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YES! But How? Grow a Curtain

My house gets too hot in the summer. How can I cool it down without using the A/C?
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Vine Window, photo by Matt Carman

Photo by Matt Carman.

Grow vines as a living curtain or awning to shade your windows, cool your house, and remove carbon from the atmosphere. Deciduous perennials work well for living curtains because they let sun through in the winter and don’t require yearly replanting. You’ll get the best cooling benefits if you shade south-facing windows (north-facing if you’re in the southern hemisphere).

To grow a curtain, plant your vines in the ground, in pots, or in a window box. Lean a trellis against the wall, then guide your vines up the trellis and over the window as they grow. Using a wooden trellis with pots works well for apartments; it’s portable and doesn’t require wall fastenings. In permanent settings you can use netting or wire to support the plants instead.

A living awning provides shade without blocking your view. Attach shelf brackets (salvaged, built, or bought) at each side of the window. The awning should ideally extend far enough to cast a shadow below the window in the middle of summer. Fasten wood or wires across the top of the brackets to support the vines, or make a shelf and grow trailing plants in containers above your window.

Double the benefits of your living curtain by growing vines that are beautiful or edible. Runner beans, wisteria, grapes, and hops are good choices, depending on your climate and whether you prefer food, flowers, or beer.


Alyssa JohnsonAlyssa B. Johnson wrote this article for Can Animals Save Us?, the Spring 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Alyssa is an editorial assistant at YES!

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