Sunday, February 26, 2017

Urban Permaculture & Rooftop Gardens

We can defeat hunger in the Urban Core - on the roofs, on balconies, in small yards and across patios! Food is so easy to grow in the harshest of places, with little of no soil and even when water supply is limited.  All it takes is a basic understanding of the important factors impacting growth, such as wind, light and available water vapor.

Though permaculture has always addressed simple food growing principles, most of the time this focus has been about ground level growing.

Growing food on walls, roofs, buildings, and shacks up off the ground is important in the crowded urban core, high rises and slums.  Ground level food production is many times impractical in cities because of the lack of open land.  But there are plenty of walls and roofs to grow food on!

We believe educating the young about how to grow 'rooftop gardens is a way to capture their interest, create economic opportunity for them, create habitat, restore ecology and bring peace to the world.

Harvesting Green Roof Seeds, Educating the children
It is really exciting to see students become interested in urban agriculture.

Young children's minds are so fresh and thinking so quickly!  They see opportunities to improve and enhance our green roofs, living walls and rooftop systems.

Offering the next generation hope through empowerment is what we need to be doing every day.  Placing control of their food and water supply into our children's hands is so important.

Making educational videos about rooftop permaculture to teach the children.
It is a path to world peace and freedom from those who may want to try and control other's lives through food and water.

And growing food and recycling water does not have to be expensive or difficult.  This is why education is so important.

But we have a fight ahead of us.  Large corporations see opportunity through control of food, water, seeds and the knowledge of how to grow food and collect water.

The 'I don't have a green thumb and can not grow food' storyline is often repeated and many of the world have come to believe they can't grow sufficient supplies of food in the urban core.

We must show our children the path to breaking reliance from those who would control our lives and souls in exchange for food and water.

A small living wall or rooftop garden can provide enough seeds in a growing season to grow five more gardens the same size the following year.  Seeds are free.

Systems can be designed to cheaply capture and store water and to grow food on even shacks made from rusty tin.

The students harvested a giant luffa sponge from the roof this week.  Organic luffa sponges cost five dollars or more in the store.  The enterprising young person growing luffa gourds across the roof of their inner-city barrio could earn hundreds of dollars each season.

Plants not only provide food but they provide security, shelter and medicine.

I love Lydia Cabrera's quote I use over and over, paraphrased "there are more spirits in the plants than in the sky".

Aloe growing out of walls and on roofs becomes the local doctor's office in many instances.

Low cost Barrio-type house with living walls, food roofs & water recycling
Structure walls made from wire with grapes abundantly growing provides fruit, sugar, vine and community opportunities.

Rooftop beans and peas can feed the masses, not only providing daily food but offering up the following years crop of seeds.
Reusing water and controlling flooding

Native wildflowers planted across window openings and on the roofs and walls bring in the pollinators, crucial for food production.  One must have native wildflowers growing side by side with food plants.

Collectively we have found a way to travel to the moon, harvest the atom and talk across the globe.

But this awesome generation has forgotten how to feed themselves.

Now is the time to relearn.  Now is the time to show our children how to break leashes and create freedom.

Give me one month and the seeds I can carry in my pocket, a few wiling youth from the urban core and  the plants of medicine, food, fiber and economy will be growing across the landscape.  It can be done in a desert or a wetland, hurricane or earthquake prone areas.
We've answered the critics who say it can't be done, designed systems withstanding cyclones, created highly productive food systems in 30mm of sand, implemented bee hives on roofs, built water storage systems for practically no cost and are working now on a rooftop chicken system.

Control of your food is the path to freedom and peace.  Reliance on the corporations for food is the path to bondage.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Irrigation Efficiency, Rainwater Reuse

Water is such an important resource.

Urban Sustainability.  Recycling and attenuating rainfall is one of the many proactive measures we can take in helping conserve water use.
All too often I take for granted the necessity of clean water for all the earth and inhabitants thereof.

Clean water forms the basis for all life continuance and survival.  Many times we've mentioned here how Green Roofs and Living Walls, along with other measures of Urban Green can clean and filter contaminants from our rainfall runoff.

Add caption
Though I always recommend allowing rainfall to resupply the ground water, rain barrels can slow (attenuate) the rainfall runoff from roofs.  This allows the homeowner to reuse the rainfall for irrigation where then the water makes its way back into the ground.

Here is a pic from our Jacksonville Urban Farm where we captured rooftop runoff for reuse in our Urban Gardens.

Every bit of water recycle and reuse helps preserve our world's water quality.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Xeriscaping Importance and Water Conservation, Coastal Landscape Design

Xeriscaping is the practice of landscape design focused on the form of water conservation function using native or water conserving plants.

