Landscape Architects and Designers Help You Avoid Expensive Mistakes!

August 13th, 2015

While I acknowledge that I’m the type of person who wants to know “everything” and research the “double hell” out of everything I do, there are many things I either don’t have time for or don’t have enough interest in to get down to the really fine details about.  Choosing the proper plants for a site specific micro-climate, integration of watering, nutrition, PH, soil weight, and drainage creates a complex matrix of possibilities that can make your head spin.

Having said that, probably like you since you’re reading this, when I do the research I want to buy as direct as possible.  But believe me when I say: make a conscious decision not to use a Landscape Architect for larger projects because you WANT to go through the learning process, or because you have already been through the school of hard knocks, not because you want to save money.  Mother nature is miraculous for making overwhelmingly complex systems naturally simple and available.  However, an extensive container garden or green roof is a totally artificial environment vs a back yard.  You are trying to mimic nature and chances are that over the long run you won’t save money on larger projects.  I don’t want you kicking yourself later.  There, somebody had to say that.

As in back-country powder skiing and mountain climbing, you don’t get all the information from a book.  It takes years of experience to understand local conditions and seasonal changes to stay alive. The same is true for your plants.  When property owners and customers of DeepStream Designs contact me about large planter projects directly we make a conscious effort to direct them to at least consider the services of a Landscape Architect.  Believe me, if you have even a medium-size project, the slight mark up they may put on products in addition to their fee is money well invested if you, or your project, are the type that can’t live with expensive and time consuming false starts.

Planters: Modular construction makes custom planters possible

August 13th, 2015

DeepStream Design’s modular planter design means that any aspect of the planter can be customized for any location.  Whether it is material or size, almost any special need can be accommodated.

 
Large modular L-shaped planter installation in progress. Prefabricated modular design aids delivery to difficult locations, speeds installation, reduces labor, minimizes transportation and setup as well as clean up and removals while being backed by a Lifetime Structural Warranty.

Large modular L-shaped planter installation in progress. Prefabricated modular design aids delivery to difficult locations, speeds installation, reduces labor, minimizes transportation and setup as well as clean up and removals while being backed by a Lifetime Structural Warranty.

 

DeepStream Designs modular 31" tall 4 section Ipe wood planter with plastic liners

DeepStream Designs modular 31″ tall 4 section Ipe wood planter with plastic liners

DeepStream Designs 3 section modular 31" tall large Ipe wood garden planter

DeepStream Designs 3 section modular 31″ tall large Ipe wood garden planter

 

Standard waterproof outdoor speakers can be hidden under a standard planter liner in a planter with 31″ high legs at moderate cost.

Some installations call for more. Here are pictures of one such set of custom planters, part of a larger custom project, where the Designer needed special 12” subwoofers hidden in the planter.  Using a longer extrusion, for a higher leg, we were able to place the large subwoofer in a custom enclosure under the planter liner.  

finished-speaker-planter

Finished planter

speaker-suspended-under-liner-support

speaker mounted under liner support straps

completed-planter-liner-above-speaker-box

looking down into planter liner with drain that lines up with port through the speaker, drain hose and top caps to be mounted on site are inside, foot caps temporarily caping legs during final assembly

 

We started with the specifications from the speaker company regarding the optimum volume and material for the speaker box required for the best sound quality.  Using a special waterproof weather resistant material that met the speaker company’s resonance specifications, we built a waterproof speaker box that would retain the exact optimum interior volume after we added the necessary waterproof pass-through ports for drain and drip irrigation lines. 

custom-speaker-box-with-drain-port

The height of the planter box was a result of the critical foot print dimension specified by the Landscape Architect and Interior Designer.  Their design called for the planter to sit exactly on top of a specific paver size that would have a conduit for hidden power and speaker cables ported through a hole in its center.  With our custom capabilities we were able to give them the exact installation they needed for both the speaker and the liner, with the necessary drainage and root depth that the specified planting called for.

 

While we usually outsource custom planter liners, in this case we built liners in house. Using sophisticated composite technology from the yachting industry, we were able to ensure that there would be absolutely no give to the liners and that they would be waterproof for a century, even if a careless landscaper used a shovel to dig out the plants at some point in the future.

speaker-planter-liners-under-construction

  

Click to view more pictures in our Picasa Web Albums

Drainage: Drowning, the #1 Killer of container-grown plants

August 13th, 2015

Water in, water out.  Simple, right?

