Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 3 Hort Students Condensed

By Martha Todd:

In the past two weeks the plants have started to arrive and thus the dirty work begins! We began by categorizing the plants that had come in by which wall they were assigned to and then to the different types of holding containers. Wall 1 has containers that hold 6 plants each while wall 3 containers carry 16 plants. The next step was to create the soil mixture to put in the modules with the plants. The soil was a mixture of mulch, rocky and sandy dirt, and added nutrients in the form of beads.  After this was completed we planted everything that had come in and continued to do so as new plants came in on different days.

During the last class we weeded the plots that were located on the roof ground and planted tomatoes and bell peppers, typical summer crops. The plants that grow from these ground plots are typically very healthy and produce an abundance of fruit and vegetables so it will be interesting to see if the same pattern is repeated for the summer crops that were just planted.

My favorite part about this directed studies class was that I was outside of the traditional classroom engaged in a project that could become a common feature on buildings and houses everywhere in the country. Before I took this class I had no idea what a green or living wall looked like; however, this class has taught me about sustainability, urban issues, and basic research skills while the whole time never having to study for an exam or open a book. It’s all hands on. I wish more classes were like this one because after this class I want to focus on sustainability as a career and study more of the ways that green walls can impact energy levels, communities, and the world around us as resources become more scarce and we as students must find solutions to overcome these obstacles.

 

By Nicole Forbes:

The semester is coming to a close and so is this semester on the green roof! This semester flew by so quickly. I have not got to do much on the roof this end part due to finals and group projects but I still got some stuff done!

One of the things we did a lot of these past couple of weeks was mixing the old sandy, gravelly soil with fresh potting soil and Osmocote to give the new plants more sustenance and nutrition. We did two parts gravelly soil with one part fresh potting mix with sprinkles of Osmocote throughout the mixture. Hopefully this will allow the plants to grow better than the ones that were on the walls in the past.

Nicole blog 3 photo 1

We also began to put the plants that we bought into the wall modules. We only did four per module even though there are eight spaces to give the plants room to grow into the rest of the module. We will be getting a few more plants in the next couple weeks and I plan to help with that also. That’s really all I’ve done in the past month on the roof. I’m looking forward to going up in a few weeks and seeing how the plants are fairing.

Nicole blog 3 photo 2

 

By Ivan Mendoza:

The last couple of weeks we have been taking down the green walls in preparation for the new plant material coming in. Green wall 1 was taken down first. The modules were taken down individually. All the medium and old plant material was removed from each module. Once all the modules were taken down they were rinsed out and cleaned. Green wall 3 was the next one taken down. These modules were a little bit heavier and bigger than the modules in green wall 1. They were more tedious to remove due their size and structure. The medium and old plant material in these modules were removed just as well. All the old medium was placed in trash cans were fresh soil was mixed with it. Following osmocote (slow release fertilizer) was applied to the mixed soil. We used this soil for the modules removed from green wall 3.  The new plant material was inserted in each of these modules with the mixed soil.  Over the last couple of weeks we have also been harvesting any plant material that has needed to be harvested. The strawberries that have ripen over the last couple of weeks have continually been harvested. The rest of the edibles have continued to be harvested as well. We have also removed any weeds that have developed in the edible modules over the last couple of weeks. This is my last blog for the semester. I have really enjoyed taking this course. I’ve learned a lot over the course of the semester through researching and hands on application. I look forward to hearing how the new plant material does on the green walls in the summer.

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Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 2 by Nicole Forbes

Spring is here (well as close as you can get to spring here in Texas) and with it has come a revival of plant and crop life! The mint has come back with a vengeance and some of the other plants that were looking dreary are greener than ever!

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Zane and I presented our green roof crop research at Student Research Week the week after Spring Break. It was an awesome and rewarding experience. It gave me experience both in poster making and presenting research to a group of judges, I hope this experience will help me in future research presentations.

Nicole blog 2 photo 2

Other than Student Research Week, we have continued harvesting and have begun to take down the living walls. There is not too much to report this time, but we will be redesigning the living walls and planting new crops and plants. I will also be looking after the crops over the summer after I get back from a month trip to Costa Rica! I’m looking forward to finishing the semester out!

