Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MetroVerde's Biodiverse Green Roof. Extensive, Lightweight, Hurricane Designed Green Roof for Urban Core.

Biodiversity in the Urban Core can be truly supported by Green Roofs.  Here the Breaking Ground Green Roof has over two hundred different species of wildflowers, herbs, vegetables and plants, attracting pollinators, amphibians, reptiles and birds. 
MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof

MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof
The BGC Green Roof treats and cleans stormwater, mitigates Urban Heat Island effect, sequesters carbon dioxide, fills the air with fresh oxygen, affords educational opportunities and so much more.
MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof
The BGC Green Roof is a MetroVerde Green Roof, a very light weight system tested by the University of Florida under tropical storm and hurricane force winds with the large wind turbine testing equipment located within the Civil Engineering Department at UF.
MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof
 The roof shown here has been in existence for approximately four years and is applied directly over white TPO roofing.
MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof
 Hopefully we will see more and more Green Roofs within the Urban Core as the worth (economic, ecological and social) of sustainable design becomes more and more apparent.

MetroVerde Green Roof at Breaking Ground Contracting #Florida-Green-Roof

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Florida Living Walls by Mother Nature

Really there are not adequate words to use here with the photos of living walls created by mother nature in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
 Amazingly, these lush living walls have no added soil nor do they boast an irrigation system.  They are buffeted by hard desiccating coastal winds and beat upon with hot sun's rays.  Yet they rival the most beautiful living walls made by us humans.

Nature is the ultimate instructor for green roofs and living walls
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.
Natural living walls on Florida coquina rock walls comprised of ferns and other plants.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tropical and Coastal Green Roof Design with Native Plants, MetroVerde Design Video

Green Roofs are complicated enough to design and build.  But those affected by salt spray and tropical storms are even more intricate and possibly problematic. 

Watch Part One of our Design Video for Coastal and Tropical Green Roofs.  Each part is approximately thirty minutes and will focus primarily on selection and layout of native plants for coastal Green Roofs.  Part Two will be available for viewing later this weekend.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nature's Living Wall, Another Native Example

I am always amazed with how Nature can design simple but beautiful living walls.  Yesterday I was walking in the Suwannee River State Park and happened upon violets growing out of a cypress root.
Viola sp., Nature created living wall, vertical green
Nature takes the simplistic approach sometimes and creates stunning beauty with amazing complexity.  The old cypress tree's root crevice was no more than a few inches deep and a few inches wide, filled with nothing but sharp, washed river sand; yet the violets were growing in such a happy manner.

Bird droppings had provided a small amount of organic matter such as nitrogen and the like.

The crevice was exposed to moderate sunlight yet was shaded enough to keep the violets from becoming too dried out or desiccated.

Though usually considered an annual plant, native violets may do very well in vertical green applications, especially where shade is involved, even surpassing many other living wall plants in durability under some situations.

I always learn so much from nature.  And importantly, most times nature teaches us about crucial design issues on an incremental basis.  Learning what plant grows best how in what media from looking around as you experience everyday life is   one of the best methods of understanding living wall and green roof design.  One does not have to walk beneath the great constructed living walls of the world to learn about successful vertical green design (though it helps).  Nature too, can teach us incrementally through her selection and use of plants we see appearing in the cracks of walls, on the tops of buildings, across bridges and even growing out of hot asphalt pavements.

You see, nature has first created all plants; from simple crevice growing violets to those in the beautiful man-assembled living walls.

Learning from the original teacher is the best way to learn.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tropical Living Wall and Green Roof Design, Factoring in Frost and Pseudomonas Ice Nucelator

Winter is around the corner.
Ice-frost around a green roof web supporting succulents
 For many green roofs and living walls the change in seasons really does not matter because the system and plants are expected to go into dormancy until the next spring arrives.   For equatorial areas, cold and frost are not typically common concerns either.  Yet for green roofs and living walls  in Florida and other regions where that unexpected frost may or may not occur, ice crystal damage can potentially kill an entire living wall or green roof planting.

And sometimes these unwelcome weather events can happen well above the freezing point.