This article is dedicated to those who think it is best to understand the costs and benefits of  advanced drainage system alternatives before installing plants in containers, but it is also appropriate for any container gardeners.  For those of you who have not had the benefit of  walking the trade show floor at a Landscape Architect conference, or who did so without this aspect in mind, I will introduce high-tech alternatives that I am incorporating as options into planters I design for DeepStream Designs.  Click: for printed instructions on drainage.

DeepStream Designs wood Mariner garden planter with plastic liner and optional trellis

DeepStream Designs wood Mariner garden planter with plastic liner and optional trellis

As a Developer and Property Manager who has had to deal with drainage problems in large containers, and at properties with lots of medium-sized planters, I can tell you it is an expensive, time-consuming, and demoralizing task to deal with poorly draining planters that ultimately have to be dug up and remedied.

As prevalent a role as solar gain-induced thermal shock to root systems plays in stunting or killing container-grown plants, drowning them is even more prevalent, at least in rainy climates.   Water-soaked roots can kill a plant in less than 24 hours, whereas baking and steaming roots in a single-wall planter or pot can take weeks, or even months, before the plant finally succumbs.

Here in Florida, storms can dump 6″ of rain in just a few hours, so it is easy to overwhelm a poor drainage system, and you can literally see containers overflow the top.  However, long periods of drizzle and gray sky, conditions found on the west coast, combine low evaporation with soaking soil which also subtly builds up fatal water levels in containers without an effective drainage system.

The primary reason for water build up is a malfunctioning watering system, combined with a drain clogged by dirt or roots, NOT too small a drain.  Given that a planter filled with nothing but water 6″ deep will drain at the rate of about a cubic foot per minute through a 3/4″ opening, no amount of rain alone will overwhelm a properly functioning planter drain.  Single-point drains of this size are convenient to use for inconspicuous controlled planter drainage systems on balconies, roof tops, and courtyard patios.  The key to making this work over the long-term is technology and design.

DeepStream commercial duty planter liners

Proper drainage is the element that the container industry is least likely to talk about, because it is relatively complex and is not readily “packaged” for sale.  Making potential customers of larger pots and containers aware of drainage issues is seen as a negative sell, so it is brushed off with instructions to “Drill a couple of more holes in your pots.”   This is an area in which I believe DeepStream can bring great added-value to its customers.

With that said, the advice to drill more holes falls into the “Just because they said it doesn’t make it not true” department.  It is, in fact, the most cost-effective approach for smaller, easily re-potted plantings that you can lift out, in pots which slope evenly outward as the pot wall moves towards the top.  This simple classic form facilitates the removal of the plant to clean out blocked drainage holes without damaging either the pot or the plant.  Essentially, you are pre-planning for blockage by increasing the size of drains that will be clogged.

When considering drainage for larger planters, and which planter forms to purchase, the first step is drain location:  Realize:  YOU WILL HAVE TO DIG UP YOUR PLANTERS SOMETIME! 

Yes, that’s the dirty secret.  It is inevitable.  The question is: how long can you go between major events.  Does 10 to 15 years sound good?  Then  read on.  Even though drainage issues can often be fixed with the plants in place if the planter liner is properly designed, as DeepStream’s are, it is much more convenient to avoid them, and less costly over the long run as well.

If you have read the Blog article on Planter Design, or looked in-depth at the DeepStream Designs’ website planter section, you may remember that the reason I ended up designing free-standing planters was to avoid the structural problems associated with built-in planters:  waterproofed planters built into buildings with poured concrete will at some point succumb to settlement cracks,  as well as drainage issues.  Even the best sprayed, rolled, or troweled-on concrete liner systems I have seen will leak at some point in time, and digging in them doesn’t help.

So if you have plans for specimen plants, or are planting trees that will grow too large for workers to lift by hand, make sure you have crane access to lift the trees, or some way to get fork lifts or other types of equipment like tripods in to lift the plants out of the planter for repairs, or to bring in new ones should major plants die.  Avoid building or buying planters or liners with drains in the bottom where you will have to remove large plants to get at them.  Install a vertical 2″ PVC pipe up to the final soil level, with a removable top to keep soil out, before filling the planter with soil so that you can pump water out in an emergency before the plants drown.

When considering free-standing planters, and larger planter liners hidden behind a decorative facade, keep them small enough to work on.  Break the planted area up using multiple overlapped liners, rather than one big liner with one point of failure and lots of plants to remove to find the problem, or to die in the event of a catastrophe.  It is not just the cost of the plants to consider, but also the considerable disruption and effort to find and remedy the problem.  There is also the mess to clean up, and the potential for cosmetic damage to the building by workers during the process.

