Bringing More Green Roofs to Omaha

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You’d be hard pressed not to see a daily newspaper article or a story on the evening news about some aspect of going “green.”

Going “green” is often in the context of building and developing new public and private infrastructure that is less taxing on the environment from both a construction and ongoing maintenance standpoint.

Green roofs (or perhaps more accurately put, “vegetative roofs”) have been around in Europe for years, but have only recently started to catch on here in the United States.

Photo by Dr. Richard Sutton, UNLSuch roofs offer a number of potential benefits over standard roofs.

Image Credit: buildingscience.com

The growing medium and plants that comprise the green roof provide insulating and water retention benefits, in addition to prolonging the life of the roof membrane — a standard item on both a green roof and a conventional roof.

With those and other potential benefits, why are there not more green roofs here in the U.S.?

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is an organization based out of Toronto that serves as an ambassador for green roofs. They are a recognized leader in facilitating information exchange, education, and promotion and development of green roofs.

In October 2007, the City of Omaha and Douglas County teamed to bring a local market development symposium, produced by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), to Omaha.

The purpose of the event was two-fold.

First, to provide a basic education and understanding of green roofs, and second, to identify obstacles and barriers to green roof use in the Omaha metropolitan area.

From that symposium a local committee, subsequently named the “Green Roof Working Committee,” was formed with the intent of taking that information and coming up with action plans that could address the aforementioned obstacles and barriers to green roof use.

The committee has been meeting monthly since February, and has divided its work up among six subcommittees: Stormwater Design Manual, Covenants, Building Codes, Appraisal and Financing, Outreach and Education, and Overall Policy Development.

While basic education is needed to show builders, developers, and others the benefits of using green roof technology, the real hurdle to getting more green roofs built is really money.

Green roofs cost more to install because there are more components, but green roofs are projected to outlast their conventional counterparts two- to three-fold.

It follows that lenders, insurers, and others associated with the building industry will need to develop policies that apply specifically to green roofs rather than relying on the standard practices associated with conventional roofs.

The Green Roof Working Committee’s charge is to identify successful policies and practices from around the country, and facilitate the implementation of appropriate policies and practices in the Omaha area.

Categories: Green Buildings

Starting Your Own Orchard

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Starting an apple orchard can be a lot of fun, but will also be a lot of work.

Many days, maybe even years of work may pass until you pick apples.

The one constant your crop is at the mercy of mother nature.

There are many variables an orchard designer has control over: site selection, apple variety, ultimate tree size and tree spacing. However, the weather, bugs and disease are working against you.

If you can keep your apple trees happy, they will provide apples for you. Keep your apples happy and they will make your customers happy.

Site selection

When looking at a site for an orchard, seek ground that has good water drainage and does not lie low in the terrain. These low areas can become frost pockets, in other words, cold air settles in to low areas.

Fruit trees flower in the spring. A late freeze will damage the flower, thus reducing the crop.

Ripening happens in late summer until first fall frost. Frost/freezing can ruin the crop of those late ripening varieties.

Try to choose a site that will not be a frost pocket. If you own land that could be susceptible to untimely frost, choose varieties that bloom late and ripen early.

Stark Brothers Nurseries & Orchards Co. has a bloom and ripening chart for the different fruits that they sell. These charts will help determine those varieties that may do will on your site, in your region.

Finding varieties

Now, given the restraints of your site, your varieties need to be selected.

After considering your frost times, both spring and fall, under-stand that not all apples varieties will grow in Nebraska. Your local nursery will have done that portion of the selection process for you.

There are some 7,500 varieties in the world, 2,500 in the US, but only 100 commercially produced varieties. Pick the varieties that ripen when you want them to; August to November.

Select fresh, baking, saucing or cider varieties. Opinions will vary on what is the perfect apple. Keep in consideration that some varieties of trees will have some disease resistance to Cedar Apple Rust and/or Fire Blight while others have no resistance.

Pollination

Another consideration is cross pollination of flowers.

All apple tree flowers will need to be cross pollinated. In the typical home owners 2 tree orchard, those two trees will need to pollinate each other; in a commercial setting with multiple varieties of apples, pollinating is not an issue.

You can choose apple trees of different varieties but they need to be blooming simultaneously.

