Most people know that plants produce oxygen for us to breathe, but their other beneficial effects aren’t as well known.
It has been estimated that the average person needs about 10 square meters of garden to provide all their food and most of their oxygen for a year. However, some species can produce surprising amounts of oxygen. Algae, lichens, and other plants can produce oxygen equivalent to that of one mature tree per square meter of land.
A more surprising benefit of plants is their ability to reduce noise pollution. This can be quite dramatic in areas where there are many people, such as near airports and railway lines – just looking at a line of trees will give some relief from the noise levels.
A less known property of some plants is their ability to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some climbers, like the “ivy”, are able to produce chemicals that dissolve or bind with limestone (calcium carbonate). With this chemical removed, rain washes away the soil and releases the carbon dioxide it contained. Vines like sweet potato will cling to anything they touch. This helps bind the soil and also reduces water run-off.
It is estimated that 60% of an urban environment consists of impervious surfaces (roads etc.). This means that rainwater runs off quickly, taking natural pollutants with it. Our gardens can intercept these pollutants; in addition to building our soil, many plants (especially trees) accumulate pollutants like lead and arsenic.
If you are considering planting your garden, some areas benefit more than others from the presence of additional vegetation. A common tip for greening up a space is to surround buildings with greenery; this increases shade while providing food and oxygen for local wildlife while reducing runoff and noise. Plants with shallow root systems are best, as they require less maintenance.
Vegetation plays an important role in maintaining biodiversity levels, by providing food and shelter for many different varieties of wildlife. In some areas, it is difficult to establish vegetation as the climate is too arid or wet for certain species to survive. Fortunately, there are some plants that will grow in most areas of the world.
Selected species for your garden:
- Algae – produce oxygen equivalent to one mature tree per square meter. Algae also bind with carbon dioxide, so remove it from the atmosphere and turn it back into useful biomass (food). Low maintenance, but does require sunlight.
- Arum Lily – produces large amounts of oxygen, reduces noise pollution and traps air pollutants.
- Azalea – reduces noise pollution by absorbing sound waves.
- Cedar – a popular choice for many cities as it is a fast-growing tree with a deep root system. Cedar removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helps absorb some toxic chemicals in the soil.
- Callitris – a beautiful evergreen tree, this species is popular in many areas as it requires less water than other plants and helps reduce erosion by slowing down rainfall runoff.
- Canna Lily – flowers throughout the summer and provides natural insect repellent (mosquitoes).
- Evergreens like pines and spruce – reduce noise pollution by absorbing sound waves.
- Lilies – for their fragrant flowers.
- Passionfruit – provide shelter and food for wildlife, as well as shade during the day. Low maintenance, but does require sunlight.
- Trees like Eucalyptus release large amounts of water into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. This makes them good choices for drought-prone areas.
- Vines are another option, either as ground cover or hanging baskets. Vines help bind soil and reduce water run-off. Sweet potatoes are one popular choice that is also edible.
Hoepfully this article has given you some ideas about how to create the perfect garden. A garden is a great way to help our environment, so I encourage you to think of ways that you can improve your own environmental impact through gardening.