The second step in drainage is starting with the right soil mixture, both for the plant as well as for the building weight limits, as we often find on rooftop and balcony projects.  You are looking for soils that will hold nutrients, PH, and moisture within fairly specific ranges that best suit what is being planted, while at the lowest possible weight.  Very seldom is “dirt” just dumped into a container.  This soil selection process, done right, eliminates much of the problem caused by “fines”, the small clay-like particles that block filter membranes.

The third consideration is filtration and root blockage.   A planter is really just a shaped French drain.  Small particles of clay (fines) are carried by the gravity-induced water flow downward towards the drain.  Unfiltered, these fines will block any filter membrane in a remarkably short time.  The standard way to create a rough filter well area is to fill the bottom of a planter or pot with a few inches of gravel over a bottom drain.  One of the key design factors of the DeepStream planters is that it uses a liner, within a decorative facade, that not only prevents solar gain, but also hides drip irrigation lines and the drain.  This is important in aiding filtration because the drain does not need to be limited to the bottom of a pot.

DeepStream’s liners locate the standard 1/2″ drain a couple of inches up the sidewall creating a “well” below the drain.  Fines tend to settle down into this “well”, as water flowing towards the sidewall drain tends to be very slow under most circumstances, so most fines gradually work their way to the bottom.  The well also acts as a small water reservoir for the larger roots.  DeepStream’s standard drainage system includes a 4″ by 6″ drain board (think of a thin, uncrushable egg crate covered with geo-textile covering) to increase the drainage surface area.  The drain board comes hot-glued over the drain.  When adding the plants to the planter, be sure not to compress this drain board against the side of the planter wall with a force or a hard root ball, or it will act as a perfect seal against the drain and stop all water flow.  Additionally, there is a roughly 2 sq ft piece of weed block fabric to be folded over and placed over the drain board as further protection against penetration by roots.

DeepStream commercial grade recycled plastic liners, drainage board, weed block, Bio-Barrier

DeepStream commercial grade recycled plastic liners, drainage board, weed block, Bio-Barrier

DeepStream Designs commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet

DeepStream Designs commercial grade recycled plastic liners with drain well and threaded outlet

Weed Block, as geo-textile is often marketed,  is a misnomer.  The “30-year commercial landscaper” variety you see at the large home centers will have roots growing through it in less than 2 years.  That said, it still helps delay the inevitable, and DeepStream still provides it with the standard drainage kit.

It is highly recommended that the geo-textile fabric is kept in place by the very important filter of at least a 2″ thick covering of very clean, very coarse sand of between 1 and 2 mm particle size.  For reference, the wire of a medium paper clip is 1 mm.  While very coarse sand is hard to find, it is the best filter, although it does nothing to block root penetration.  Masonry or playground sand is too fine and will compact and prevent drainage; pea gravel lets too many fines through, and they will block the filter fabric.  One good and available material, though not perfect, is Paver Base found at Home Depot.  Most of the grains are large enough, but it still has a lot of fines in it.  The well in DeepStream’s commercial grade planters is plenty deep to handle this without clogging the drain.

While not ideal, paver base is available nationwide at a large home store and is a reasonable drainage material to slow the water flow given that DeepStream Designs planter liners have a sump below the drain to catch the "fines"

While not ideal, paver base is available nationwide at a large home store and is a reasonable drainage material to slow the water flow given that DeepStream Designs planter liners have a sump below the drain to catch the “fines”

 

Technology Enhanced Filtration:  Two Steps

The most important aspect of new drainage technology is in preventing root blockage.  DeepStream now offers an optional  root control fabric, BioBarrier (TM) with a plastic-embedded non-systemic herbicide, with a lower toxicity than table salt or aspirin, that creates a 2″ thick root deflection zone around the drainage material by preventing root cell tip division.  The product, guaranteed effective for 15 years, has been used as a weed control system for more than 35 years in agriculture to prevent weed growth between row crops.  Now, with proper filtration, one should be able to go 15 years without digging up a planter, usually a job performed every 2-3 years in heavy rainfall areas.

Giant sports stadiums and golf courses, with millions of dollars at stake if drainage failsm use high-tech crush-proof mats of plastic tubing covered with geo-textile to ensure a large drainage area and directed water flow to prevent damage to grass and delays in play caused by flooding.  DeepStream now offers this same advantage in its single-point directed flow system uniquely adapted for balconies, roof gardens, interior courtyards and other areas where drainage control is required.   This is lighter, more effective, and allows for deeper planter medium than less effective gravel systems.

