Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Green Roofs and Crimson Clover - Two Weeks and Growing

Green Roof Crimson Clover at 2 Weeks
Green Roof Crimson Clover at 5 Days
Update of the green roof crimson clover trials.

Two weeks since seed was sown.

The young plants are thick and developing quickly, spreading tiny branches and leaves out across the roof.

Eli and I discussed the importance today of using green manure crops - or nitrogen fixing crops - as a best management practice to supplement or hopefully replace chemical fertilizers on green roofs.

Clover makes a great pollinator plant when blooming, provides habitat, prevents erosion, fixes nitrogen and carbon, produces oxygen and adds streaks of green across the roof.


As always, email with with questions and happy green roofing.

Kevin.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Green Roof Permaculture, Peak Oil and Survival

Never one to be an alarmist, I will remind all we are in the generation of peak oil.

As demands on petro supplies increase and supplies decrease we need to look to alternatives.

Lightweight Rooftop Permaculture Systems
Rooftop permaculture offers many solutions to food, cooling, habitat creation and wildlife integration, cleaning stormwater, carbon sequestration, oxygen production and more.

If people spent one hour per day working in their rooftop permaculture garden the world's population would be healthier, both physically and mentally.

Work with growing plants and food on the rooftop for six months, eating the greens and veggies you grow, watching the urban core wildlife come to the plants, experiencing intense nature first hand - do so and I promise you your blood pressure will drop ten diastolic and systolic points and you will loose twenty pounds. 

Your stress levels will be drastically reduced and your love and wonder of experiencing life will be regenerated.

You will go to your rooftop garden before you leave for work and soon after you arrive home, greeting wildlife visitors, breathing fresh oxygen and admiring how your plants grow.

Once you create a rooftop garden you will build another and another.

Dates, herbs, spices, yucca, parsley, rosemary, sage, cactus, alliums, succulents, plants requiring only nature based irrigation grow successfully, spreading across the lightweight green roof mat quickly and fully.

Because your green roof system is only inches thick it can be installed practically anywhere.

Try your metal shed in the backyard or garden shed in the courtyard.  Add vegetation to your main roof, small or large and even across the tops of large apartment buildings and community structures.

Because your green roof is mat based the plants will move themselves over time across the mat to the ideal exposures and micro-climates on a roof.

You will learn of fog nets, dew catchers and grey-water recycling.

Here in Jacksonville we are in a long and serious drought approximate 350mm behind in average rainfall for the year (14 inches),

We are in a seven week drought with no significant rainfall accumulation.

Yet the rooftop gardens thrive.

Understanding how to design these small, rooftop permaculture gardens has been our passion.  Sharing this information is our future.

Growing greens, herbs, vegetables, flowers and plants is a key and core element of long-term sustainability as we pass peak oil.

Growing food on the rooftop saves automobile trips to the grocery store.

Green roofs cleans stormwater, sequesters carbon and the green roof plants pump oxygen into the air every minute of every day.

Green roofs attract native wildlife, anoles, frogs and the hawks, kites and owl raptors, providing wonderful integrated pest management created by nature.

Your doctor visits and health costs will decrease as your fresh air intake, exercise and new diet of homegrown vegetables and greens becomes routine.

You will feel young again as you experiment with new plants, and feel, smell and taste new sensations.

Green roof permaculture.  Understanding sustainability in the post-peak oil environment.

Let us help you with your green roof permaculture and sustainability design.


Email us today with your requirements.

MetroVerde.  Arid, Dry Green Roof Permaculture for Post-Peak Oil Ecology.

Happy Green Roofing.

Kevin

Lightweight, Deeper Soil Rooftop Gardens for Permaculture

We planted flat-leaf parsley, Petroselinum crispum; and sage, Salvia officinalis on a small, 3' x 12' ( 0.9 M x 3.7M) green roof section this weekend.

However we incorporated two different design criteria.

Roof Permaculture System Design
1. We used multiple layers of the root mat to create a six inch thick soil-growing layer, and

2. We overlapped the mat to create permaculture type swales.

The system is on a sloped roof with a root and water-proofing membrane over asphalt shingles.

Organic flat-leaf parsley and sage was obtained from Judy's nursery stock and planted.

A well drained soil mixture was used.

Photos will be posted as the roof-top food crops continue to grow.
Roof Permaculture - Food Growing on Green Roofs

We are using our same system that has successfully passed hurricane wind simulation of 130 MPH.

As always, email your questions and Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Namib Desert Beetle & Dew Catchers

Interesting article about how the Namib Desert beetle collects fog and dew on its back for survival.  Nature-based irrigation. Opens in new window. Green roof designs should incorporate similar types technologies to conserve water.

Dew Catchers for Green Roofs - Nature's Irrigtion

Lots of information exists on creating air turbulence, humidity, condensation and collecting dew.

I'll post an article with links to more information soon however below are some photos of dew collection inspiration and then the actual construction and installation of a simple but effective dew catcher on a permaculture roofs - one with winter veggies planted.

As always - email your questions here and happy green roofing!

Kevin
Morning Dew is Often Everywhere

Morning Dew Collecting on Green Roof Plants
Designing a Green Roof Dew Catcher
Constructing a Green Roof Dew Catcher
Green Roof Dew Catcher Ready for Installation
Green Roof Dew Catcher Installed

Friday, November 26, 2010

Green Roof Plants - Food, Fiber, medicine and Permaculture - Acclimation

Acclimating a plant to typical environmental standards experienced on a green roof is a wise process to follow when designing or planting a green roof.

Dividing Acclimated Thirty Month Green Roof Allium Plants
Roof ecology typically involves harsh, desiccating winds, high heat, humidity (pressure-cooker style), hard freezes and frosts, long periods of drought and flooding.

Plants raised under typical plant-nursery conditions with plenty of irrigation, shade from shade-houses and regular fertilizer feed don't like to be installed on a roof - and usually quickly go into shock, wilt and die.