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Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 2 by Martha Todd

Three weeks ago we harvested some of the crops that had grown on the plots of dirt on the roof of the building. Many of the spinach and parsley plants had a bountiful harvest and much of what we measured was marketable with little defect or holes in the leaves from insects. After the measurements were recorded the team and I began to record the number of plant species that were still living on the three walls. Most of everything was dead as we think the plants may have received too little irrigation. However, all of the succulent plants on the first wall were surviving, not thriving, but indeed were all alive.

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On April 10th the team and I learned what species of plants we were receiving for the living walls such as Mexican Petuna and Japanese sedge. Depending on the cost of the plant, the availability, and the predicition that certain plant species may thrive better than others, we ordered more of certain plants than others. After deciding the quantity of each plant, our next business was to decide how they would be arranged on the wall. For wall 1, we decided to go in an organized pattern for 5 plant species making sure that one of each plant species was placed on each horizontal and vertical row. The resulting pattern was one of diagonal stripes by the time we had completed the placement. For wall 3 we decided to follow the same pattern with a different set of 5 plant species, however, we then randomized by switching the order of the rows and columns to make sure there was a degree of randomness in plant order. Wall 2 has not been decided on yet. In the next month as the plants begin to arrive we will begin planting them based on the diagram constructed and see how they flourish. Questions we will be looking to answer are: Does placement on the living wall correlate to the ability to thrive? How do some species respond to the irrigation system verses others?

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Wall 1 in the background and showing the height parsley has reached.

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 2 by Ivan Mendoza

The last month we have seen a lot of our edibles bloom out and flower as well as produce edible fruit/foilage. All the wildflowers and bluebonnets around Texas A&M University campus have blossomed as well during this time period. We have recorded the marketable biomass data of our edibles over the last several weeks. Our colleagues within the greenroof course have presented this data during Student Research Week to judges, students, among anyone who was interested. We have collected the most marketable biomass from Lettuce (Butterhead) the past month. The following is the rank for the amount of marketable biomass collected from the edibles: Lettuce (Butterhead): 2458g, Kale (Beira): 973g, Parsley (Italian Giant): 779g, Parsley (Curley Leaf): 309g,  Arugula:  300g, Kale (Tuscano): 300g, Broccoli (Arcadia): 242g, Spinach (Emperor):  168g, Radish (Easter Egg): 122g, Kale (Red Russian): 60g, Cilantro (Chinese): 56g. The last week or so we have continued to keep the modules free from ants and weeds to encourage maximum growth for the edibles.  We also have started bringing down the plant material on living wall 1. We will bring down the rest of the plant material on living walls 2 and 3 except for the succulents, strawberries, and any other material that looks alive.

Ivan blog 2 photo 1

Ivan blog 2 photo 2

Once the new plant material comes in, we will plant them in the modules and bring down the old plant material. We will be planting warm season edibles.

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Indian Blanket has bloomed along with the succulents the last couple of weeks.

Ivan blog 2 photo 4

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 1 by Nicole Forbes

I’m back again for my second semester working on the Langford Green Roof Project! It has been an awesome experience to be a part of this while watching the plants grow and new ideas transform. I really have not got to do too much yet this semester as weather has been bad and I was in Costa Rica for a week, but weather is supposed to be getting better so hopefully next blog I will have more to report. Zane and I will also be presenting a poster at Student Research Week after Spring Break which should be a very rewarding experience. I will be sure to get pictures for my next blog!

My first day back on the roof was really cool to see. I assumed with the weather being so cold over the winter break that most of the plants would not fare so well but I was thankfully mistaken. Many of the plants grew very well on the roof modules. The lettuces and herbs did very well (except for the bell pepper basil, all of that died out for some reason), especially the parsley. I think a roof of parsley and mint would grow exceptionally well here in Texas year round and would create a beautiful green garden that can be used for cooking also! The living wall was disappointing, however. Mostly everything died out or is looking very bleak, with exception to the garlic and shallots which seem to be doing fairly well. I am hoping some of the mint recovers and grows back, but only time will tell.