Florida Hurricane Landscape - Coastal Xeriscape plan.  One year post planting. No irrigation required.

Native plants are particularly useful in successful xeriscape design.

Irrigation is used primarily to assist during the initial period of the landscape plants establishing their roots and adapting to their new environment.

A successful mature xeriscape design should have either no added irrigation or at the most, very limited irrigation - such as micro-drip, for long term survival.

Regardless, xeriscaping design can be a challenge.

Coastal xeriscaping can present even greater challenges because of the added salt spray variable.

Here is an example of a successful coastal xeriscape project completed on Live Oak Island, Florida.

The first photo below is of the site after a tropical storm, debris littered across the water-front yard.
Hurricane damage, Site was cleaned and replanted with a xeriscape design

The second photo below is a snapshot of the new xeriscape landscape installed and mulched.
Xeriscaping, Initial planting installed only with temporary irrigation

Finally the very first photo above is of the landscape one year subsequent to the initial xeriscape plantings.

The plants include; Yucca filaamentosa (Adam's needle), Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Cabbage/Sabal palms and including Florida Friendly plants such as; agave, rosemary and more.

For more about coastal landscape and salt tolerant design, check out Kevin's Designing Coastal Green Roofs video here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Intense Small Scale Urban Permaculture, Urban Sustainability

Truly amazing how much food can be grown in a tiny space.
Urban Permaculture Genius. Maximize food and flower production in tiny city spaces.
Tried and proven permaculture methods can ensure fertilization, efficiency, pollination, irrigation and wind protection for maximized food production.

Though the above may sound industrial or way too mechanical, with plants the ends result is beauty.

Beauty and food.  Sense of place and habitat for pollinators.  Soil stabilization and enrichment. Urban heat island cooling remedy.  Carbon and nutrient sink.  And much better than turf grass lawns.

Kudos to Judy Songer on one of her urban permaculture garden designs!

Friday, February 17, 2017

DIY Green Roofs for Rabbit Hutches

Here are a couple of green roofs for our rabbit hutches.
DIY Green Roof & Urban Permaculture - Stacking Example of Green Roof over Rabbit Hutch over Worm Bin
The roofs are made with available materials, most recycled and repurposed items.

The rabbit hutches are an example of the 'stacking premise' found in permaculture methods.

The top layer is the green roof which provides food, shade, shelter, cooling (and warming through thermal adsorption), and much more for the rabbits below.

The rabbits eat the forage from the green roof and drop rabbit pellets through the rabbit cages into the worm bins below the rabbits.  The worms then digest the pellets and produce mulch for the green roof.

Urban Green with recycled materials can be completed with minimal cost and surprising effectiveness!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Extensive Green Roofs, Lightweight With Only 50mm Soil Media

Green Roofs can be successfully grown in shallow layers of green roof soil media.
Florida Extensive Green Roof on sloped deck with 50mm soil media
Here is a succulent green roof I built in 2010 where the rafters were 2" x 6" 's with a wood decking (so very light weight loading was required).

The roof slope was 4:1.

A waterproofing layer was added first.

Then came a wind stabilization mesh followed by placement of soil media.

Finally the plants were installed that grew well without added fertilization or irrigation.

Total calculated live load of less than twenty pounds per square foot.

And still looks good!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Xeriscaping. Drip Irrigation DIY for Growing Locations Without Running Water

Not all locations have running water available for drip irrigation of food crops and other cash plants.
Urban Green and Permaculture sometimes requires irrigation where water supplies do not exist. DIY Drip irrigation can provide water efficient irrigation and nutrient systems and can be constructed from readily obtainable, even recycled materials.  Here a drip systems is made from a 5 gallon bucket, tubing and bamboo.

Here is an awesome DIY idea for an easy to construct yet very effective drip irrigation system.

If you are ever in the vicinity of Fort Myers be sure to stop by and visit ECHO Global Farm for permaculture support systems like this they refer to as 'appropriate technologies'.

With this portable and inexpensive but highly effective drip irrigation system a five gallon bucket is used as a water tower or water storage unit.  The five gallon bucket is covered with a filter cloth to keep leaves and debris out of the collected water (rainwater or added water) and hung from a bamboo stand..

Attached to the bottom of the bucket is a drip irrigation hose placed through the bucket wall in a drilled out hole, caulked around the edges.

The irrigation hose is woven through the planted crops needing irrigation, staked into the ground and fitted with drip nozzles.

Water conservation is an important part of sustainable agriculture.

