Gail of Green Living

Houston’s Arbor Day, 2012

Apache Corporation donated the trees and 2500 volunteers planted them on January 21, 2012.  What an awesome tree planting project for a city that lost so many trees in this summer’s drought!

Houston Arbor Day Tree Planting


Grow Grass on the Roof!

Yesterday I was in a doctor’s waiting room, and as I started to sit down, I noticed the building below had grass growing on the roof of the parking garage!  I’ve seen this in other cities, and I’m sure there are more places in Houston, but this was my first time to see it in the Medical Center.  This building is for the Bi0Science Research Collaboration, an innovative space where scientists and educators from Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research that benefits human medicine and health. More than just a building, it is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional catalyst for new and better ways to collaborate, explore, learn and lead.  The building has Silver Level LEED certification.

I’m sorry the picture quality is so poor, but I had to take the picture through a window.  It appears to me that there are two kinds of prairie-type or natural grasses growing on the roof.  This is insulation for the building.  It is a wonderful way to eliminate or reduce street flooding as the rain is absorbed in the sod.  And street flooding is a huge issue in the Medical Center streets!  Just last week, we received over 5″ of rain in a morning, and floodgates were dropped in front of several of the parking garages, forcing many people to not be able to get their cars out.  But why would they want to get out anyway?  Those who were out, were getting their cars destroyed by water!  Those people were in the best place ever at the time.

Many challenges due to flooding have been addressed since Tropical Storm Allison dropped about three times this much rain in a night of June, 2001.  Braes Bayou has been widened in several areas to increase capacity.  Residential neighborhoods have had their storm drain capacity increased, water lines replaced and new streets built since Allison.  Insurance companies along with FEMA have revised their flood zone maps, which has required more people to carry flood insurance for their homes.

And the Medical Center has developed flood gates to be dropped in entrances to prevent water from reaching basements where valuable research is being performed, patients are being treated, and some basements are part of the parking garages.

Last week was a great test to see how things are working, and I believe as long as life and property are saved from floodwaters, we can tolerate street flooding.  Parking spaces are so valuable in the Medical Center that the top of most parking garages is more parking space.  But the grass growing there would surely absorb many, many gallons of water and save it from flooding the streets.

Tell me where you know of buildings or homes with grass or other plant material growing on the roof.  What are the benefits in that location?

Heat It Up!

There are a few weeds in my compost!  They keep coming up; they do not care if there is a drought or a freeze.  Weeds are relentless!  I did some research this morning to see how I can minimize weeds in the future.


The USDA and the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension Service have some solutions:  (1)Add a microbial source. Top the organic layer with a 1-inch layer of soil or completed compost. Doing so delivers the microbes needed for decomposition and reduces the leaching of mineral nutrients during the composting process.

(2)  Add nitrogen, either as ammonium sulfate or manure works, too.

(3)  Water each layer (I do that regularly), and make sure it isn’t soggy.

(4) Give it air.  Punch holes in the side of it.  I find turning it incorporates air into it.  Turning is supposed to keep the temperature more uniform.  The center of the pile should reach about 145 degrees F.  With the proper temperature, the volume is reduced, odors dissipate and those pesky weed seeds die.  For some reason, mine has not been getting there!!

(5)  If you do get weeds, pull them out before they have a chance to go to seed.


“I’ve turned over a new leaf” on this project by turning, adding ammonium sulfate and more watering !  Are there other ideas I’m missing?