It was also very interesting to see how some crops did well in certain spots, while in others they did not survive. I saw this with the turnips, beets and red kitten spinach. There are many reasons as to why this occurred, but I lean more towards three explanations:

  1. Irrigation – Something is going on with the irrigation system and plants are being watered unevenly
  2. Sunlight – Different spots on the roof get different amounts of sunlight which is affecting growth rates
  3. Nutrition – Some spots received more fertilizer than others

As we approach the planting season for summer crops, these are the crops that I think we should plant:

  1. Herbs – I think we should plant more of the herbs that did well (parsley and mint) and I think we should also try cilantro and dill, both of which grow very well at the Howdy Farm on campus and I would be curious to see if they do well on the roof also.
  2. Broccoli – I know we planted some in the fall but I am curious to see if it would do better in the spring as broccoli likes direct sunlight (which there is plenty of on the roof) and has a moderate maturity rate.
  3. Cabbage – With how well the lettuces did, I really would like to see how cabbage fairs. However, cabbage has a much longer maturity rate so I am not sure if that will affect the decision.
  4. Bush beans – These mature quickly and I think they would be really cool to try and grow.
  5. Lettuce and spinach – These did well so I think we should try them again in the spring to see if they grow well during this time also.

 

Below are pictures from the first day back on the roof!

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Nicole photo 3

 

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 1 by Martha Todd

The first week of class we began harvesting and weighing vegetables that were growing in modules on the roof. I was surprised at how healthy and plentiful all the vegetables were. There was a variety of crops too, including Italian parsley, cilantro, spinach, and even turnips! It was interesting to notice though how the crops on the ground had done so well; however, the plants on the wall were all dead with an unknown specific cause. It is possible that the plants on the wall could come back after winter but little growth was noticed throughout the weeks even when we trimmed the ends of the plants in order to spur new growth. It could also be due to the restricted space the plants are given as they are seated in small pockets along the roofs walls or due to a lack of or surplus of moisture. We hope that over the semester to identify what the problem is and correct it in order to ensure better and healthier plants that can live year round.

Now the planning remains as to what plants should replace those that are dead. After an excellent presentation by Professor Dvorak, who introduced me to the famous botanist Patrick Blanc, I could visualize what our goal was on the top of the Langford Architecture building. We need to find plants that are evergreens and can live all year round and find crops to grow on the modules that rest on the ground of the roof as opposed to the other plants that grow vertically along the wall in pockets. Some of the edibles I would like to plant in the ground modules are rosemary, tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, and cilantro.

Finally, there is one more side to the project and that is using sensors to track some of the plant’s growth and how they are doing in the given living conditions. Dr. Conlee and his students came and together we programmed sensors that can sit in the soil with plants that will be growing on the wall. Eventually we hope that this data will help the class to make conclusions on the influence of a green roof on albedo levels as well as the amount of long wave and short wave energy that is being transmitted

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Spring 2015 Blog 1 by Ivan Mendoza

Howdy. My name is Ivan Mendoza. I’m an undergraduate senior in Horticulture. I am taking this greenroof experimental course so that I can see which plant species thrive in this area of Texas on green roofs. As a perspective landscape architecture student, I’m hoping I can use the knowledge I gain from this course and hopefully apply it to future landscape and commercial designs. When we started this spring semester, we had edibles in place on modules which were planted last spring.  We also have 3 living walls in place. The first living wall has succulents and sedges in place, the second has strawberries, mints with some other perennials, and the third has a mixture of perennials. The first day we recorded inventory of the number of edibles for each species that was still alive on each module. The majority of the edibles that were planted last spring did fairly well, except for Basil (Bell Pepper), Chinese cabbage (Rubicon), Radish (Easter Egg), Turnips (Hakurei) and a couple of varieties of other species. The growth size of the edibles that did well varied across the modules due to external factors (light, water, wind, etc.)  Following, we harvested the edibles to have them regrow new foliage and recorded the data.

Ivan photo 1

Ivan photo 2

 

We have also cut any flowers that have been growing on the edibles so that they focus their energy more on growing. Slow release fertilizer has also been applied on these edibles which has helped them grow as well. We have been focusing on which edibles we are going to plant later this spring as well as the perennials we need to replace on the living walls (especially living wall 3). We notice that rosemarinus officinalis, ficus pumila, and artemesia “powis castle” are some the species regenerating growth on living wall 3. We have been trying to figure out why the other perennials on living wall 3 have not done so well. We do not have any information collected to try and narrow down the problem. We will come up with a list of edibles and perennials to plant on the modules on the roof and on the living walls.  This class has been very interesting so far and I am excited to see what our proposed plant species do in the future.