Drip irrigation and water supply systems don't have to be expensive or complicated.  With a little creativity one can incorporate simple, appropriate technology growing systems into their permaculture project, green roof or urban farm.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Living Walls, Celtic Cross Fabricated Using DIY Recycled Material

Here is a green wall I easily and inexpensively constructed from recycled materials.

The wall is four feet wide by five feet tall and fashioned out of rigid recycled plastic milk jug crates for the rear and side structural support.

The growing media is mineral wool and the celtic cross cut from old copper gutter sheet.

The Florida Green Anoles absolutely love it, providing them with habitat to escape the larger exotic predators here, the Cuban anoles.

Bringing Urban Green back to the cities doesn't have to be complicated and require high tech materials engineering or mechanical systems.

Recycled material technology is a sustainable approach to take when implementing Urban Green.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Designing Coastal Green Roofs, Tropical Green Roofs, Florida Green Roofs video "Designing Coastal Green Roofs"

A must see video for all green roof designers, especially those with complicated, coastal projects.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Green roofs for Birdhouses too! Urban Greening for all.

Green roofs are found on a wide variety of structures and not just commercial, institutional or residential buildings.
Green Roof Birdhouse - Plants and seed added...

Cedar Roof Decking - Birdhouse Green Roof
Included are several DIY photos of how to put a green roof on a birdhouse.

Birdhouse Green Roof - Double Sided Roofing Tape

First photo is of the birdhouse roof decking.

Green Roof Birdhouse - Membrane Installation

Next photos is the double sided tape allied to the cedar decking.

Third is the waterproofing membrance serving also as a root barrier.

Green Roof Birdhouse - Grow Weave Mat

Fourth is the grow weave mat, then the ridge cap (made from recycled copper flashing) and trim work.

Green ROof Birdhouse - Copper Ridge Cap

Agaves and succulents are added, along with a mixture of drought resilient wildflower seed.

The concept here is exactly the same process we use on large, large green roofs.  This type of system is called an extensive green roof and on the sloped birdhouse roof the soil is stabilized with a natural stabilizer such as agar (you can use flour also if you cannot find agar)...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Plants Can Clean Wastewater - Corkscrew Swamp's Living Machine

Audubons' Corkscrew Sanctuary treats its wastewater onsite with plants in a system know as a Living Machine.

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!
The system has been in place for years now and has proven its functionality and reliability over time.

If you are ever in southwest Florida consider visiting the Sanctuary and viewing the Living Machine.

Plants are amazing.

Plants are key to world-wide sustainability.

Check out the Living Machine info below:

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Urban Sustainability.  Plants Cleaning Water!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dog House & Green Roofs

Quick post this morning on urban sustainability.
Green Roof for a Frank Lloyd Wright style doghouse here in Florida

Want to learn more about green roofs?

Thinking about adding a green roof or living wall to your house or condo?

Try starting off with a smaller green roof project - like on a doghouse!

Green roofs can add so much to the urban core.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Raised Growing Beds & Permaculture Gardens

Below is a repost of a summer 2012 note on Urban Permaculture and raised beds.  It is never too early to start thinking about the upcoming planting seasons in the community gardens!

Summer is half over and that means we are thinking about raised bed fall and winter plantings.  Ordering seeds for the next season's crop is so much fun!  We love going through the catalogues, admiring the photos, thinking about the upcoming seed starting and transplanting efforts.

Here are some of our tried and true, favorite cooler weather plants we like to have started by mid September.  The links will take you to either a description or catalogue page. 

Don't forget to download our Urban Farming book from Amazon with all the secrets about gardening, coop building, hens and more by clicking here!

Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Chives & Lettuces
Also known as rocket, arugula with her bitter, earthy flavors is one of my favorite winter plants.  Excellent on sandwiches, in salads or by herself, arugula is easy to grow, hardy and a must for every Urban Farm garden.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Arugula
Famous heirloom varieties, both Mary and Martha Washington varieties were developed around at the beginning of the twentieth century for greater disease resistance. The 1930 Ferry catalog states that Mary Washington asparagus is  "A vigorous growing and productive asparagus bred to resist the disease known as asparagus rust". Mary is a Martha cultivar with oval tipped stalks and comes highly recommended by most asparagus growers.
Another well-known heirloom variety, use dating to just after the Civil War in the Americas but earlier in Europe, Calabrese broccoli is a dark green plant, twenty to thirty inches in height, producing fist-sized central heads, and many side shoots until frost. Noted for her texture and flavor.
Use a variety of Broccolis, cultivars including Belstar, Premium Crop, Packman, Gypsy, Major, Nutribud and Waltham all produce large amounts of food.
An 1820’s heirloom variety, the three inch, round, golden beet bulbs are known for their desirable sweetness. Golden beet’s unusual color adds to her versatility.  Very sweet beet.
The early 1900’s heirloom Early Wonder Beet produces well before the other full-sized beets, has medium to tall size tops that can be harvested and served as delicious greens. Early Wonder possesses a deep red color and rich, hearty flavor.
Deep crimson, dark red, vigorous growing beet producing ample greens. Red cloud beet is know for her resistance to bolting.  She can be harvested throughout most of the growing season.
St. Valery Carrot is an 1885 heirloom carrot and, according to James Vicks’ 1924 catalog, is the "best and most handsome main crop carrot. Enormously productive, very desirable for private gardens as well as for markets." St. Valery has ten inch roots and a strong sugar content (sweet).
The New Kuroda carrot is a strong preforming hybrid, exhibiting a deep reddish orange color. Kuroda may be used as the main carrot crop as it produces well on most small homesteads and growing operations.
Adelaide is a Dutch hybrid know by its more popular common name, Baby Carrot.  Easy to grow and a solid producer, Adelaide keeps its texture and fresh, sweet flavor longer than most carrots.  Very sweet carrot and great for salads.
Long Island Brussel Sprouts is an 1890 heirloom dwarf brussel sprout variety growing on average to approximately two to three feet depending upon climate. The Long Island Brussel variety can set up to one hundred sprouts per plant and was considered the primary commercial variety for years.
Early Jersey Wakefield has been considered one of the best varieties of early producing cabbages for several hundred years of homestead agriculture.  Early Jersey is a 1840 heirloom variety growing to approximately three pound.  She exhibits a pale green leaf color and can be planted close together. According to DM Ferry in 1930, "this most excellent variety is the earliest and surest heading" and one that resists yellowing.
Another cabbage variety highly resilient to yellowing and splitting, Quick Start hybrid is a strong grower, one that can be planted close together in raised beds and relied upon for steady production of three pound cabbage heads.
Danish Ballhead is an 1887 heirloom late fall, blue-green producer. Danish Ballhead was originally introduced by Burpee Seed and has been a popular variety for years.  This cabbage keeps well in storage.
Mills says that Mammoth Red Rock 1880 heirloom cabbage is the “largest of the red cabbages and the most sure heading, also the best for pickling". Mammoth Red had reddish purple leaves and produces a five pound plus cabbage head.  Strong producer and stores well.
This 1890 heirloom cabbage heirloom variety was introduced in the mid-1800's by P. Henderson, president of Henderson Seed Company.  Early snowball cabbage is a reliable early producer of firm texture.  Very popular variety among urban farmers.
Bright Lights Swiss Chard is a stunning plant, certainly desirable for garden appearance but most appreciably important because of her delicious taste and reliable food production.  Leaves are bright deep green, moderately savoyed with veins of stunning bright warm and hot colors, most commonly red, orange, or yellow.  Developed by Johnny's Selected Seeds, this variety is perfect for the smaller garden or those gardens looking to capitalize on visual effect.  Bright Lights is highly recommended by both judy and myself.
Fordhook, while not as visually stunning as Bright Lights, is a reliable performer producing strong and plump white stalks with savory, bright green leaves.
As with Bright Lights Chard, Pink Lipstick offers amazing bright pink-red color. Use Pink Lipstick Chard in salad mixes for color and taste.
This 1890 heirloom cauliflower heirloom variety was introduced in the mid-1800's by P. Henderson, president of Henderson Seed Company.  Early snowball cabbage is a reliable early producer of firm texture.  Another variety popular variety among urban farmers.
Another great cooler weather plant, Starbor Kale is perfect for raised beds because of her beautiful blueish-green hue, firm leaves, great texture and compact growing characteristics. Greens can be eaten cooked or raw in salads.
An 1885 heirloom variety previously referred to as Tuscan Black Palm.  Dinosaur Kale offers large, rounded, succulent greens. Plants are hardy, exhibit vigorous growth habit and are popular among urban farmers as a crop that will feed the family.  We have grown Dinosaur Kale reliably for years.  Greens are good either as a salad component or cooked.
One of my favorite urban farm Kales, the Ethiopian variety will produce like none other.  Very tender and tasty and very drought tolerant.  Grows well in raised beds and seems to be root-knot nematode resistant.
Kohlrabi is also known as a ‘cabbage-turnip’ and the Grand Duke Variety produces a larger, non-woody edible part.  Very interesting plant for the garden and reliable producer.