Understanding the bio-mechanics of frost can help the living wall and green roof designer prepare for possible ice crystal stress on plants used in these systems.

In general, plants used in exterior living walls appear to be more resilient to cold than those flat on the ground. Dismantling one of my oldest walls last night, I was amazed to see one of the cactus plants, Disocactus flagelliformis, not only survive the cold but thrive. Amazingly, most of the literature on the web specifies a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F and clearly warns against frost exposure.

Last year we experienced several nights in the low twenties. However the cactus keeps on growing.

With my curiosity peaked, I researched frost, cold and plants on Google trying to sort through the thermodynamics of air movement, heat and cold transfer and the five different types of frost. It seems that as the ground layer of air cools, the warm air rises. So the vertical positioned plants on the wall could actually be several degrees warmer than those plants on the ground. There are several interesting stories of how orange grove owners use helicopters to keep warm air blown back down into orchards in California on occasional nights with freezing temperatures or where frost may become a threat.

Additionally and to my surprise I read where many plants on the ground support epiphytc bacteria growth of Pseudomonas bacteria, a gram negative bacteria that also acts as an ice nucelator.

From the available literature it seems that the presence of ice-positive Pseudomonas can actually cause ice/frost to form on the plant surface, even at temperatures well above freezing.

Frost damages the epithelial layer, in many instances killing the plant.  Frost can act like a butcher knife on some succulents and cut the leaf surface to shreds, exposing the once protected vascular system to desiccating winds and debilitating sun.  For those cold-tender succulents and living wall plants, an unexpected frost encouraged by unexpected Pseudomonas bacteria may ruin a tropical or semi-tropical living wall or even green roof.

And Pseudomonas bacteria is typically found almost everywhere.  Sometimes there presence is persistent for some reason, possibly due to a per-existing environmental factor that may serve as a natural attractant to Pseudomonas.  In these areas, frost my occur well-above the normal freezing temperatures.

Interestingly however, there is a ice-minus strain of Pseudomonas also, a mutant bacteria that also occurs naturally that does not possess the ice formation encouraging mechanism that its non-mutant sibling possesses.

Leave it to capitalism to go figure out how to profit on these two types of bacteria. SnoMax - made by Johnson Controls - see SnoMax's website, is a product made from the ice-plus variety and is used for making snow! On the other hand, FrostBan - see article - creates a crop resilient to frost. FrostBan was the subject of many GMO battles during the 1980's and early 1990's.

I don't have the testing equipment to see if my Disocactus cactus had the ice-minus Pseudomonas, or if the plant growing vertically with excellent air flow had just avoided the dispersal of common Pseudomonas.

But the fact that it survives the cold and continues to grow on the wall is another piece in the green roof and green wall plant database we are all developing.

There really is so much to learn concerning tropical and semi-tropical green roofs and living walls.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Native Wildflowers for Florida Green Roofs

Enjoy this photo from my archive of the Breaking Ground Green Roof!  Florida native wildflowers are in bloom, including; Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Muhly grass, Mimosa, Yucca and more! :)
Florida Wildflowers on a Green Roof!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sustainable, Creative and Beautiful Stormwater Solutions

Stormwater drainage swales can be Eco-friendly and beautiful. 
Stormwater Swales can add stunning vertical green to the Urban Core

Much of the time they are just mowed weedy areas devoid of vegetation.  However, here is a very successful example of a stormwater swale in sandy soil with mature vegetation planted along the sides and even in the basin.

Trees observed include: Atlantic red cedar, Juniperus virginiana; live oak, Quercus virginiana and long leaf pine, Pinus palustris.

Notice the guard rail to the south of the swale to keep traffic from hitting the trees.  This swale is located at the western end of the bridge on Highway 100 crossing the Intercoastal Water Way heading east into Flagler Beach, Florida.

Kudos to the forward thinking designers!

Living Walls for Sustainable Commercial Design

I was visiting the Town Center in Jacksonville Florida's Southside area this past week when I was impressed with the success of a series of living walls constructed in varying locations throughout the large commercial development.

