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Growing Grapes Over "Green" Gravel Covered Roof

 
Dale Hodgins
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Growing Grapes Over "Green" Gravel Covered Roof

I really like the low maintenance and long term durability of green roofs. I've seen many that grow grasses and succulent plants. They go on for years with minimal care. But most don't grow anything edible. When they do produce food, it tends to be a high maintenance situation. It would be nice to have something leafy on the roof that won't need to be watered there or harvested throughout the season.

Grapes can be rooted in soil and grown up the side of the building and onto the roof. I have cut some very long grape vines from trees and from rooftops, so it appears that they can go quite a distance from the rooting point. There were grapes on one that was at least 60 ft. from the roots. Grape harvest is a late summer and fall activity.

Such a system would allow for a very simple roof covering. I like the idea of using a plywood base followed by a rubber liner, then some sand and pebbles on top. The roof would not need to retain any moisture, since the soil below provides everything other than sunlight. The grapes could be suspended above the gravel by placing blocks of cedar under the vines at regular intervals. The blocks sit on top of the gravel. Gravel gets hot in the sun and would tend to give the grapes an early start in spring. It also stores heat into the evening. By mid summer when temperatures peak, the gravel would be shaded.

I quite often have warm spring days followed by frosty nights. I wonder if heat of the roof may cause early flowering and subsequent frost damage ? The grapes I've seen on other roofs have been in the city and near the ocean where frost isn't so much of an issue. Lack of summer heat is more likely to plague grapes in Victoria where 80F is a really hot day. That won't be a problem on a hot sunny roof. There are wineries near me, so grapes are a proven crop here.

In contemplating how to shade walls and roofs in summer while producing a useful crop, I've poured through many choices of trees and vines. Grapes seem to be the simplest solution. If they can thrive in the extreme temperatures and produce consistently, I suspect that they will produce more value than the other choices.

Does anyone have other ideas of things that can be grown up walls and over the roof in a climate that receives a few weeks of snow each year ? I believe kiwi will not be hardy enough, but I do intend to try some. Any other ideas would be appreciated.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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We have a grape arbor around 3/4 of the house, and they definitely will climb over our asphalt roof without problem, even in 100f+ Grapes drop their leaves earlier than most deciduous trees. They are dropping right now here, just as we want a little more heat to get into the house.

Very productive, perfect cooling strategy. Only complaint is varmints love them - raccons, possums, squirrels, rats... plan for them.
 
John Polk
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At one point in history, large grape arbors were very common in the warmest sections of Southern California.
They were our best form of 'air conditioning'.

Shade the house all summer, while providing bushels of snacks, yet allow the winter sun in.
Great spot for the BBQ and a picnic table - we lived there all August/September.

And, yes, they do fine on the roof...just need judicious pruning if you want your roof to last.

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Yep - in Phoenix grapes also work - a grape vine covers the shade house that includes my propagation area, outdoor shower and henyard. I can literally take a shower AND eat grapes at the same time (so awesome).

But I will second the fact that the grapes attract a TON of wildlife and once they discover the fruit, they will eat it before we really consider it "ripe". This year I did not get a single "shower grape" - but rather, when I stepped into the shower anticipating sampling fruit from the 2 dozen bunches that hung just above me in the stall, all I stepped in was a sticky mess of empty grape skins. Looking up I saw bare skeletons where full bunches used to reside. And I heard the cackling laughs of our resident flock of peach faced love birds calling from Mesquite tree....
 
Dale Hodgins
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It's good to know that it's been done many times before.

I think my main challenge will be dealing with birds. I've seen netting used on grapes and kiwi.

John mentioned roof durability and the need for regular pruning. Grapes will wrap their tendrils around asphalt shingles and get into cracks in siding. I'm looking at running them up a trellis on a cob wall or a stone gabion wall, which should not suffer damage from tendrils. The rocks covering the roof would eventually get dirty. Are there other issues regarding durability of roofing materials ?

I'm also wondering about what pruned vines might be good for. I know about wreaths, but doubt that I will do that well enough to compete with cheap imports. I guess I should give it a try. If they could be banged out in 5 minutes, it might be fun.

