To say that it’s been a warmer-than-usual July and August in Ohio would be an understatement. It’s also been a relatively dry summer for us, which has led to a lot of hand-watering of garden plants and doing whatever we can to stay cool. There are many other areas of the U.S. and Canada that have also been experiencing record high temperatures this summer, partially due to the effect of weather patterns like El Niño.

And according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for those living in urban areas with more than 1 million inhabitants, the air temperature can be 1.8° to 5.4°F hotter than nearby, more rural areas, regardless of the weather patterns. Rural areas have more shaded or moist surfaces, which tend to remain cooler, while city roofs and paved surfaces can measure 50° to 90°F hotter than the air temperature, according to the EPA. It calls this the “heat island effect.”

So what does this have to do with the greenhouse industry? Well, one of the key ways to mitigate the effects of these so-called “heat islands” is the incorporation of more plant material into the city itself, creating a cooling oasis. Plants help reduce temperatures, clean the air of pollutants, and create a more comfortable environment for the city’s inhabitants, the EPA says. However, it’s often tough to find adequate spaces that can sustain plant life in these densely populated areas. As mentioned above, we’re looking at a space that’s hotter than other nearby, more rural areas, that may lack natural water sources and may be unprotected from the elements.

Green roofs are also a viable way to reduce the effects of heat islands. The EPA defines a green roof as “a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop” and lists many benefits, including cooler temperatures (they can be even cooler than the air temperature); reduced energy use and pollution; improved human health and comfort; enhanced stormwater management and water quality; and an overall improved quality of life. The popularity of green roofs has been increasing in recent years as more people see the advantages of incorporating them into urban areas.

But not all plants are well-suited for tough environments like roofs. And that’s where experienced growers like Ed Snodgrass of Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants come in. Formerly a more traditional wholesale grain farmer, Ed expanded into the green roof plant growing and consulting business in 2004. To date, Snodgrass has consulted and provided plants for nearly 8 million square feet of green roof space. This niche market isn’t for everyone, though. Find out what it takes to run a successful green roof plant operation here.

Karen E. Varga, Editor

216-393-0290 | Twitter: @Karen_GIE