Living Walls are a great, ecologically friendly architectural addition to any building
The design included several different species of vines and multiple commercially products made specifically to support living wall plants, like the Green Screen free standing system pictured immediately below.
Green Screen trellising system screens a refuse collection area

Unfortunately, the plants used here were not native Florida evergreen vines but rather somewhat aggressive horticultural non-native species.  Substitutions with native species such as coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens (an evergreen) or Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens (another evergreen vine) with beautiful yellow flowers would have added to the biodiversity and provided amazing habitat and beauty.

However I am not knocking the design.  Any vertical green in the urban core has its benefits, from cooling urban heat island effect to cleaning stormwater and air.
Living walls add an interesting architectural twist to design

Living walls create beauty and shade

The important idea is to use and integrate plants in urban settings.  The more vertical green, the more benefits.  Trees also, as we are well aware, can be utilized to create visually interesting architectural points.
Palms as a center piece in the Town Center design

Palms are used to create visual height here along this walkway

On a more limited scale, vertical green systems can be created by the homeowner for a fraction of the cost of more expensive commercial systems and incorporate recycling into the process.

The photo below depicts an example where old chain link fence was used on a vertical wall section below a green roof.  The chain link fencing is quite strong and will provide a trellis system capable of supporting most vines.
Chain link fencing used to create a living wall trellis system

Remember, adding vertical green to the urban core has many ecological benefits.  It is always good to see projects such as Jacksonville's Town Center incorporate vertical use of plants into the architectural and landscape design.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nature's Living Wall, Fifty Species in Coquina Stone, Castillo de San Marco

Native plants play an important role in supporting worldwide biodiversity heritage, and offer an awesome opportunity to explore history.  Weaving history into present green roof technology is one of the most exciting aspects of touring historic places like St. Augustine, Florida.

I always love exploring the Castillo de San Marcos structure on the banks of St. Augustine inlet, just north of the Bridge of Lions.

Though not what you would expect, one of the many ways to learn about native plants on the fort park property is to 'look up'.  This week I spent several hours walking in the moat of the old Spanish Fort in St. Augustine.  Plants grow all over the rough coquina shell stone wall.

In my opinion the National Park Service has it backwards - they charge for going inside the fort but allow you to walk for free in the moat and around the grounds.  The moat is where you can see many, many native and other plants species growing in the coquina walls!

Castillo de San Marco, St. Augustine

As you can see in the above photo, most plants grow underneath the downspouts on the walls. Though the downspouts provide water primarily when it rains, they also collect dew and fog from surrounding areas and funnel the water to the plants.

Interestingly, learning about green roof and living walls plants from the fort offers insight into those plants that not only do well under the hot Florida sun and with no additional irrigation, but also the plants shed light on soil media composition.

Coquina shell and the limestome mortar have a quite high pH level.  High pH is usually one of the toughest issues to work with on green roofs and living walls.

If you are looking for native plant species that thrive and survive under harsh conditions such as; relentless sun exposure, salt spray, hot desiccating winds, heavy frosts, hurricanes without irrigation other than rainfall, then plan a trip to Castillo de San Marcos, or other similar stone structure.

It is amazing just how many different species can be found growing vertically, forming amazing living walls.  Park staff have identified over fifty different plant species growing in the coquina stone walls!  What an awesome living wall created by nature!

Samolus valerandi
Pteris vittata & 2 Cuban anoles
Wildlife seeks out plants, especially those providing resource benefit such as food or nectar or shelter.  Native plants are best suited at providing the most optimum level of ecological benefit to those wildlife endemic to an area.

In otherwords, planting native plants on green roofs and living walls encourages and supports native populations of insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife.

Many popular landscape plants used on green roofs may not offer the same level of resource benefit.

Learning about your local native plants broadens design capabilities for both green roofs and living walls.

Limestone & Coquina Walls are Harsh Ecosystems

Friday, September 13, 2013

Green Roofs, Many Times the Last Defense for Water Quality!

Green and living roofs are so very important to our water quality, sometimes being the last line of defense for removing pollutants before runoff enters our ecologically sensitive and important waterways.