Green Roof Plants - Sleep, Creep and Leap - 2nd Year Root Development
I compare the differences between  a plant raised and sold in the nursery garden center and a plant growing on a roof to a hike in the local city park replete with water fountains and paved walking trails rather than a hike across Death Valley (Mojave Desert), California.

Yet there are advantages to growing plants on a roof also.  Roofs offer extended growing environments - warmth, more light and more breezes.

But preparing the plants for what they will experience is of major importance.  We call the process of preparing plants for the roof environment - acclimation.

Perennial green roof plants that are herbaceous in nature, like one of our favorite plants, the Allium genus, usually follow the "Sleep, Creep and Leap" saying of gardeners.

Year One the plants seem to sleep - when in fact they are developing strong roots.

Year Two the plants slowly add upper greenery and leaves.

Year Three the perennials begin adding upper leaf mass quickly and spread from their base.

Acclimation of the plant to the roof ecology should begin from the seed sprouting stage and not the adult stage.

When acclimating a plant from juvenile status to the ecology of  a roof, the green roof plant will ultimately have a much better chance at long-term survival.

The photos included here today are of Allium canadense seedlings that are thirty months old - 2.5 years old.  They have been grown in greenhouses with controlled irrigation and raised heat levels to simulate rooftop ecology.

The metabolism of these plants is set for slow growth rate under harsh conditions.  Once installed on a roof, these acclimated plants thrive rather than going into shock.

Each plant has varying genetics and some develop large root masses capable of storing significant amounts of water and nutrients while others developer slower, growing only as precipitation brings water and dissolved atmospheric nitrogen - and we call these green roof plants Carbon Pirate Plants.

I continue to argue that massive irrigation and fertilization systems installed on the growing number of green roofs across the country are really sustainable.

However, with proper planning and plant selection, preparing your green roof plants for a life's journey on a roof will ensure success.

As always, email us with your questions here.

Happy Green Roofing, Kevin.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Roof Clover Reaches for the Moon!

I am dividing up 3 year old dwarf Allium species out of 72 count trays and into their own cell pack.  I'll post photos of these seedlings tomorrow - they are the perfect example of nature-based irrigation, acclimation and the concept of the old perennial saying, SLEEP, CREEP, LEAP!

As I was transplanting under the strange iridescence of a Compact Fluorescent Light bulb hanging in a drop-light I noticed an even stranger light moving across the green roof.

I grabbed Jincy's Canon and a ladder.

This is so cool!

The Crimson Clover sowed on the roof a week ago, the same clover whose leaves, during the day are spread out wide horizontally to soak up the sun's rays, those two week old leaves were moving up, reaching up in unison towards the full moon!  The entire roof reflected moonlight in a sweeping motion as the clover leaves lifted towards the cloudless, star-filled sky.

Green Roof Crimson Clover Reaching for Moonlight
Amazing!  They are alive and moving!

Plants teach me something new every day.  53 years here and still so much to learn about plants.

Lydia Cabrera was soooooo right.  "Son las mas Santos en el monte que en el cielo!" - There are more spirits in the plants of the forest than in the sky....

I feel like a youngster back in school......learning exciting things again!

Kevin

Vegetated Roof Design - Flat Roof Cross Section

Extensive Green Roof Design - Flat Roof MetroVerde
Depicted above is a typical cross section of an Extensive Green or Vegetated Roof Design lightweight - typically around ten pounds per square foot - or about 49 Kg per square meter fully saturated.

The system design uses a high tech woven growing mat over a sacrificial TPO layer.

The sacrificial TPO layer is adhered to the underlying roof TPO layer.

The grow mat is adhered to the sacrificial TPO layer.

The system is edged with aluminum or vinyl side walls however we have found in practice the side walls are not really necessary when using a fast growing plant with a strong root system and a tackifier for the engineered soil.

The edge trim is typically more for appearance yet does offer some stablization of the planting media.

After working for years with various types of mats and mat manufacturers we can now say that several mat types have been developed that will work sufficiently for holding the plants in place and allowing for adequate drainage.

An extensive nature-irrigated green roof does not have to be heavy.

Use of a light-weight system is now possible thanks to continued product development of woven mat materials like bi-axial geo-grids.

As always - email us with your questions.

Happy Thanksgivign and Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Green Roof Plants - Crimson Clover and Chickory, Day Nine

Both considered annuals here in Florida - not able to withstand the rigors of Florida's hot and humid summers, Crimson Clover and Chicory are both beautiful and important additions to a non-native yet Florida Friendly landscaped Green Roof.

Both provide abundant color to a green roof when blooming - Crimson Clover - bright red blossoms and Chicory - bright blue blooms.

Green Roof Plant Trifolium incarnata, Crimson Clover
These sprout were sowed nine days ago.

The Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnata, sprouted quickly and is filling out the open roof spaces.

Green Roof Plant Cichorium intybus, Chicory
The Chicory, Cichorium intybus, was a little slower to show itself on the roof, however this may be because Chicory has a larger root system than Crimson Clover and may spend more up-front time setting roots before developing leaves.

Both these species provide pollen for bees, butterflies and insects; both are beautiful in bloom and can serve as green manure plants.


As always, email us with our questions and comments.

Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roof Clover Planting Update, Sloped Vegetated Roof & Roof Permaculture

Crimson Clover on Green Roof - Day Eight
Green Roof crimson clover's day number eight and the juvenile plants are thick with leaves. 

Roots are shooting down into the engineered soil and locking themselves into the underlying weave.

We planted the clover on another roof with a little more slope also during a three year maintenance program.  The roof contains agaves and is nature irrigated.
Agaves on Sloped Extensive Green Roof System

There is about 2" of structural soil on this roof and the agaves have acclimated themselves and their root development to the slope and shallow soil depth. 

During the maintenance work we cut out and removed the mat section from around one of the agaves. 

We thought we had left plenty of room by cutting out 12" from the outside diameter of the agave however when the section was removed we had cut through an extensive lateral root system.

