Did you know that having greenery in the home and office brings about many health and aesthetic benefits? Plants even clean the air too; NASA Space agency did a study on this (astronauts’ living quarters have a build-up of toxins in the air over the months), and discovered some top air-cleaners like the Spider Plant a.k.a. Chlorophytum Comosum.
The problem with having plants indoors is that they tend to not fare too well in small pots of soil. So why does soil perform poorly indoors?
First, let’s look at soil in the outdoors. Soil is different from place to place, but are generally porous in nature, and allows water to flow through easily. In the outdoors, soil gets a regular water top-up from rain-cycles and remains moist for 1-2 days after each shower.
However, if there is a prolonged flood for more than 3 days, there is a high chance that the plants and trees will suffer from root rot because the water-logged soil has all its oxygen replaced with water.
Now, let’s look at soil in the indoors (e.g. in pots). If we buy potted plants from the nurseries, almost all of them come with holes at the bottom of the pots. These holes are to allow excess water to flow off, so that the soil doesn’t get water-logged and starved of oxygen. If you’ve tried watering potted plants, you’ll most likely see water flowing through these holes within 3-5 seconds after watering. Most of us in urban Singapore lead busy lives, and won’t have the time to water our plants every 2-3 days when the soil dries up. And when the plants start to droop and die, we may try to over-compensate by watering till the pot is gushing with water everyday, which causes the plants to die faster through root rot.
If you’ve plants at the workplace, you’ll notice that they’re probably planted in non-soil media, like those reddish-brown little stones and pebbles. These don’t necessarily hold water longer than soil, and are rather porous too, but they are less messy and dirty than soil for indoor settings. Someone would still have to water the plants every 2-3 days with these pebbles. In recent days, there has been an influx of self-watering pots which help these media to regulate the water available to the pebbles and plant roots. Though less messy, there will still be considerable gritty material strewn on the table and floor if these pots get knocked over. So why aren’t there cleaner materials which hold water and oxygen well together? Cost, cost and cost. There has been a lack of R&D dollars in the area of planting media for indoor use, as most of us would pay more for a nice plant or pot, but wouldn’t think too much about the soil. There are many benefits to having a good soil-replacement with a consistent texture (not brittle and messy). We can start using any containers (new or recycled) we fancy (no need for custom fancy pots which can cost a lot), plonk our favourite plant in the clean soil-replacement material, and place them anywhere in the home and office.
The good news is, there is indeed such a soil-replacement available for home and office plants. A couple of years back, Suntory Japan, which brews whisky and beer, embarked on a R&D program to invent a better material for growing crops (they use many crops for their brewing after all). A very unique planting material, called ‘Pafcal’ was created as a result. It has a solid spongy texture, and has the ability to regulate water and oxygen consistently within itself. This provides a very comfortable and protective supporting layer for the plants.
This is very good news for busy folks who want to add greenery to their homes and office, without having to tend to the plants 3-4 times a week. You can water the Pafcal material till any amounts you’d like, depending on your preference. Add a little water, and the Pafcal will moisten itself evenly throughout. Want to water less frequently? Just add more water and the Pafcal will absorb water up to a certain amount throughout itself, always maintaining an ideal water-oxygen ratio. Just water once a week on average, and your plants will be alive and happy for a very long time.
Midorie Garden has a variety of compact planter frames for table-tops and walls, which use Pafcal to support the plants. There’s no soil, no dirt and no messy spillage – a dream come true for all of us living in urban Singapore, wishing for more greenery in the home. Check them out at MidorieGarden.com.