Green roofs slow down stormwater, cleaning and sequestering pollutants 
Even small green roofs can provide a significant benefit to reducing peak runoff amounts and reducing loadings on creeks, rivers and ponds by removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous.
Blue Hole, Ichetucknee Springs
Once stormwater hits a roof and flows to the street below it may only be a matter of minutes before the water and any contaminants picked up as the volume flows across streets, drives and roads enters Florida's drinking water supply. Green roofs also moderate and attenuate the volume of stormwater leaving a building footprint.

Floating wetlands, Gainesville, Florida - greenroof on a pond
Storm drain allows pollutants to enter waterways
Florida has a unique geology across many parts of the state called Karst.  Karst formations are typified by limerock with caves, tunnels and holes throughout the  formation.  Once stormwater runoff enters the limerock above drinking aquifers the flow to the pools of underground water can be very quick.

Many times storm drains are a direct connect to water supply aquifers
Green roofs, living walls, floating wetlands and other best management practices can help keep water clean by slowing the runoff and removing contaminants from the water.

Wekiwa Springs, Florida - higher in nitrogen and algae
Wekiwa Springs, located just north of Orlando, Florida and shown above is surrounded by houses, streets, roads and commercial development.  Though many good best management practices are in place to contain nutrients and runoff, the springs still suffer from high nutrient contents such as nitrogen and phosphorous.
Salt Springs, Ocala National Forest, not as impacted by development
Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest on the other hand, though threatened by development, does not have all the septic tanks, stormwater runoff and as you can see, the water is much clearer, contains less nitrogen and other nutrients and is so much more healthy.

Installing a green roof on your commercial or residential building is just one small contribution you can make in the Urban Core to help protect clean water supplies and ensure a healthy Florida for future generations.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Florida Green Roofs and Allelopathy

Allelopathy is the little referenced yet extremely important green roof secondary design principle of the bio-chemical influences certain plants and trees have on other plants and in this instance - on green roof plants.  A recent Green Roof we completed had a planting area surrounded on three sides by tall trees. Some of these trees are deciduous and loose their leaves during the winter, others like the laurel oaks keep leaf cover most of the year.

An alleopathic tree usually exerts negative influence on adjacent vegetation via a number of different processes including;
  • Fog & dew drip
  • Leaf litter
  • Volatilization 
  • Sap drip
  • Pollen
  • Other biological processes
Trees impacting the recent green roof include;
  • Triadica sebifera, Chinese tallow - western border of green roof
  • Quercus laurifolia, Laurel Oak - northwestern corner and eastern side of green roof
  • Platanus occidentalis, American sycamore - southeastern and southwestern corners of green roof

According to the University of Georgia, School of Forestry Resources , there are a number of significant allelopathic trees requiring attention when planting other plants nearby.  They include;

Strong Potential for Allelopathic Impacts 
Acacia spp
Acer saccharum
Ailanthus altissima
Celtis laevigata
Celtis occidentalis
Eucalyptus camaldulensis
Eucalyptus globulus
Eucalyptus spp 
Juglans cinerea
Juglans nigra
Leucaena spp
Myrica cerifera
Picea engelmannii
Platanus occidentalis 
Populus deltoides
Prosopis juliflora
Prunus cornuta
Prunus serotina leaf 
Quercus falcata leaf 
Quercus marilandica
Quercus rubra
Quercus stellata
Robinia pseudoacacia
Sassafras albidum
Ulmus americana

Moderate Potential for Allelopathic Impacts
Abies amabilis
Abies balsamea
Abies grandis
Acer circinatum
Acer negundo
Acer platanoides
Acer pseudoplatanus
Acer saccharinum
Aesculus glabra
Aesculus hippocastanum
Aesculus octandra
Arbutus menziesii
Carya illinoensis
Carya ovate
Corylus spp
Crataegus spp
Fraxinus excelsior
Ginkgo biloba
Gleditsia triacanthos
Juniperus monosperma
Juniperus scopulorum
Kalmia spp
Picea spp
Pinus banksiana
Pinus contorta
Pinus densiflora
Pinus edulis
Pinus elliotii
Pinus monophylla
Pinus ponderosa
Pinus sylvestris
Prunus pumila
Quercus alba
Quercus borealis
Quercus douglasii
Quercus gambelii
Quercus michauxii
Quercus shumardii
Rhododendron maximum
Rhus copallina 
Sorbus sitchensis
Tsuga canadensi