It appears that under shallow soil conditions, agaves send their roots out horizontally rather than vertically.

Finally, following up with the permaculture posting from yesterday, the spring mix we planted in the swaled green roof are standing up straight and looking good!

As always, email us your questions by clicking here.

Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Volumetric Green for the Urban Core - by MetroVerde

Judy, Jincy, Ruairi and I live in a house swallowed by Thunbergia, Louis Phillipe Roses growing like trees, wild horsetail, towering bamboo, China Roses bigger than trees and we sometimes cannot find the doors. Open the windows at night and the fresh oxygen fills the house. Carpet of flowers on the ground. Tonight the full moon makes all glow...

 

Volumetric Green for the Urban Core - 

Cleaning Stormwater,

Creating Habitat,

Providing a Sense of Place,

Sequestering Carbon and providing Oxygen!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Green Roofs and Crimson Clover - Day Five Plants Growing Strong

Green Roof Nitrogen Fixing Plant - Crimson Clover Day Five Sprouts
I suspect the juvenile Crimson Clover plants,  Trifoium incarnata, are already beginning to develop the mechanisms allowing fixation of nitrogen into the green roof soil.

Amazing.  Nature's own way of feeding plants.

Just the right amount of nutrients in just the right formulation.

Day five and the juvenile plants are really beginning to grow and cover the roof.  More photos tomorrow.

Happy green roofing.

Kevin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Green Roofs and Crimson Clover - Day Four Lots of Leaves

Green Roof Plant Crimson Clover - Day Four Leaves
As a green manure plant, Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnata, takes nitrogen out of the air and rainwater and fixes the nutrient into the soil.

Planting Red Clover is similar to installing a fertilizer-on-demand-plant on your green roof.

The beauty of Crimson Clover fixing nitrogen into green roof soils is not only the nutrient making capability, but also the fact that the nitrogen is much less likely to runoff into gutters and finally reach the river.

Day Four of Crimson Clover sprouting brought thousands of opening leaves.  Roots are beginning to become well formed and reach deep into the green roof soil.  Dew covers the small plants - nature based irrigation.

The roof is taking on a solid appearance of 'green'.  More tomorrow!

Happy Green Roofing with Cimson Clover.

Kevin

Green Roof Plants - Food, Fiber and Medicine Day Four List

Green Roof Plant # 9 - GRAPTOPETALUM spp. (to most of us a Sedum(?))...


Again, the basic principles each green roof plant possesses include:

* Drought tolerant
* Hardy against inundation and flooding
* Possesses qualities of either food, fiber or medicinal traits
* Social benefit from beauty
* Non-invasive or pest qualities
* Native species to region
* Provides food, forage or communal habitat to wildlife
* Cleans stormwater
* Good plant for sequestering Carbon

Choosing the right green roof plants can sometimes be a challenge for even the most experienced green roof designer - as we commented yesterday - and the day before.

Green Roof Plants - GRAPTOPETALUM spp. Mexican Ghost Plant
I was going to try and list several more green roof plants today however I became bogged down in a very complicated but Wonderful Green Roof plant's taxonomy.


As a biology major in college - with a focus in plants, I find myself still awed at the massive amount of information about plants that I still need to learn and grasp.  Much information is available about plants and their habitat requirements.

The more I learn about plants suitable for green roofs, the more I know I need to learn more.

I started this morning by looking for the Genus and species name of the Mexican Ghost Plant, a succulent growing well on many green roofs here in North Florida.

Common names are confusing - there may be many species with the common name Mexican Ghost Plant.

Not only did I have a hard time identifying the particular species, but I also encountered difficulty in identifying the Genus and even the Family - a very frustrating exercise!

However, the plant I want to talk about is a great plant for green roofs in areas with extended periods of drought yet also experience long periods of rain and inundation.

So, for the Mexican Ghost Plant we will call its family - CRASSULACEAE and we will call its Genus GRAPTOPETALUM and we will not try and identify the species.

However, the Mexican Ghost Plant is more than just a pretty green roof plant!

According to Wikipedia - the Mexican Ghost Plant has medicinal uses - traditionally a liver and kidney support plant, and has culinary uses also - served on salad bars in some restaurants (click here for a new window with the Wikipedia information).

Although the species name listed in the above Wikipedia link is 'paraguayense' the plant is from Mexico and not Paraguay according to some.

For the Green Roof, this plant is relatively cold hardy.  I've seen Mexican Ghost plant survive long periods of sub-twenty degrees F temperatures.  I have seen Mexican Ghost plant survive extremely long periods of drought, and grow in minimal amounts of soil - not only grow but prosper!

Another great internet resource on the GRAPTOPETALUM is the International Crassulaceae Network's website.  Click here for access.

Mexican Ghost Plant survives Florida's hot and humid summertime.  Make sure it has very well drained soil.  Finally, note the dew on the photographed plant above.  Don't forget to install dew catchers on your green roof.

When designing a green roof in Florida and other areas with a similar climate, you would be wise to include groupings of the Mexican Ghost plant.

Again, we will be discussing more species over the next few days.

Feel free to add your comments or email us with your questions here.

Happy green roofing.

Kevin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Green Roofs and Crimson Clover - Day Three Leaves

Green Roof Plants Trifolium spp.  Day Three
Sowing Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnatum, will help keep the green roof really green because Crimson Clover is a nitrogen fixing species - or green manure crop.

Day Three of the sprouting produced a significant increase in the number of initial dicot leaves.  The roof is turning green in three days!

We will be posting daily photos of the clover as it grows on the roof.

As always, email your questions.

Happy Green Roofing, Kevin

Green Roof Plants - Food, Fiber and Medicine Day Two List

Choosing the right green roof plants can sometimes be a challenge for even the most experienced green roof designer - as we commented yesterday.

Today we will be discussing the next three green roof plants out of approximately forty different species suitable for green roofs in climates similar to those found here in Florida - Arid, Rainy, Hot, Humid, Cold, and Windy.