Crabapples can also pollinate regular apple trees. Bees can only do their part if pollen is available at the needed time.

Understand, each variety of apple has slight differences in growth characteristics and vigor. These differences vary greatly in the overview of all apple varieties.

Size matters

With an orchard site and varieties picked, you will need to determine the maturity height you want: standard trees (20–40’), semi-dwarf (15–30’), or dwarf (10–18’) trees.

A fruit tree is a grafted, asexually propagated tree. The root stock and above ground portion (scion) are of two different trees. The union of these two parts is called a graft. The degree of incompatibility in that union is the dwarfing agent.

Dwarfing root stock along with the vigor characteristic of each variety will dictate the tree’s ultimate size. These factors will help determine the spacing of trees in the field.

Dwarf trees may be as dense as 300 to 1000 trees per acre. Semi-dwarf trees might be 100 to 300 per acre. The higher the density, the larger the cost, the larger the harvest and therefore the larger the work load.

Overly simplified, trees convert sunlight to fruit, the more sunlight captured, the more fruit produced.

Maintenance factors

Modern high density orchards require more intense trimming. Dwarf fruit trees in orchard settings are easier to trim at eye level versus a lift needed to trim some semi-dwarf and standard sized trees.

Dwarf trees, because of the density, will “cover” better with less chemical spray. All commercial orchards are sprayed weekly throughout the entire growing season. Organic orchards share apples with the bugs.

Modern high density dwarf apple orchards require that all trees must be individually staked.

Staking is not necessary in a regular and semi-dwarf orchard. Staking and training is a must to prevent the dwarf apple tree’s fruit load from breaking branches, not to mention the effects of brutal Nebraska winds. This staking or “trellis system” will cost more than the actual trees themselves.

There are different methods of tree training. Your trellis or staking system will dictate which pruning system you will use. Vertical axis, vase or slender spindle are some of the high density tree training methods.

Production

Because dwarf trees start to produce early, dwarf and semi-dwarf trees tend to get planted more than standard sized trees. High density dwarf orchards are not common in the heartland due to high start up costs and low land cost. Costing 4 to 5 times more than semi-dwarf orchards, dwarf orchards are usually found on the east and west coasts where land prices are much higher.

In our “pick your own” orchard setting, Trees, Shrubs and More, Inc offers a modern high density dwarf apple orchard.

We have 8 varieties of apples ripening from Ultra Red Gala’s in early September to “BraeStar” Braeburn apples in mid to late October.

These trees are trained to a central axis system in a single system with overhead wire and post trellis. Spacing allows for a lawn like grass bed between tree rows.

At Trees, Shrubs and More, Inc., we have plenty of apples, plenty of parking and plenty of smiles.

New Plants for Salsa at Wenninghoff’s

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The Wenninghoff family has been growing and selling farm fresh produce in Omaha since the Great Depression. We have seen many changes in eating and buying habits and have tried to change our plantings accordingly.

This year, with the increase in home cooking and gardening, we are trying several new items with an emphasis on salsa. We are adding Roma Tomatoes which are a meaty tomato. They produce a lot of tomatoes per bush and also make a great tomato for salads. We are adding Cilantro along with other herbs.

Wenninghoff’s will be increasing our product line of peppers to include the ones mentioned in this article plus all of the different kinds we have grown over the years. Most people think of only using jalapeno peppers for salsa. That is like only using only one kind of seasoning on your grilled meats! We encourage people to try using different peppers for a more exciting salsa.

This year we are growing a very hot banana pepper called “Inferno”. It looks like a regular hot banana pepper, but it really packs a punch! Habanero’s are very hot and a beautiful orange color and a compact plant.

Another new pepper that we are trying is “Sunsation.” Most bell peppers start green and turn to red as they ripen. “Sunsation” turns to a deep yellow and they are very sweet.

Since salsa does not have to be hot, we are also trying a pepper called Marcato. It is a sweet Italian Roasting pepper. That should add an interesting flavor to any salsa.

We will begin planting as soon as the soil warms and hope to have a bountiful “salsa” crop by summer. Hope you can come see us. We are located at 6707 Wenninghoff Road, right off of Sorenson Parkway west of Immanuel Hospital.

Categories: Harvest