Slight Potential for Allelopathic Impacts
Abies concolor
Aesculus spp
Betula pendula
Carpinus spp
Casuarina spp
Cupressus macrocarpa
Fagus spp
Fraxinus spp
Larix decidua
Picea excelso
Pinus palustris
Pinus spp
Populus spp
Pseudotsuga menziesii
Quercus petraea
Quercus robur
Quercus rubra
Salix pellita
Sambucus racemosa
Sequoia sempervirens
Taxus brevifolia
Thuja plicata
Tilia americana
Tilia cordata
Tilia planifolia
Ulmus laevis
Ulmus parvifolia
Umbellularia californica

As mentioned, a recently completed Green Roof will be adjacent Chinese tallow trees, Laurel Oaks and American Sycamores.

Quercus laurifolia, Laurel oak - although literature suggests laurel oak does not possess allelopathic qualities, care should be given to potential impacts of pollen and flower litter.  The laurel oak adjacent the northwest corner of the green roof has stained the white TPO and covered the roofing material with a layer of leaf and pollen litter.  Though laurel oak may not exhibit direct allelopathic influence on the green roof plants, potential for covering the plants with litter exists.  Continued site inspection will be required to confirm any impacts on the green roof plantings.

Triadica sebifera, Chinese tallow - one medium height tree exists adjacent the western border of the BGC green roof.  Chinese tallow has been the subject of numerous allelopathic studies and research.  Interestingly, research exists to support the theory of Chinese tallow leaf litter and fog drip may actually support germination and shoot growth on adjacent plants.  In fact, Chinese tallow was shown to actually improve germination and growth rates in Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium

Importantly, the American Sycamores, Platanus occidentalis located in the southeastern and southwestern corners of the green roof have the potential to exert significant negative influence over the green roof plants.   As indicated in the above list, American sycamore produces strong allelopathic effects.  Data exists showing the active ingredients, scopoletin and chlorogenic acid found in the sycamore leaf may interfere with the ability of stomata on certain plant's leaves to malfunction,  interrupting the vital processes of photosynthesis and either stunting plant growth or killing the plant.  Close observation will be required on the effects of the American sycamore on the entire green roof planting area and in particular, the southeast and southwest corner plantings.  Pruning of sycamore limbs away from the green roof may be necessary.

Finally, good green roof design incorporates the effects of adjacent trees and other vegetation and allelopathic effect possibilities.  Recognizing and dealing with a potential allelopathic problem is much easier and more cost-effective up front.  Know the basics of adjacent tree and plant allelopathism and how your green roof design integrates into a site with pre-existing trees.

One of the related positive issues of anti-allelopathism and green roof adjacent trees is a benefit derived from leaf micro-nutrient content. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Green Roof Plant Design - Understand Heliotropism and Paraheliotropism

Understanding photosynthesis processes in green roof plants is crucial to the green roof designer and we have discussed the difference between C3, C4 and CAM photosynthesis processes in prior notes, including;
Under Intense Sunlight Leaves Fold to Prevent Desiccation

Yet nature is complicated and does not limit herself in resisting environmental stressor conditions to just the above three types of photosynthesis processes.  In fact, some plants have evolved other survival mechanisms to help prevent dessication and to conserve water, especially in arid and hot climates.

Some plants, and many of these are excellent species to use on Green Roofs, can move, open or close their leaves to prevent dessication.  This is commonly referred to heliotropism and paraheliotropism.

Cowpeas and other plants for example possess the ability to adjust their leaves position to either increase or decrease the amount of leaf surface area receiving direct sunlight.

Under optimal Sunlight C3 Leaves Open Widely

Under Optimal Sunlight Conditions C3 Leaves Open Widely
Heliotropism is the term used to describe a plant's actions when it orients leaves to receive more sunlight and thereby increasing photosynthesis capabilities, i.e. - more CO2 fixation.