Again, the basic principles each green roof plant possesses include:

* Drought tolerant
* Hardy against innundation and flooding
* Possesses qualities of either food, fiber or medicinal traits
* Social benefit from beauty
* Non-invasive or pest qualities
* Native species to region
* Provides food, forage or communal habitat to wildlife
* Cleans stormwater
* Good plant for sequestering Carbon

Plants number 6, 7 and 8 are:



Important Food and Fiber Green Roof Plants



Trifolium incarnatum - Crimson Clover

Native to Europe, Red or Crimson Clover makes a great filler plant for in between Green Roof structure plants.  Although not a native, red clover is a good, not invasive species providing pollen, beauty, erosion control and acts as a fertilizer since the species fixes nitrogen into the soil - a 'green manure' plant.

Treat Crimson Clover as an annual on your winter green roof - it will wilt away in the summer humidity - but is worth the seeding exercise because of the stunning winter-time red flowers.

Crimson clover will support wildlife biodiversity.  Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are attracted to Red Clover.



Florida Native Plants for Green Roofs

Andropogon virginicus -  Broomsedges 

There are a variety of Andropogon species growing across Florida.  A beautiful native grass species, Andropogon offers a variety of blues and blue greens along with interesting textures.

Broomsedge, Andropogon virginicus is important to wildlife and promote biodiversity.

I've seen Andropogon virginicus do well on Florida green roofs.  My only caution is they may produce significant amounts of dried leaf litter that could contribute towards fire fuel.  Strategically placed, not en masse, Andropogon virginicus should function well on a green roof as they are drought and innundation tolerant.

Andropogon spp. - Bluestems

One of my all time favorite grasses, the colors in the bluestems are amazing - ranging from blue to silver to blue green to purple.

The above link takes you in a new window to a list of bluestems from short to tall.

I recommend most of these species for green roofs as they are beautiful, drought tolerant and can survive flooding.

Again, watch the clumping of too many of these as they can produce copious amounts of leaf litter.

Again, we will be discussing more species over the next few days.

Feel free to add your comments or email us with your questions here.

Happy green roofing.

Kevin

H2 Hotel in California - Wavy Green Roof

Check out the interesting Wavy Green Roof installed on the new H2 Hotel in California here....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Green Roofs and Crimson Clover - Day Two Sprouts

Green Roof Plants Crimson Clover Day 2 Sprouts
Sowing Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnatum, on a green roof this weekend was good timing because we had a good rainfall yesterday.

Day Two of the sprouting produced a significant increase in the number of seeds dropping their roots into the green roof soil.

Several had the initial set of small leaves and all of the exposed seed hulls were swollen with life expectancy.

Clover is an interesting plant to use on a green roof.  It is considered an annual species with many benefits when used in agriculture.  Though native to Europe, Crimson Clover has existed in the Americas for centuries.

Crimson clover is widely used in medicinal herbology, forage for livestock and for erosion control.

Clover's small red flowers are stunning when planted in mass.

Crimson clover is a nitrogen fixing plant - one capable of taking nitrogen from the air and fixing into the soil - a perfect replacement for chemical fertilizers on green roofs.

We will be posting daily photos of the clover as it grows ont he roof.

As always, email your questions.

Happy Green Roofing, Kevin

Green Roof Plants - Food, Fiber and Medicine

Choosing the right green roof plants can sometimes be a challenge for even the most experienced green roof designer.

Over the next several days we will be discussing approximately forty different species suitable for green roofs in climates similar to those found here in Florida - Arid, Rainy, Hot, Humid, Cold, and Windy.

We will be discussing five new species each day.

The basic principles each green roof plant possesses include:

* Drought tolerant
* Hardy against innundation and flooding
* Possesses qualities of either food, fiber or medicinal traits
* Social benefit from beauty
* Non-invasive or pest qualities
* Native species to region
* Provides food, forage or communal habitat to wildlife
* Cleans stormwater
* Good plant for sequestering Carbon

The first five plants we will discuss are:


Important Food and Fiber Green Roof Plants

Moringa oleifera


Moringa is truly a wonderful plant and though it is somewhat frost-tender, attempts should be made to grow this plant in at least one or two spots on green roofs.  Moringa is considered one of the primary plants to be used in efforts to eradicate poverty and malnutrition.  Most parts of the plants are edible by either humans or cattle, contain up to 60% protein and also contain all the essential amino acids and many vitamins and minerals.

Moringa grown in extensive green roofs will react much like Yucca species and acclimate to the reduced soil amounts with smaller habit and form size.

Moringa tolerates drought as well as innundation.  Moringa has been used succesfully as an important pollutant removal mechanism for cleaning water and stormwater.

Though not for every green roof, due to the ethnobotanical and economic importance of this plant, attempts should be made to determine whether or not Moringa is a viable green roof species for your project.
 
Cajanus cajan

Another important green roof plant is the pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan.  Pigeon pea too is somewhat frost tender but is considered root-hardy in many areas of Florida.

Pigeon Pea is also used for food and contains significant amounts of protein as well as the amino acids, methionine, lysine, and tryptophan

 Like Moringa, Pigeon Pea may not work for every green roof, however due to the ethnobotanical and economic importance of this plant, attempts should be made to determine whether or not Pigeon pea is also a viable green roof species for your project.

Allium cernuum

Most alliums make good green roof plants.

They are evergreen, drought tolerant and possess attractive flowers.

The medicinal and food uses of alliums are well documented.  Current studies include uses in horticultural integrated pest management programs.  Though Allium cernuum is not considered native to Florida, the species is well adapted, non-invasive and a pretty addition (with it's purple flowers) to any Florida green roof.

Allium tuberosum

Allium tuberosum is also more commonly known as garlic chives.  This species is a backbone of many green roofs.

Extremely drought tolerant, Allium tuberosum has been know to survive four to five months of primary drought.

This species is used medicinally and for food.  The white showy flowers offer fall color.