Click to view more pictures in our Picasa Web Albums

Large lightweight garden planters for roof gardens and balconies

August 13th, 2015

Lightweight and cost-effective, multi-section garden planters by DeepStream Designs can help integrate green rooftop and balcony landscaping into more projects.

 

Reducing the weight of structural components allow for more plants and planting medium.  The structural integrity of DeepStream’s planters are guaranteed to last for decades and the marine finishes keep them looking great.

 

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

 

DeepStream has two systems of proprietary lightweight aircraft aluminum extrusions to provide structural frames for wood or recycled plastic lumber that will last for decades.

 

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

 

DeepStream Designs lightweight modular multi-section garden planters detail: Marine anodized aluminum legs and aircraft aluminum frame backed by a Lifetime Warranty

DeepStream Designs lightweight modular multi-section garden planters detail: Marine anodized aluminum legs and aircraft aluminum frame backed by a Lifetime Warranty

 

This modular system allows for long straight runs of unlimited length, accommodates right-angle corners, and can include gates, trellises, privacy walls, railings, large panels, or any combinations of features.

 

DeepStream Designs garden gate mounted on two recycled plastic lumber  Mariner Planters

DeepStream Designs garden gate mounted on two recycled plastic lumber Mariner Planters

 

DeepStream Designs Anti-Gravity wall system with acrylic panels designed for 145 MPH winds at a building in Alaska

DeepStream Designs Anti-Gravity wall system with acrylic panels designed for 145 MPH winds at a building in Alaska

Designed with modern architectural lines, these modular planters are available in standard 21”, 31” & 42” heights, with economical custom options available.

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

 

 

Engineered to last for decades, DeepStream’s lightweight garden planter systems use separate internal liners and filter packs that prevent drain blockage.

DeepStream Designs stock plastic garden planter liner

DeepStream Designs stock plastic garden planter liner

 

 

DeepStream Designs stock plastic garden planter liner made from recycled LDPE shown with the components of our drain pads which promote effective drainage

DeepStream Designs stock plastic garden planter liner made from recycled LDPE, shown with the components of our drain pads which promote effective drainage

 

 

The liner-within-a-planter design not only provides a crucial thermal break to prevent root ball stress, but they also facilitate hiding irrigation, drainage, and lighting infrastructure

DeepStream Designs wood multi-section planters with stock recycled plastic liners have a Lifetime structural warranty

DeepStream Designs wood multi-section planters with stock recycled plastic liners have a Lifetime structural warranty

 

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter and plastic liner detail

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter and plastic liner detail

 

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

 

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

 

Planters are quickly assembled on site by even inexperienced sub-contractors using just a screwdriver.  Landscape contractors can pre-plant liners to speed installation while reducing labor, cartage, and clean-up.

DeepStream Designs multi-section garden planter aluminum frame detail

DeepStream Designs multi-section garden planter aluminum frame detail

 

 

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter and plastic liner detail

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter and plastic liner detail

 

Each project has custom assembly instructions using keyed versions of your drawings and photos of your actual planters taken during test assembly at our manufacturing facility.

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

DeepStream Designs light weight wood multi-section planter with plastic liner and Lifetime structural warranty

 

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

800 feet of DeepStream Designs light weight modular multi-section planter system, shown on a roof deck in midtown Manhattan, is made with maintenance free recycled plastic lumber

Your project is manufactured, erected, labeled, disassembled, bundled, and crated to allow for cost-effective delivery to even the hardest to reach construction sites.

Container Gardening: Planting Mix vs. “Dirt”

August 13th, 2015

At DeepStream Designs we know from the projects we work on with Landscape Architects across the country how important using the appropriate planting mix is when growing perennials, trees, and bushes in large containers where repotting these heavy items with complex root systems is going to be problematic.  Getting it right the first time is well worth the effort.

Often clients use their “Landscaping Contractor” for this work, this may be a good solution if the contractor has extensive experience with container gardening, otherwise that could be a mistake.

Why?  Because Landscapers are used to planting in the earth, using “dirt” or “soil” that may be too heavy for the load on a roof or balcony, may prevent proper drainage or contain clay fines that can block drains, may hold too little or too much moisture, or might not contain the correct PH and initial nutrients for the plants that you’re going to use.

There is no universally correct planting mix.  There are micro–climates in most geographical areas that need to be taken into consideration.  This requires an intimate local knowledge of the complex relationship between all the competing factors for beneficial plant growth and maintenance.  Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you have a reliable source for your planting mix.

We have posted a blog on the long-term cost benefits of using a Landscape Architect for even small commercial projects but you still need to ensure they have container gardening experience.  Another reliable source may be the nursery where you are sourcing the plants.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that your Landscaper or other source has the knowledge necessary to provide the planting mix without asking about their experience with container gardening and what mix they propose to use.  Vague or generic answers should be your clue that you need to investigate further before proceeding.

