Monday, September 2, 2019

Zone Zero

A new friend

Coming out the winter hibernation period, I've had a wave of ideas to sort through. Because normally this time of year, is our dry Spring. We occasionally get a wet one, but more likely, they're dry. Actually, since 2017 rainy season, it's been dry all round. Every season! Which presents the dilemma, of what to grow? Especially, when there isn't much water to spare.

Enter zone zero. Or in permaculture terms; where the most human activity is. In our case, it's inside the home. Especially when it's dry and little is growing in the garden. It occurred to me recently, through all these waves of ideas, I haven't really researched other options to grow plants inside. Other than the traditional potted plants, that is.

I'll tell you more about what I learned through my research soon, but first, the new plant.

Roots covered in Java Moss

When I saw the "My Desk Rocks" indoors plants range, in the ALDI catalogue, this week, I simply had to try one. This is labelled a Mini Umbrella plant (green) or Schefflera arboricola. If you know anything about this species, it's hardy! Plus, you should never grow it in your garden, near plumbing. As it's roots are extremely invasive.

Propped up, on a volcanic rock though, sitting in a dish of water, it should do well. Which is pretty much, all this plant requires. Constant water, in the shallow bowl. It does say the occasional liquid fertiliser, will help keep it green. Frankly though, I was thrilled to find such a low maintenance, zero soil option, I could keep inside the home.

Back to zone zero, in permaculture terms...

Lives on the dining table

This article, from the Permaculture Research Institute, gives a great overview of what zone zero can mean. I particularly appreciated the focus, on the need to consider people (and what they do) as part of the design process. If you're someone who has to spend a great deal of time in an office, the plant like the one above, can help centre that process. So it's actually more enjoyable to BE at your desk.

For me though, it's more about placing little green reminders inside my home. As I spend a great deal of time, working there. When making from scratch food, cleaning and doing general maintenance, what would help centre that environment, to make it more enjoyable?

Well, the answer for me, is a two-prong approach. Firstly, I love plants, so it's purely an aesthetic to have them around. Secondly though, indoor plants serve as a motivational touchstone, for when the garden isn't growing well, outside. You've heard about keeping your love tank, full. Well greenery does that for keeping my gardening tank, full. If it's not around, it makes me feel kinda flat.


Whoa there, Chris. Remember the plant saga, in the bathroom? Finding the right kind of plant to grow successfully, was proving challenging. This is where I have to be practical, and take small steps into the unknown. Because I did eventually learn from the bathroom plant saga, and found a variety that did well.

I'll share that particular success story, in another post. It's a cautionary tale nonetheless, about finding what works, BEFORE going out to get more plants. No-one wants to make a rod for their back, and end up doing more work. Therefore, the plants you choose, have to be relatively forgiving, if you're busy working in the home. Sometimes you're going to be absent minded.

I have a few survivors that have made it to my shortlist. But it hasn't been all smooth sailing, either. You have to take into consideration, the location of the plant, and the tricks to do with containers too. On that note, I want to share a way of keeping plants which is relatively new to me...

Youtube video, care of SerpaDesign

It's called a riparium, and in this case, a Nano (or small) version. I don't imagine you have to make the container, as demonstrated in this video, but the plant and substrate set-up, is very informative. Notice, the air plants on top of the wood? By incorporating "water" in the container as a feature, you're effectively reducing the dead plant syndrome, which often occurs when you forget to water!

The biggest problem I have found with keeping indoors plants (apart from forgetting to water) is the air inside the house, can get quite dry. Especially during summer. Dry air, means death to air plants, or anything with fragile, twiggy branches. So having water as a feature, in the container, gives an extra buffer of protection.

Will I build a riparium? Not sure. I have a lot more projects, requiring my time. It remains in the back of my mind, though. I actually have a really large vase in the cupboard, I've been meaning to do something with. I'll probably experiment with something, eventually. I do have a couple of success stories to update on, soon. In the meantime, are there any mentionable indoors plants, you've had ongoing success with?