Allium tuberosum should be considered as a primary species in any Florida green roof project.

Florida Native Plants for Green Roofs

Allium canadense

Much like Allium tuberosum, Allium canadense is a drought tolerant species suitable for green roof applications.

Unlike Allium tuberosum, Allium canadense is considered a Florida native plant species and can be found growing almost anywhere across Florida. The species can frequently be seen growing in ditches and alongside roadways in either wet or dry areas.

Allium canadense should also be considered a primary green roof species suitable for Florida projects

We will be discussing more species over the next few days.

Feel free to add your comments or  email us with your questions here.

Happy green roofing.

Kevin

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Roofs, Fertilizer, Algae - A Video

Fertilizing Green Roofs can have many detrimental effects.  Check out the video of Captain Algae and Green Roofs.

Green Roofs Florida - A New Sprout - Crimson Clover

Green Roof Plants Florida Crimson Clover Sprouts
Stormwater and Green Roofs.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has proposed new stormwater regulations that mandate new development projects and other projects remove nitrogen and phosphorous (along with other pollutants) from stormwater.

We all know nitrogen is a major component in fertilizer.

Plants need lots of nitrogen to grow.

However the answer to clean water in Florida (and across the world) lies not in fertilizing green roofs with added nitrogen compounds.

Importantly, there are many plants that take nitrogen from the air and fix the nitrogen into the soil.  Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnatum, is one of the most efficient 'green manure' crops.

We sowed a crop of Crimson Clover three days ago on a vegetated roof undergoing renovation.  The first sprout was up this morning!  I'll post photos of how the clover does over time.

Now, the Florida Green Roof industry must move away from being a part of the water pollution problem.  We must move to use of creative fertilization rather than specifying addition of more and more nitrogen and phosphates!

However, even our Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Pensacola office green roof has fertilizer and potable make-up water for a portion of the required irrigation.

How sustainable is this?

Are we seriously sustainable?  Or are we as a Green Roof Industry only trying to look green while banking the bucks?

As always, your comments and questions are welcome!  Email here.

Happy Green Roofing

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harvesting Rainwater for Green Roofs - Underground Storage Systems

EcoRain Tank Modular Rainwater Harvesting for Green Roofs
We've talked about water crises and irrigation of green roofs many times before.  Designing a green roof irrigation system to run off of rainwater instead of potable water is easy.

One of the biggest disadvantages of large rainwater tanks before has been the freight expense of bringing a large tank from the manufacturer to the site.

Many times the cost of freight exceeded the cost of the tank - and there are not many tank manufacturers so the tanks may have had to been hauled across the country.  Long freight hauls create large carbon footprints.

However, several new structural Rainwater Harvesting Systems are now available on the market that are collapsable and can easily be assembled on-site.  For a video of a very large underground rainwater collection system in Dallas, Texas click here (opens in a new window).

EcoRain Tanks Rainwater Harvesting System
One of the more green subdivisions in Gainesville, Florida, the Madera Subdivision, utilizes underground collection and storage of stormwater in several of their homes.

Collection of rainwater and subsequent irrigation of green roofs can be a valid method for allowing larger buildings on Urban Core lots previously designed with much smaller impervious allotment.  This applies also to historic residential areas where renovations are occurring.

Importantly, the Green Roof design needs to anticipate periods of natural drought where stored rainwater may be depleted.

The use of potable water should be only used in certain instances, and the green roof plant selection should reflect species that can utilize the stored rainwater, however are also drought tolerant.

EcoRain Tanks Rainwater Harvesting System
Typical Underground Rainwater Storage Systems for Green Roof irrigation are designed and installed with little effort.

First the seasonal high groundwater level should be determined.  This can be accomplished with the civil engineer or geotechnical expert.  For the homeowner, simply take a shovel, I prefer a set of post hole-diggers, and dig a small hole down until wet soil or water appears.

The Green Roof Underground Stormwater Harvesting System should be primarily installed above the Seasonal High Ground Water Level.

Size your storage system to hold a 24-hour storm event quantity for the surface area of the roof you are collecting from.  ARCSA has a great website about sizing and designing systems - click here - opens in a new window.

Modular EcoRain Tank Unit
You can use solar pumps to pump the water back up from the rainwater harvesting cistern to the green roof.

Unpackage your EcoRain Tanks and assemble on site, placing them inside the liner within the excavated cistern area (refer to the video above for illustrations).

Detailed design information is available from the EcoRain Tank websites - and at www.ecorain.com

Remember, we a growing population on this globe and conservation of all water resources is important.  Ensure your green roof plant designer is using species that are friendly to conservation of water!

As always, feel free to contact us with your questions!

Happy Green Roofing!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Green Roofs Promote Biodiversity in Urban Core


Plants in the Urban Core are important for many reasons and we've discussed many here in on this website.

Biodiversity is another critical factor Green Roofs can contribute to.

By installing green roofs and living walls and then planting pollinators and beneficial plants - especially native species - you are helping increase the spread of DNA through pollen.

In a world of exotic invasives, noxious concrete and asphalt, heat-island effect, smog, polluted stormwater and the stress of the Urban Core, plant some life giving plants on your walls and roofs.  Remember, plants remove Carbon Dioxide and pump out oxygen into the air.

MetroVerde's line of roof  pre-accliminated native and adapted (non-invasive) plants species are grown organically and without chemicals - either pesticides or fertilizers so as to promote strong growth on green roofs.


Choosing plants grown for green roofs in your area is as important as choosing the right green roof system.

MV's line of Carbon Piratetm plant species are also grown to sequester as much Carbon Dioxide as possible as well as uptaking nitrogen and phosphorus from stormwater.

As always - email us and we will be glad to help you with your Green Roof Project.

Kevin...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Green Roof Music - RAILROAD EARTH The Green Roofs of Eireann!!!!

Green Roof Music for a Friday Afternoon! Thank you RAILROAD EARTH!!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin Shea......

