Friday, June 27, 2008

Hot Green Roof Action!

I was up in scenic Harford County, MD, last Saturday at the landfill (work-related) and I stopped by Emory Knolls Farm which is just around the corner.

The picture on the right is the primary workspace for all of the horitculture-type stuff going on. It's got a solar setup as well as a green roof that is pictured below, left. There were a ton of bugs flying around the plants when I was up there. That's a good sign for sure.

I have some green roof related duties at work and had heard about Ed Snodgrass and his farm and I was really interested in seeing it. A quick email later, I had an appointment to check it out.

Ed does green roof plants. Big surprise, his website is There is some pretty cool history of his family and this farm on the website. Click on 'about us' and start reading.

I have been on a gardening kick recently, probably from my green roof research, so I really geeked-out at Ed's place. My buddy Kent does solar stuff and I have learned a lot from him which helped inform my conversation with Ed.

Ed has got his entire back-lot operation off the grid. There's a big container next to his greenhouses with three 800 gallon tanks inside. The container is insulated and on this 85 degree Saturday, it was downright cool in there. The solar panels on top of the container power his pumps that bring water up from the well. Some float switches keep it from overflowing and he's got a small battery bank to store up some power for the low-sun days. The pic to the right is inside the container.

One cool thing he showed me was that he uses the straight current off the cells to power stuff, no inverter. He says that he gets much higher levels of efficiency that way. He's pointing to that in the picture. That's a big container of water behind him...

This is one of the green houses where Ed grows his plugs of sedum plants. Sedums are hardy succulents with great drought tolerance that grow in low-nutrient soils. Many have a significant tolerance to temperature change as well.

Ed has provided green roof plants for quite a few projects including plants for the Maryland Department of the Environment, Radio Shack World HQ in TX, US Dept of the Interior buildings and more. Almost all of them are listed on Ed's website.

If you get some time, check out the principles behind Low Impact Design for stormwater management. If you live in a watershed, you should understand your impact. This isn't touch-feely-hippy stuff, this is money-saving, intelligent stuff.

The American Society of Landscape Architects has a nice roof that has an interesting innovation. The plants are under some grates that allow you to walk around and hang out on the roof in the middle of the green roof while the plants, just underfoot, keep the roof cool and slow down the run-off when it rains.

Of course, you can't expect a guy like Ed to not be creative, right? He's known as 'Mr Green Roof' and he is passionate, for sure. Here is a shot of an old bathtub with some llama bones and his plants growing around it.

Hit me with questions. See y'all at the 12 hours of Cranky Monkey tomorrow!

Good article from WaPo about rock gardening, which is what I'm trying to do at home...


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