Monday, December 19, 2011

Tasty Containers - Just Add Edibles!

Container Gardening With a Tasty Twist - Mix Fruits and Vegetables With Flowers

With a new year approaching, we’re talking about what’s new in landscaping, and one answer is good enough to eat! Edibles in containers will be hot this spring but you can start now if you have a sunny window ledge, a few pots and some seeds.

Zach Lieven, landscape architect and maintenance specialist at David J. Frank, reports that more and more plant growers are including fruit and vegetable plants in their container “recipes” and also developing compact hybrids that do well in small growing environments. Forget the sad-looking upside down tomato plant; new varieties and combinations are making container gardening a tasty, rewarding and beautiful option.

Some of the most attractive containers are those with plants of differing sizes, colors and textures, and edibles fit well into these combinations when combined with colorful annual flowers. Think about the tall, fern-like foliage on a carrot, the interesting twining habit of grape vines or bright bunches of hot peppers – these and other edibles have unique foliage or fruit that works well with annual flowers. The result is a big statement in a small space – a dual purpose container that appeals to the eyes and the appetite.

Start with the right container – large enough for a healthy root system but not so big that you can’t move it if it needs more sun later in the season (six or more hours a day) or if it’s threatened by frost. With fresh potting soil and good drainage, you’re ready to plan and plant.

 With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as “Spacemaster” cucumbers, green onions, baby carrots, radishes, pole beans or loose leaf lettuce, or crops that produce for a long period of time, such as cherry tomatoes and hot peppers, are perfect when paired with bright annuals. Easy care, attractive herbs also work well in containers with vegetable and/or flower containers. Rosemary, purple basil, garlic chive and more look and smell as wonderful as they taste.

Don’t stop with vegetables when fruit also grows well with flowers in containers. Mix red annuals with strawberry plants to enjoy both blossoms and fruit, or plant a glossy, fragrant dwarf lemon tree in a container for easy over-wintering. Another hot fruit plant is the blueberry; it has pretty blue-green foliage and white spring flowers, then yields a huge crop of tasty berries for easy summer snacking. When planted with white or purple annuals, blueberries make a beautiful, bountiful container garden.

Make the most of your sunny space and get more from your containers. Planting edibles with your annual flowers is a smart, beautiful way to utilize small spaces and a practical choice for anyone who appreciates the flavor and convenience of homegrown produce.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Growing UP...with Green Roofs

milwaukee green roofIn urban developments where most of the land is covered with bricks and asphalt, landscaping has only one place to go. Up. All the way to the top, with green roofs becoming a popular and important part of the new Milwaukee landscape. And David J. Frank is at the top of this trend, offering a full range of sustainable and environmentally friendly services. Jeffrey Miller, a landscape architect and project manager with David Frank, recently completed the largest green roof on any public building in Wisconsin – the new live roof at UWM’s Golda Meir Library.

green roof buildersCollaborating with the construction team and university officials, Miller (right) supervised the installation of nearly 50,000 square feet of green space atop the Library. Far more than just a layer of plantings and soil, a green roof is a complex environment that includes a waterproofing and root repellant system, drainage system, filter cloth, lightweight growing medium and plants like sedum. More intensive designs can include traditional garden elements, like raised vegetable beds, annual pots or perennial flowers, walking paths, seating areas, rainwater harvesting systems and more. Regardless of the scope of the plan, every green roof must be painstakingly designed and installed within specific weight and water management criteria for safety and sustainability.

golda meir library roof
planting on roof

According to Miller, the benefits of this and other green roofs easily justify the investment. Incentives for building owners and developers include:
- Energy savings through a reduction in AC use and costs;
- Storm water management by reducing storm water run-off and incidences of combine sewer overflow;
- Improved air quality by reducing air borne pollutants;
- Mitigation of the Urban Heat Island Effect for more efficient use of energy with fewer emissions;
- Positive perception of the facility as environmentally friendly makes the building/business more marketable.

The green movement at UWM is largely credited to Jim Wasley, Associate Professor of Architecture. With his students, he developed a Stormwater Master Plan to minimize the amount of polluted rain water that was pouring off roofs, over pavement and into Lake Michigan in the heavily developed campus community. Today with the help of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and David J. Frank, Wasley’s ideas are growing – literally – and expanding the role of landscaping in areas where there is little land.

To date, David J. Frank has brought its environmental expertise to more than a dozen major green roof projects in the Milwaukee area, including those at Bayshore apartments, Park LaFayette, Landmark on the Lake and MillerCoors. Watch for more great projects and landscape innovations in 2012!

bayshore apartments green roof green roof by fish wall
park lafayette rooftop garden landmark on the lake roof

Each week, staff members from David J. Frank's six branches and specialty divisions all meet to discuss the latest company and green industry news. This green roof is one of many special projects managed by landscape architect Jeffrey Miller, who just returned from the 2011 CitiesAlive conference in Philadelphia and welcomes your questions about green roofs and walls.