Railroad Earth - The Green Roofs of Eireann .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Green Roofs for Windows! Eco-Friendly, Habitat Creating, Energy Saving Design

Green Roofs for Windows!

Most of us have shades and curtains on the interior of our homes and buildings to block the glare of the morning or afternoon sun and mitigate the temperature impact.

The photo to the left shows two trellis built in front of two large windows.

The design takes advantage of two benefits;
  • Vines and plants can block the sun and provide shade
    • Evergreen vines offer shade for the entire year.
    • Deciduous vines block summer radiant heat but allow the sun's warming rays to enter the windows during the cooler summer months when the vine's leaves fall and the the solar infiltration is needed.
  • Vines and plants can offer a level of privacy by screening views.
On the left, the antique climbing rose, a China rose,  Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis', also commonly known as "Tipo Ideale" - There are several interesting web resources about China roses and the history behind the varieties - Tipo can grow like a tree.  The vine to the left is well over 14 feet tall.  The rose vine is supported by an arched trellis extending above a large windows and framing either side of the window.

Antique Rose - Tipo Ideale is a great Living Wall
The Tipo rose is planted for privacy and offers evergreen, year-round shade as well as flowering beauty.

Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis' is a fast growing vine, ideal for covering large areas or fenestration.

THe vine to the right of the Tipo Ideale antique climbing rose is a deciduous Thunbergia.

The Thunbergia covers an even larger plate glass due east-facing plate glass window.

During the summer months the solar radiation is filtered from 10:00 am through the rest of the day, allowing adequate light levels to enter the adjacent room but preventing harsh, hot solar gain from occurring.  

Thunbergia grandiflora
 The Thunbergia blooms from spring until frost as does the climbing rose.

Visual inspections of the roof area have shown that though both vines grow up onto and over the roofing (shingles), there is no intrusion into the roofing material.

Because the vines shade the asphalt shingles, there may be UV protection afforded to the roof.

Habitat creation is also an important factor with both vines.

In addition to the anoles, both Florida and Cuban, numerous insects, butterflies, bees and other pollinator insects visit the vines on a daily basis.

Thunbergia grandiflora vine
 Neither of these two vines are irrigated other than through natural precipitation.  Both are subject to long periods of drought and, because they are immediately adjacent to the gutterless roof slope, both are subjected to intense inundation during rain events.

Designing volumetric green into the Urban Core offers many benefits, including;
  • Cleaning stormwater
  • Providing Habitat
  • Reducing Heat Island Effect
  • Creating Beauty
  • Sequestering Carbon and Uptaking CO2
  • Pumping O2 back into our Air
  • and much more.
As always, email us with your questions and comments
here - kevin@metroverde.com


Happy Green Roofing!


Kevin

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Florida's Green Roof Plants - Why are They Luckier Than Plants On The Ground? (some thought and humor maybe?)

Green Roof Plants have a better view of the moon at night.

Little science in this discussion however a couple facts are irrefutable!

  • The Moon reflects the Sun's light
  • Plants need light for photosynthesis
  • During winter months while the sun is low on the horizon, plants get less light and grow slower
  • A high perch such as a roof offers green roof plants a special opportunity to become 'fully involved' with moonlight.
  • Moonlight is soothing to plants - soft light without harshness of the daytime heat stress
A few other reasons why Green Roof Plants and Moonlight have a special relationship may be;

  • Green Roof Plants Washed in Moonlight are more prone to be in a romantic mood?  Produce more pollen and seeds?
  • The Moon soothes Green Roof Plants from the stresses of the day?
  • Other ideas?
Anyway, last night when I walked outside and saw the moon I stopped and stared for quite some time.  I was attracted to the beauty of the form, shape and light.  Suddenly, all the worries of the day disappeared - if just for the few moments.  I was at one with nature and the eternal universe. 

I felt enlivened and my spirits were uplifted as I walked back into the house.

Green Roof Plants See The Moon, The Moon Sees Them
Green Roof plants have the moon for hours every night where I enjoyed the experience for a few moments.

Understanding the ecology and environmental aspects of plants is important to understanding plants.  Judy and I, for years, have worked with plants and their, soil, sun exposure, wind and water relationships.  But the other half of plants life cycle, the night (other than a few sheets over tender plants) - plants relationship with the night - I've never given much thought to.

 Lucky Green Roof Plants.

Happy Green Roofing, Kevin!


As always - email us with your comments or questions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nature Irrigated Florida Green Roof Panel 18 Months (no added irrigation) UF

Green Roofs can be designed to take advantage of nature-based irrigation.  The following photos depict a green roof test panel constructed at UF and non-irrigated, except for precipitation and dew for 18 months.  Planting density can easily be increased to add a more lush appearance.

Ultimately, the green roofing industry must address water shortage issues and adapt, like the Florida Friendly Landscape program, to reduced or zero-based irrigation.

The challenge will involve understanding air moisture content and how to capture dew.  Additionally, looking at similar Florida ecosystems (such as the Glades type ecosystems) can help with plant specification.  Engineered soils are important too!  Having a soil that carries just enough water without keeping roots too wet is critical.

Then there is heat management and wind control issues to incorporate.

Stormwater too, is a vital concern for the Florida Green Roof industry.

It is possible to compound Florida's stormwater problem with green roofs if we design systems incorporating Nitrogen and Phosphorus fertilizer and potable water for irrigation.  Think of the algae problems in many of Florida's rivers from lawn fertilizers.

We may be only a step away from creating even a far worse problem with hastily thought through fertilized roofing systems.

Sustainability must define green roofing, along with community acceptance, cost-effectiveness and technical accuracy.

Feel free to tell us of project success and failures you've encountered.


As always, email me with your questions here.

Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin


Nature Irrigated Florida Green Roof Panel 18 Months (no added irrigation) UF

Monday, November 8, 2010

Choosing Green Roof Plants - Why the Equation ""#S/LAmm2lt200"" is so important.