  1. I only have one indoor plant given to me by Racheal from Birdsong Market Garden but I do want to bring more indoors if I can find the room. Perhaps after the rooms have been painted and the floor coverings are down and everything can be moved back again. We didn't get much rain here last week, Chris. It was quite disappointing.

    1. Both our water tanks, were dipping below the 50% mark, when the rain passed through recently. It increased one tank, to 75%. So for that, we're really grateful. But on the whole, the land is still incredibly parched. It needs the rain to hang around for a couple of days (at least). I'm hopeful, this rainy season, will be a good one.

      All those renovations, would certainly be undesirable for setting up indoor plants. Holding back, is a good idea for the time being. Inevitably it's fun to experiment with plants, in the house environment though. Glad to hear Racheal's donation, is still chugging along successfully. Must be a reliable plant.

  2. I love having greenery indoors as well as outdoors, but I have to admit I'm an abject failure at it, despite having been given the Readers Digest Complete Book of Indoor Plants many years ago. I'm not even good at a vase of flowers! It's probably a case of overwatering or underwatering; forgetting to feed and regularly turn the pots to even up the light, finding the right plant or just that they don't like my house. I remember your plant-in-the-bathroom saga from years ago, so I'll be interested in your latest venture. You may even give me the push to try again.

    1. I've been the same abject failure, in the past too. Plants in potted culture, just didn't have longevity, inside. It's all about the living soil. At some point, I had to ferry the plants outside again, for them to recover. Only some plants didn't do any better outside either, lol. I'm gradually learning what works though - and in hindsight, what was never going to succeed.

      Update, on the survivor in the bathroom, soon. I think if you try different approaches (affordable ones) you're bound to hit on success, eventually. If anything, it's just fun to experiment. ;)

  3. "Motivational touchstone" is definitely what we need more of Chris. I adore your bonsai, am gobsmacked you got it from Aldi and shall keep a watch at our local store. I love indoor plants, although they can be difficult to maintain. The variegated spider plant is my one true friend when it comes to pot plants. They're very hardy, new plants can be propagated easily from the off shoots and even I can keep them alive. Alternating periods in sheltered outdoors is the key to long life survival, oh and a bit of water too.

    1. I was surprised ALDI had these little wonders too. Just shy of $15 a piece. Normally in Spring, they stock a lot of potted plants. I guess they figured without the rain though, that line of product won't move. I'm glad they went with the lower maintainence selection.

      I have the variegated spider plant, as well. Agreed. Sure is a trooper! But I haven't tried them, inside the house. I was thinking of doing a hanging planter with them though. My mum had one, when we were growing up. I remember the little suckers hanging down, and trying to grab them. Glad to hear you're having success with yours too. Some plants prefer short visits outside. I've found palms to be in that category too. But a nice big palm, stuffed in a corner, is an instant jungle inside!

  4. Oh what a find at Aldi, I have not seen them here in Aldi. I LOVE indoor plants, and I used to have a stack in the cottage, but gifted many when we moved. I'm not down to four, but once we have done a little more building on the inside of the yurt and our space is better organised I shall be getting more. I love maidenhair ferns. They die off easily, but readily come back. I have witnessed it in nature here as they grown wild. Another one of my favourite indoor plants is a chain of hearts. Looks wonderful on a shelf hanging down or in a hanging pot.

    I love terrariums, and one day hope to put one together, but like you it is on my list!


    1. Great to hear you've had success with multiple indoors plants, in your old place. You must have found the knack! I'll confess, I haven't had much success with ferns in the bathroom. Although I still so adore their delicate, lacey leaves. You've hit the nail on the head though, that plants go through a life cycle. So in some instances, with some plants, they don't look their best!

      That's what I'm learning about indoors plants anyway - you've got to give the right plant, the right conditions for their life-cycle. Sometimes you have to cheat, with containers and substrate too. What I love about terrariums, is they mimic the natural water cycle, on a miniature scale. So they're not only amazing, but a fantastic learning tool, as well!


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