Diaheliotropism describes a plant whose leaves actually track the sun'd path, maximizing solar contact.

Paraheliotropsim denotes a plants actions similar to the above photographs.  During paraheliopropsim, plants may fold or move their leaves to either;

  • Minimize solar contact, or
  • Minimize total leaf surface area,
either way reducing water loss and preventing desiccation.

Though C3 plants such as the beans - and most other of the world's food plants except the grasses, maize, and sorghum - do not possess as complicated a multi-cellular Calvin Cycle as C4 plants and are more susceptible to drought, they - through Heliotropism biomechanisms they do possess their own unique desiccation prevention mechanisms.

Green Roof designers take note!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Florida Green Roof Plant Root Architecture - Think Lateral!

Florida Green Roof plant root architecture and the converse relationship to irrigation is an important design function for the Green Roof professional to understand.

We've been working with Resurrection fern as a Green Roof plant for Florida and the tropics - and I love this plant.  Resurrection fern,  Polypodium polypodioides, was the first fern we know of in space - going up on a 1997 Space Shuttle Mission to see if the roots would absorb water in a space capsule.

Both of these plants, the Allium and Resurrection fern have unique root characteristics.

We call plant root structure by the name - 'Root Architecture'.

Green roof design has unique root structure and root architecture requirements.

Unless you have a huge potable water or well water source and are going to pump all that water up on a roof to keep plants up there watered, then your green roof plants need to be somewhat drought tolerant.

Certain root architecture patterns support plant acclimation to drought conditions better than others.

Remember, Florida's rainfalls usually are short, afternoon events of 1/2" or less and because rain generally occurs between the hotter months of the year - June - September, there is a tendency for it to evaporate quickly.

Except for hurricanes and tropical storms, rain events in Florida are usually over relatively quickly.

Meaning green roof plants have to scramble to grab the rain water.

Also recall, most green roof plants do not like wet roots (wet feet) so the soil must be well drained.

Proper green roof plant root architecture is crucial for providing a Florida extensive green roof plant with the advantages needed to survive a Florida vegetated roof.

Examine the diagram below showing the root architecture of a green roof plant raised in a one gallon standard nursery container and then a green roof plant raised on a green root mat.

The plant raised on the mat possesses 8 times the amount of Root-Rain surface contact area as the same size plant grown in a nursery container.

Green Roof Plant Root Architecture - Florida Extensive Green Roofs - MetroVerde

So when the afternoon 1/2" rainfall (13mm) event occurs and every drop is important - the green roof plant with the appropriate root architecture will sequester the most water.

More stormwater is captured, runoff is reduced, plants acquire necessary water volumes, plants have less of a tendency to uproot in high winds, and more.

So think lateral.  Think horizontal.  Experiment with green roof planting designs that encourage outwards rather than downward root growth.

Green Roof Plant Root Architecture is important to the success of a green roof.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Green Roof Plant Selection for Tropical and Florida Green Roofs

Best Florida Green Roof Plant?

We are always working to find suitable plants for Green Roofs in Florida.  For years Northeast Florida has been experiencing a severe drought.  Finding the toughest and most visually appealing is only part of the process.  Habitat value, invasiveness, wind and drought tolerance are other issues we consider.

Green roofs in Florida are harsh places – remember the 7 (or more) H’s:
  • High Humidity
  • Hot, hot heat
  • High desiccating winds (killer)
  • Hurricanes (not the football team)
  • Hard Freezes
  • Horrible temperature swings
  • Hurtful droughts
  • 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:
  • Can survive the many H’s
  • Are visually acceptable by the community
  • May be cost-effective
  • Are preferably native species (or non-invasive species)
  • Do not present a fire hazard or contribute too much dry leaf litter
  • Are low maintenance
  • Can survive long periods of drought
  • Can survive twenty inch downpours
  • Resist fungal infestations
  • and much more

Five of the most outstanding plants that almost begin to come close to the above requirements are:
  • Frog Fruit, Lippia nodiflora
  • Wild Garlic, Allium canadense
  • Adam’s Needle, Yucca filamentosa
  • Lemongrass, Cymbopogon spp.
  • Purple Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris
What works for you?