Before reading Jennifer's comments, I didn't realize that my showers were so deprived. Now I want an outdoor shower covered in grapes, kiwi, strawberries and soap berries
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Before reading Jennifer's comments, I didn't realize that my showers were so deprived. Now I want an outdoor shower covered in grapes, kiwi, strawberries and soap berries


LOL -well I do like to stack my functions! The outdoor shower, which I've used nearly exclusively since it went in 5 yrs ago, feeds infiltration basins that grow those self same vines. And, I freely admit to adding my own "bio-fertilizer" as I shower. Why not? The water dilutes the urine and our soils desperately need the nitrogen. So I can get clean, have a snack and fertilize and water the grapes all while standing in one place =)

Yeah - that was probably TMI.

Dale - if you plant up some outdoor showers like that, I'm definitely going to sneak up to your place and shower during strawberry season!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Dale Hodgins wrote: I'm also wondering about what pruned vines might be good for. I know about wreaths, but doubt that I will do that well enough to compete with cheap imports. I guess I should give it a try. If they could be banged out in 5 minutes, it might be fun.


I've always wanted to do something like this with excess branches and grapevines - it is an idea rolling around in the back of my little brain.... (lots of room back there in my brain's zone 5!)

Also, if you google "grapevine crafts" there's a slew of them!
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Dale Hodgins
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Dale - if you plant up some outdoor showers like that, I'm definitely going to sneak up to your place and shower during strawberry season!

I'll set up the web camera . It's a pay as you go security system.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I'll set up the web camera . It's a pay as you go security system.


Duly noted and way to stack those functions and obtain an additional yield (for what it's worth - LOL). You may have stumbled on the "next big thing" in funding permaculture projects.
 
John Polk
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What to do with grape prunings?
Cut 'em to length, air dry them, then sell them for smoking meats.
This outfit sells them: $18 for a package that weighs "nearly 3 pounds".
(I doubt that you could get $6 per pound, but...)

Grape vine cuttings

 
Dale Hodgins
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Six dollars a pound would be great. Even in really shitty climates you can sometimes grow vines but not ripen fruit. Wouldn't be worth it, but a nice fantasy.

I watched a Sep Holzer video where he showed how his grapes grew well over a south facing rock pile. This seems like a similar environment, except that a roof will cool down much more in the evening.

I could also see planting grapes at the base of trees that are slated for removal. All of the smaller branches could be removed so that the grapes could grow to cover it with mo competition for light with tree leaves.
 
Angelika Maier
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Neat idea. I don't think that grapes would cause structural damage - other than ivy for example, if the roof is sound. You could even build a trellis over the roof to keep the vines at distance. You would have to inspect the roof from time to time and falling leaves might be a problem for the drainage. If you are just building your roof you could think of a structure that helps you to net easily in autumn (I don't know if there is an amount of fruit you can plant that the birds are so stuffed that they can't eat anymore).
Grape wine leaves are used for cooking like dolmades etc. you might either sell them prepared or like this.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Angelika Maier wrote:Neat idea. I don't think that grapes would cause structural damage - other than ivy for example, if the roof is sound. You could even build a trellis over the roof to keep the vines at distance. You would have to inspect the roof from time to time and falling leaves might be a problem for the drainage. If you are just building your roof you could think of a structure that helps you to net easily in autumn (I don't know if there is an amount of fruit you can plant that the birds are so stuffed that they can't eat anymore).
Grape wine leaves are used for cooking like dolmades etc. you might either sell them prepared or like this.


I think you're right about birds and their insatiable appetite. The fallen leaves will help in creating a duff layer on top of the gravel. A leaf blower could clear unwanted leaves and send them over the edge. Raking is to be avoided.

You mentioned the grape leaves --- My uncle in Niagara Falls Ontario had the city's largest accidental grove of a type of fruitless grape valued by Mediterranean cultures for the leaves. He had Lebanese, Greek, Italian and Jewish folks who regularly harvested leaves and pruned away at vines that constantly expanded beyond the 100 ft. chainlink fence and invaded the tree tops. All sorts of tasty lamb and beef dishes wrapped in grape leaves were dropped off. Whenever I pruned his trees a small amount of material was placed at the road as a beacon.

This thread is about a moss covered roof that has lasted a long time. I think grapes and moss could coexist. During the grape growing season, the moss is dry and dormant. Moss does well during the rainy season after grapes have been harvested. --- http://www.permies.com/t/29729/green-building/Dale-year-green-roof#231366
 
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