Today we discuss again the importance of understanding leaf structure when choosing the appropriate green roof plant, and specifically the part of the plant most commonly called the stomata.  If you recall from biology class, stomata are the openings in the leaf that allow for CO2 to be taken in and O2 to be released.  The stomata are operated and regulated so to speak by the stomata guard cells.  OK but what does that have to do with Green Roof Plants?  Its important!  Lets see how...

All plants need water in their leaves for photosynthesis to occur.  If the plants dehydrate and have no water in their leaves, they quickly die.

Now envision two plastic bags, one 100 small holes and the other with 10 small holes.  Fill the bags up with water and what bag holds the water the longest?  Same concept applies to stomata and leaves.

Looking at the equation above - "#S/LAmm2lt200" translated says based on our studies - the ideal green roof plant for Florida and the Southeastern US is a plant where the number of stomata (#S) per leaf area in millimeters square (/LAmm2) should be less than 200.  Sorry for the way the equation looked but Blogger kept thinking I was writing HTML code and refused to let me save it any other way - and since I am a plant person (and a lawyer by education too) I didn't want to take the time to solve this issue.

OK but what plants have a stomata ration of less than 200 per mm2?  First of all lets look again at leaf structure.  Waxy plants tend to have lower leaf stomata per leaf surface area ratio.   What are waxy leaved plants?  Some examples are cactus, agave and others. Other plants, typically with a soft, non-waxy leaf have much more stomata per mm2 than the cactus and agaves.

Plants that probably will do well on a low-maintenance, non-irrigated green roof can generally be chosen successfully from the cactus and agave families (and others - we will get to those in another discussion).

Plants such as perennial peanut and other commonly thought of as drought tolerant plants have little or no wax and 4-40 times as many stomata, meaning they loose their leaf water much quicker.

Now the above discussion is really a big over-simplification of the entire process.  You see perennial peanut as much more aggressive operational controls over their stomata - slowing down the opening during hot periods or periods of drought to conserve water.  But the lethal interior leaf temperature on most plants is in the area of 110 degrees F (45 C)and above.

As I've mentioned before in the blog notes I record leaf surface temperatures of 140 degrees F ( 60 C) and under these conditions the plants most all first suggest just do not survive long term on a roof.

So know your green roof stomata equation and enjoy a low maintenance green roof.

Does this mean only cactus?  Absolutely not. 

Waxy leaf plants may be a plant to use.  Those species with tougher, leather-like leaves can also do well.  Then there are those more herbaceous plants that just do well in the sun.

Native species of ferns sometimes have a low stomata to leaf surface area ratio.

A green roof can look beautiful!

Call us and we will help you with your upcoming project.  As always, feel free to email us with your questions.

Check back soon for more species or call Kevin 904-294-2656.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Best Florida Green Roof Plant?

Green roofs in Florida are harsh places – remember the 7 (or more) H’s:
  1. High Humidity
  2. Hot, hot heat
  3. High desiccating winds (killer)
  4. Hurricanes (not the football team)
  5. Hard Freezes
  6. Horrible temperature swings
  7. Hurtful droughts
  8. Harmful floods
And we all are cautious about irrigating a green roof (I speak as a lawyer – not a botanist here) – our litigious society has already bred a number of legal articles on green building and tort.  Imagine – the issues of:
  • Mold
  • Water damage to interiors
  • Collapse from weight (water is heavy)
  • Bacterial breeding
  • and who knows what else…
So if we choose to acknowledge Florida’s water shortage problem and build a green roof with micro-irrigation or no irrigation at all, then we need to look to plants that:
  1. Can survive the many H’s
  2. Are visually acceptable by the community
  3. May be cost-effective
  4. Are preferably native species (or non-invasive species)
  5. Do not present a fire hazard or contribute too much dry leaf litter
  6. Are low maintenance
  7. Can survive long periods of drought
  8. Can survive twenty inch downpours
  9. Resist fungal infestations
  10. and much more
Two of the most outstanding plants that almost begin to come close to the above requirements are:
1. Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora), and
2. Wild Garlic (Allium canadense)
I’ll be posting more data on these two species over the next couple days.  In the meantime – what are your experiences with these species on green roofs?

Green Roof Plant Dwarfed 2 Year Old Allium Canadense


Happy green roofing!   Kevin

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rooftop Agriculture - Lots of room to grow food in the Urban Core.

Rooftop farming doesn't have to be complicated.

Small simple systems are available for growing vegetables and other food on any roof.

Of course, as with any endeavor there are both benefits and there can be problems.

Problems include the harshness of the roof environment.  Using the well worn phrase - 'The 5 Horrible H's of Florida Roofs';
  • Hurricanes
  • Horrible Heat
  • High Desiccating Winds
  • Humidity
  • Hard Freezes
you quickly learn rooftop garden can be cruel of plants.

However, depending on the time of year, rooftop gardening can be rewarding.  Autumn,  early winter, Spring and early summer offer opportunities for growing crops, especially on cooler roofs such as a white TPO.

Asphalt and asphalt shingles can contain toxins, so always make sure you have a liner (typical pond liner - HDPE or other membrane) between your growing box and the shingles.  The membrane will also protect the roof from roots and dampness.

Rooftop Agriculture - Winter Mix and Garlic Chives


November is a great time of year in Florida to grow rooftop veggies.  Many of the plants enjoy the cooler nights and soak up the sun's warmth during the day.

A good potting mix blend should consist of 1 part peat,  1 part sphagnum moss, 1 part perlite or vermiculite,  and 1 part potting soil.  Place the mixture into a seed starting plug tray, Jiffy Cups or create your own small potting containers our of water, flour and shredded newspapers.  Start your vegetables from seeds and when they are a couple inches tall, place them in your roof growing tray.

I'll soon be posting a list of places you can order roof growing trays.

As always, happy green roofing!

Kevin

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 Reasons Why Native Plant Species on Green Roofs Promote Biodiversity in the Urban Core

The green roof industry must take the initiative to start using native plant species on Florida Green Roofs.