Excellent pre-Civil War heirloom Kohlrabi variety.  According to DM Ferry Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi can be considered "early with small top, the leaf stems being tinged with purple. Bulbs of medium size, purple; flesh white. Desirable for forcing and early outdoor planting."  Another excellent vegetable for the urban farm homestead, preforming will in raised beds.
Leeks are an important part of all urban farm gardens.  Lincoln leek is a long , succulent variety that can last for much of the year.  Used in salads, stir fry and other dishes.  Here in the south, established leeks offer good winter color and texture to the urban farm garden.
One of my favorites, this variety is evergreen, drought tolerant and produces well year around.  Offers brilliant white flower spikes.  This is probably one of the most hardiest of the urban farm plants, almost always reliable to out-preform any other crop.
Beautiful red-green, crisp standard lettuce, this variety is a cornerstone of any winter garden in the urban core.  Asian red thrives when picked, producing more and more throughout the season. 
Another popular lettuce variety, especially in Europe, year-round lettuce is as what her name states, a reliable producer except in the hottest of climates where she does best grown in the shade.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Lettuces
Ours favorite mix includes; Green Ice, Midnight Ruffles, Black Seeded Simpson, Simpson Elite, Matina Sweet, Buttercrunch, Red Velvet, and May Queen varieties.  Perfect for adding color and a variety of textures to salads.  The urban core farm animals love lettuces too.
A 1949 heirloom, mild radish, Cherry Belle is a standard for urban core farming.  She will produce up to one inch in diameter radishes, perfect for salads and snacks.  Another reliable producer, Cherry Belle is a standard for urban core farms and gardens.
A mid-1800’s heirloom, this white radish has her history in reliable production and ease of growth traits.  Wonderful, narrow, finger-like radishes they are perfect for salads.  Serve crisp and cold.
A 1920’s heirloom and described by James Vick as a spinach that, "grows about ten inches high. Large deep green leaves, thick and tender, with rounded tips."  Giant noble spinach needs cooler weather but will faithfully give the urban farmer plenty of tasty greens for both salad and cooked dishes.  
Tyee spinanch is a slow to bolt spinach growing well in raised beds and intense urban core farm settings.  Tyee spinach leaves are smaller than Giant Noble but heavy producers.  Good companion spinach plant to grow alongside with Giant Noble.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Lettuces
Borago officinalis grows to approxiately two to three feet in height and loves the cooler weather.  I’ve grown this plant successfully on urban core green roofs and in urban farm homestead raised beds.  The bright blue and purple flowers are visually an eye-opener and are often used as garnish for vegetable and fruit salads.  Good urban farm plant selection.
Standard pickling plant and herb, dill is an extremely drought tolerant urban farm plant with many culinary uses.  Our rabbits love the fresh picked leaves and the tall but tiny yellow flowers serve as an excellent attractant for pollinators.  Grows well in dry, neglected areas across the urban homestead.
An All America Winner in 1992 and introduced by W. Atlee Burpee Company, Fernleaf Dill exhibits a more compact growth habit than most of the other, sprawlingly large dill varieties.  Fernleaf dill is perfect for container growing or planting in heavily used raised beds.  As with the standard dill varieties, Fernleaf Dill provides good drought tolerant production as well as tasty culinary uses.
Fennel is popular for her licorice or anise-flavored seeds and bulbous base, both used in cooking.  Fennel is also a choice pollinator plant and brings a spray of light airy green to the urban core farmstead.  
An awesome landscape perennial, Bronze Fennel brings visual and culinary benefits to any urban farm garden.  Highly sought after by several Lepidoptera species, this hardy fennel can be used in cooking or as a tea.  Bronze fennel will grow about three to four feet high depending on climate and soil conditions and adds beauty and flavor to the herb patch.
A relative of oregano, marjoram is slightly sweeter and enjoys the cold weather.  She is very drought tolerant and her smaller leaves can be used to flavor meat dishes.  Marjoram is also used ethnobotanically in the Caribbean as a tea plant for both stomach and respiratory issues as she possesses an strong aromatic quality.
Standard flat-leafed parsley is a mainstay of urban core farms.  Used in Italian and Mediterrian cooking and for a variety of other uses (including keeping garlic fumes repressed in healthy diet breath), flat-leafed parsley is also sought after by many butterflies as larval food.
Curly parsley is a very hardy cultivar of the parsleys, reliable and useful as garnish, in soups, salads or to flavor meat dishes.  As with flat-leaf parsley, curly parsley is commonly used in Mediterranean dishes such as tabouli, hummus and other dishes.