Green Roof Plant Dwarfed 2 Year Old Allium Canadense

Monday, August 26, 2013

Florida Green Roofs, Living Wall Permaculture Plant, Seminole Pumpkin, Cucurbita Moschata

Seminole Pumpkin should always be considered for tropical green roofs and living walls due to its amazing leaf color and massive summer biomass production.

Summer time here in Florida usually brings the rains.  Rains mean more water on the green roof.  Seminole pumpkin drinks water like a thirsty athlete.  She also casts a fair amount of sprawling shade to help cool the roof from solar rays, in addition to the evaporative effect of photosynthesis and plant respiration. 

So it is easy for me to say, one of my favorite vines this year is the Seminole Pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata

Florida Green Roof and Living Wall plant, Seminole Pumpkin (Permaculture Food)

An adapted garden wonder to Florida, the Caribbean and Latin American, this variety of pumpkin or squash is acclimated to the harsh, humid climate of the region. 
Unripe Seminole Pumpkin, resistant to pests

A fast grower who provides ample shade, Seminole Pumpkin makes a great end of summer living wall and green roof plant.
Florida Living Wall plant, Cucurbita moschata

Thriving on neglect and drought, Cucurbita moschata, is ultra resilient to squash vine borers and other pests.  Here she is used as a cover to our geese pen, providing a wall of privacy, security, shade and food.
Seminole Pumpkin creates a living wall and green roof for the Urban Farm fowl
When thinking of drought tolerant plants for tropical green roofs and living walls, they don't just have to be wildflowers.
Seminole Pumpkin is a heavy food producing plant

 Nature has provided us with some awesome  food plants who will thrive well in the permaculture garden and on the hot roofs and walls.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Living Architecture, Urban Hen Coop - Low Cost, Simple Design

Urban Farm Coop Frame
Out of the Archives - Here is our Urban Hen Coop Design that easily hed our 27 hens and doubled as a rabbit home, grape arbor and greenhouse.  Built out of scrap for almost nothing.


One of the first tasks at hand we were faced with when starting an Urban Farm was the design and construction of a chicken coop.

With twelve newly hatched chicks growing rapidly each day we knew it would only be a matter of time before the puffy peeps would no longer comfortably fit in the large, blue tupperware storage bin.

I'd never built a coop before and honestly had no idea where to start.  The images we found on the internet were complicated looking, possibly requiring days of intricate cutting, nailing and screwing.

I'd just rather bang-bang get it done quickly.

But the coop had to look good and had to be functional.  Most of all the chicken pen had to be cheap.

Here is how we made our really cool, pimped out fowl parlor.

First we figured four square feet per bird, pretty much the standard for chickens as stated across the omniscient web.  Ten birds would be forty square feet - not a overly large area - but sufficient enough to let the chickens roam around in, chase bugs and roost at night.

Then we decided on the spur of the moment to quadruple the size to one hundred sixty square feet with no good reason except we wanted our hens to be happy hens.  Whether or not larger coops make happier hens remains to be seen.  But I am glad we have a large coop and the hens seem to enjoy chasing each other around the coop aggressively determined to rob whatever morsel of food one or another hen may be carrying in her beak.

Coop frames are the foundation on which the final coop appearance and function develops.  I like arches but don't want to have to bend pipe or purchase pre-bent pipe.  The coop walls also need to be critter proof.  below is a photo of a basic coop frame upon which living walls will be established.

The frame is inexpensively constructed with grey electrical conduit (Outdoor plastic type) that easily bends to create the arches.  The ends of the conduit are zip-tied to either farm fence posts or chain link posts hammered into the ground.  Finally chicken wire or fencing is added to the frame to keep critters out and fowl in.

The frame can be covered with a variety of native materials, such as bamboo or saw palmetto fronds.  We also grow native flowering vines and food plants around the coop for shade, visual effect and feed for the hens.

One year later our coop begins to blend into the urban farm fruit vines.

Grapes covering the Coop walls
Cost-wise we have less than one hundred dollars into a very large, hen happy chicken coop with all the reuse of scrap materials we incorporated.

Coop Door View Living Architecture