Living Wall 3

Ivan photo 3

 

Living Wall 2

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Living Wall 1

Ivan photo 5

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Fall 2014 Blog 3 by Nicole Forbes

Blog #3 – December 10, 2014

The weather for the last part of the semester has been true to Texas, bipolar and hard to predict. It has varied from being beautiful one week to being unbearably cold the next. Through this roller coaster of weather, we fixed and placed the sensors that collect data on the living walls. In addition, we took plant counts on the living wall that we planted with numerous herbs and strawberries and the green roof module that we planted with food crops and herbs. I am happy to report that most of our plants are alive and well, I just hope to find them the same way once the winter is over!

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I also decided to include some of my own research in this final blog. As I was researching wetland plants for one of our living wall modules, I stumbled upon the idea of a roof pond. I found this idea very intriguing as we live in a place where air conditioning is very important in the summer (aka it gets HOT here). Roof ponds help with decreasing the impact of direct solar heat upon the building and actually help cool the building as when water evaporates, it absorbs heat from the surrounding environment to get enough energy to cause evaporation. Roof ponds would be a beautiful edition to a green roof as you could plant water plants in the pond. I find these ponds very interesting and am going to continue researching them further.

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This is my last blog for this semester, but I will hopefully be returning to the roof and blog next semester as I have thoroughly enjoyed this project!

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Fall 2014 Blog 2 by Nicole Forbes

Blog 2 – November 18, 2014

We have gotten a lot done in the past two months. After completing inventory on and weeding the green roof modules, we took the best of the plants out of the two rooftop sections and consolidated them to the left side of the roof. Below: the top photo is the process of moving the modules and the bottom photo is the finished product.

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The next weekend, we directed seeded and transplanted numerous food crops, including strawberries, kale, beets, spinach and many more, and watered them. We have not done much else with those modules after planting besides watering them and covering them with blankets when it is cold. Below: the top photo is the section after direct seeding and transplanting and the bottom photo is them covered up in preparation for a cold night.

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Our main focus this portion of the semester has been one of the living walls. We took inventory of the plants, living and dead, and then removed all of them. We transplanted strawberries first, alternating whether we diapered (wrapping the plants roots and soil in a cloth) and undiapered (putting the plant directly into the pocket with the soil) and placing the strawberries in straight lines based on type. Below: the top photo is the cart full of strawberries and the bottom photo is the finished product of our strawberry transplant.

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We then transplanted mint, onion, and garlic, along with direct seeding numerous types of lettuce and other vegetables in the remaining sections of the greenwall. We chose a more random approach to placement this time around as well as deciding to diaper all of the plants. Below: the top photo is a sprout of the lettuce we planted and the bottom photo is the wall in its entirety.

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I look forward to completing the semester and hopefully continuing my work next semester!

Green Roof Experiential Learning – Fall 2014 Blog 1 by Nicole Forbes

Green roof modules at the beginning of the semester, fall 2014

Green roof modules at the beginning of the semester, fall 2014

Weeding and plant counts, fall 2014

Weeding and plant counts, fall 2014

Blog 1 – September 29, 2014

My name is Nicole Forbes and I am a student for the HORT 485 class aka The Green Roof Experiment. The objective for us in this course is to maintain and collect data on two green roof sections that are made up of many smaller modules and the two living walls. We are trying to establish what plants grow best on roofs in Texas, in hopes of being able to further expand this project successfully throughout the state.

The first portion of this course has involved removing and counting invasive weed species that have overtaken some of the modules and then taking inventory on the surviving plants. It has been a grueling process but will be very informative on which plants will thrive on the rooftop environment. We are also preparing to plant numerous crops in about a week. I am very excited to see how the crops fare and am hoping we can find crops that flourish on the roof. One thing is for sure, it is difficult to find plants that can survive on a rooftop in Texas.

Below are a few pictures I have taken of the roof so far. The top picture is of a few of the modules that have recently been weeded and inventory has been taken. The bottom picture shows our set up for when we work complete with our own tent and fan for when we need to cool off. You can also see some of my fellow students weeding and taking inventory.

This has been a very interesting learning experience and I am excited for it to continue!