. Snake plant, pothos, peace lily, red-edged Dracena and Boston fern are some the top performers. So clean up your indoor air with some of these plants. Oh, by the way, they make great holiday gifts, too!

And now for this week's tip, dig a hole for your live Christmas tree in the yard now before the ground freezes solid. Save the soil in a garage or barn where it won't freeze. This will make it easier to plant your tree after the holiday.

Listen Fridays at 5:55 p.m. and Sundays at 9:35 a.m.  Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about gifts for gardeners. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.


NASA Research

How to Grow Fresh Air Book

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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