The Blessing that are Exterior Solar Shades
The pleasures of urban gardening is quite unlike any other. Tending to plants grown in pots or grow bags can be an unsurpassed challenge, yet folks are getting into it more and more as most people, the world over, are getting tired of seeing only concrete and steel when they look out their windows. In fact, having traveled to Bangalore in India recently, I saw a few houses built on postage-stamp-size plots build their homes around a single coconut tree, or more amazing still, around a neem tree! That’s apart from the plush gated communities featuring row houses with living roofs.
Urban gardening is a source of pleasure that folks look forward to as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Incorporating a sustainable design and maintaining a roof garden offers the excitement of watching plants grow under one’s ministrations.
A couple in New York’s West Village grew tomatoes on the roof of their walk-up 20 years ago, not really knowing anything about it. They just got a plant they thought would grow without much hassle, wouldn’t take up much space, and would give them a constant yield! And it worked, more in getting hooked to rooftop gardening. The gent would look down at all the roof space and wonder why nobody thought of utilizing it to grow stuff, especially as there were no woodchucks, deer or Japanese beetles. With a bit of care, things would grow so well in containers. Calling their tomatoes the ‘gateway drug’, the couple got charged into growing strawberries, blueberries, roses, and even corn!
Urban gardening is so much easier today than it was 20 years ago, says the couple, who used to lug schlep 10-kilo bags of peat moss and mushroom soil uptown from the Smith & Hawken on Broadway in SoHo. Now, they use lightweight compressed bricks that expand into 10 quarts of potting soil when mixed with water. That, together with compost and some pearlite, and they have the winning combination that can be used to grow flowers, fruit, and vegetables.
Shading Plants from the vagaries of the Sun
Today, the reincarnation of their plants reside in window boxes facing south, east, and north, and one of the greatest challenges they faced was managing the sun, especially the east facing window boxes, during the summer. A friend from Miami who visited them not too long ago suggested that they use some kind of mesh or net, much like the greenhouse variety, but the couple thought the idea of it shabby, aside from the building codes that prevented its incorporation. But it got Bruce and Linda thinking, and soon they were playing around with the idea of using the exterior solar shades they’d seen a friend use to shade the area around his pool in Long Island. It had looked unobtrusive, adding a sense of privacy while blocking the harmful effects of the sun beautifully, allowing everyone to swim without the mucky sunblock!
The window boxes are 4½’ long, with a depth and width of 1½’, large enough to be fondly called ‘coffins’. The rot-resistant cedar boxes fit flush against the walls with the top edges skimming the bottom of the window frames, sturdy steel brackets holding them firmly in place. Using similar brackets to support colorless polycarbonate sun shades allowed them to suspend solar shades on them, offering protection to the window boxes on all three sides. They opted for the 5% exterior solar shades from Graber, in a charcoal color for a few reasons –
The dark color absorbs the heat of the sun, creating a greenhouse effect important for bagged plants.
It allowed them to keep the Roman shades they had on their windows compactly retracted for a view of their plants and the exteriors all day through, and this was an important consideration for them as they lived in a tiny 450-sq ft apartment.
The shades annihilated 95% of the damaging UV rays and controlled the glare of the sun to provide a comfortable interior temperature even with their push-up windows open.
As the shades are woven, they allow the circulation of fresh air around the plants and the interiors.
Their apartment was completely shielded from nosy neighbors during the day, while, at night, they would deploy the Roman shades for privacy. Timer
The programmable motorization of the shades made them the sensible choice as the shades would be deployed or retracted according to the intensity of the sun with the timer they added to the shades.
The wooden slats comprising the bottom of the boxes provided the necessary drainage they required for their plants. Bruce plays musical chairs with the plants because if the haricot verts were shading out the Ichiban eggplants, or the arugula was going to seed, he would put down Sun Gold cherry tomatoes!
A really smart couple who had essential veggies and a few fruit to sustain them, especially during emergencies. Imagine – no need to run to the store for strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes or baby spinach. In addition, they had seasonal flowering plants growing to provide them with the wonders of fragrant, natural but uncut flowers. Lushly. Thanks to the Exterior Solar Shades from Graber.