To ignore the call of local, state and national environmental and ecological groups calling for a stop to using vast amounts of imported landscape material is rapidly becoming an outmoded business principle.

As green roofs become more and more popular, we as an industry must learn to adapt to using indigenous plant species for a number of reasons.

* Native species are more likely to survive local environmental conditions.
* Native plant species on green roofs attract a greater degree of indigenous wildlife, promoting biodiversity.
* We have all seen what exotic invasive plant species can do to Florida's ecosystems.  Even regular landscape plants have had devestating effects with respect to monoculture activity, and
* Ecology conscious businesses are now demanding native plant species to be used in their green roof and living wall projects.

In the rush to flood the potentially lucrative Green Roof Florida market with all the different types of Green Roof systems and their plants, we must be careful we do not create an ecological problem with imported plants.

Some of the Green Roof plants that thrive in other locations, may - if imported from other states - bring with them diseases, pests and fungi.  Others may be so aggressive with respect to reproduction that they may turn into another Brazilian Pepper or Chinese Tallow.

Stick with Florida Natives on your Green Roof.

Talk to your local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society - see their website here.

I've uploaded a very interesting paper entitled "Impact of Native Plants on Bird and Butterfly Biodiversity in Suburban Landscapes" to Google Docs for your reference.


Click here for the download.

The Note suggests that a broader range of biodiversity will exist with respect to butterflies, moths and birds when native plants are used in the Urban Core for landscaping instead of common landscape plants.

The importance for the Green Roof Industry is - roof horticulture is non-exempt from good environmental stewardship.

We must all move from exotic and potentially invasive landscape plants and back to those native species that promote biodiversity.


As always, email us with your questions.

Happy Green Roofing!

3 Reasons for a Green Roof Alternative - Roof Based Vegetated Air Intake Tunnel

The roof-based vegetated air intake tunnel keeps a building roof vegetated and provides additional benefits, including;

1.  Cools intake air
2.  Shades the roof
3.  Removes airborne toxins, and more!

MetroVerde Intake Tunnel Alternative to Green Roof 


Additional benefits allow for reducing heat island effect, providing shade, cleaning stormwater, wildlife habitat and much more.

The MetroVerde Vegetated Air Intake Tunnel is a Green Roof expanded 3D!

Always exploring opportunities to bring volumetric green to the Urban Core!

As always, email us with your ideas and questions.

Happy Green Roofing,

Kevin

Green Roof Plants in the Urban Core - Nature's Best Air Filter

Newton, the Ask a Scientist, Scientist - available for consultation from the U.S. Government - click here for Newton's Website... -

...says 53 Liters is the amount of pure Oxygen the average adult needs to survive every hour.  53 liters is approximately 14 gallons.

You can see we use alot of oxygen on a regular basis.  Now picture your bedroom and night or your office during the day.  For estimation purposes we will use an office space of about 5,000 SF with a 9' ceiling and containing 24 employees.  The Office contains  336,600 gallons of atmosphere.

Green Roof Plants filter toxins and produce oxygen


According to Newton the air we breathe contains about 21% oxygen so the office will contain 70,686 gallons of oxygen.  Is this enough to last the 24 employees for a day?  Let's find out.

Each employee breathes 14 gallons of pure oxygen per hour - more if they are active but most office workers are sedentary - so each employee breathes in120 gallons per shift and the office as a whole breathes in 2,880 gallons of oxygen per shift.

OK - that's plenty of oxygen to start, but within a month without the doors and windows being opened the employees will rapidly use up all the oxygen.  How old is your office?  How old is your house?  When is the last time you've flushed the air in your office or house?

Just think, without the windows being open, you are breathing stale air - air already breathed in many times over by others in your office or house.  This air contains not only stale exhale of others (and suspended germs) but volatile toxins off-gassing from carpet, furniture, paint and other manufactured goods in the office or house.

And the unfortunate part of the whole equation is - we keep our windows shut most of the time.

However, there is a solution - plants!  Plants produce oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis.  Your personal oxygen machine is as readily available to you as setting a plant on your desk.

I suspect all employees would be happier if air intakes for HVAC systems (most residential systems are closed loop systems) were covered with vines and pumped full of oxygen.

Moreover, plants are extremely efficient at removing toxins from the off-gassing process.

Green roofs and living walls are a key component to filling our sometimes stale Urban Core with fresh oxygen.  Imagine buildings downtown covered in plants and those plants pumping out oxygen daily.

Restoring volumetric green to the Urban Core.

Green Roofs are the key to healthy cities.

Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin

Monday, November 1, 2010

Green Roof Design Mini-Course - Free from Dave Hillary!

Reminder - Dave Hillary is still offering a free Green Roof Design Course - check it out by clicking here!

Happy Green Roofing!

Kevin....

Florida Green Roof Attachment Design

Many arrangements exist for Green Roof attachment to underlying finished roofing or decking.

Photos below depict mat attachment to asphalt shingles, TPO, built-up asphalt, roll asphalt and PVC roofing material.

Our philosophy about about vertical penetrations through roofing material is straight forward for Florida roofs - 'don't do it unless absolutely necessary'.

Green Roof System Arrangements - Field Trial Panels of Varying Materials


Florida's brutal heat, humidity and environment will continually attack roof attachment mechanisms.  The fewer vertical attachment mechanisms, the less the possibility for leaks.

There are many roofing adhesives on the market.  One significant factor we consider is a low VOC content and low carbon footprint.  On the other hand we expect the adhesive to work.

Our trial panels are made up of different materials and different systems.

Once planted, the panels are placed up on the roof for at least twelve months.  Some adhesives work, others do not.   Some adhesives work with different underlying roofing materials, others preform better with another roofing material.  Varying the combination of roofing material, root barrier, adhesive, mat and other components all for performance data to be collected on the different systems.

Developing a solid understanding of system materials is crucial for a successful Florida Green Roof!

As always - email us with your questions.

Happy Green Roofing - Kevin!