By all means, make certain that whoever does the planting follows DeepStream’s instructions regarding planter drainage using drain pads and filter material.  Many “old timers” fall back on gravel and holes in the bottom which will soon clog.

Remember that most of DeepStream’s stock planter liners come with just one threaded drain hole. This is only the minimum, since some installations are inside and require the hole to be plugged or drain pipes attached.   One hole means one point of failure with no backup.  More drain holes may be required by your installation and may drilled by DeepStream at no charge if you tell us where you want them to be installed, or you may easily do it in the field with a hole saw.

Wooden Garden Planter Design: lowest cost of ownership vs lowest initial price

August 13th, 2015

While wood on wood planter construction will last 3 to 5 years, DeepStream’s Mariner garden planters are engineered with marine anodized aluminum legs and aircraft aluminum frameless design to last for decades, giving the lowest cost of ownership over time and are backed with a Lifetime Structural Warranty.

If you’re ownership or responsibility for the building where planters will be placed will last more than 5 years, give serious consideration as to what it will mean in terms of cost and disruption to go back and replace or repair planters, especially on rooftops and balconies, every 3 – 5 years.

7 yo Mariner planter before

7 year old unmaintained planter before sanding

7 yo planter after

The same 7 year old wooden planter after sanding .014″ off the face and re-waterproofing

 

Wood on wood planter construction uses carpentry techniques that fasten wood to wood, and planters tear themselves apart with the expansive forces that wood exerts through repeated wet and dry cycles.

wood-1314ae  wood-1320a1

 

Why? Each wooden plank, cut from a different part of the tree or even different trees. This means each plank has its own differential rate of expansion, splitting, and warping when wetted. This makes dimensional stability using standard wood-on-wood construction in two dimensions impossible to maintain over time, and shipbuilding techniques and maintenance are far too costly for planter construction. In addition, most wood planters lack adequate isolation from the soil and the deck or sidewalk, which promotes fresh water rot.

For centuries, wood dowels have been inserted into holes drilled into rock, then soaked with water. The expansion force of the wood is thus harnessed to crack blocks off marble and granite for construction, even though the blocks are hundreds of times thicker than the thin wooden dowel.

DeepStream uses proprietary marine anodized legs and stainless steel fasteners to clamp the wood and direct the expansionary so that the wood can expand and contract at different rates without affecting the planter’s structural integrity.

corner-detail

DeepStream’s Trademark proprietary extruded leg design is engineered to direct the woods expansionary forces preventing structural failure while making restoration quick and cost effective for decades of use in high visibility locations for the lowest cost of ownership over time

 

7 yo cleaned up Mariner leg

Virtually blemish free 7 year old proprietary marine anodized aluminum leg after simply wiping down with mineral spirits

 

 

The commercial grade rigid plastic liners, mounted on an independent aluminum frame, contain the soil and prevent contact between the soil and the wood.

Container Gardening: commercial grade garden planter liners

Container Gardening: commercial grade garden planter liners

 

Aluminum legs are protected and galvanically isolated from a wet deck by using plastic, HDPE, feet.  Even stainless steel fasteners are galvanically isolated by using a proprietary di-electric paste so that they may be removed easily years later to replace parts or refinish the planter easily as shown in the before and after pictures below of a 7 year old planter that only had the original coat of factory waterproofing and no maintenance.  This “fresh” look was achieved by sanding off just.014” of the planks exterior.

 

7 yo plank before and after sanding cr

Before and After: planks from the same 7 year old planter after sanding and before re-waterproofing

Selecting and planting your Garden Planter Liners

August 13th, 2015

DeepStream’s advice for garden planter liners & planting containers

1st Consideration: Liner shape and drain placement

  1.  Tapered shape makes for easy repotting and saves money shipping.
  2.  Rugged commercial grade 3/16″ walls from UV-stable, 100% pre-consumer recycled low-density polyethylene will last decades and unburden landfills.
  3.  Side wall, not bottom drain, aids drainage and is threaded for proper drainage and drainage systems accessories required by some locations.
  4.  There is a water reservoir below the drain for the tap root while providing a place for “fines” or clay to settle to prevent drain blockage.

Container Gardening: commercial grade garden planter liners

The second step in drainage is starting with the right soil mixture

  1. You want your container to drain well and be moist but not hold water, do not use “dirt” and any material with clay which will block drains.  Perlite is a good light weight additive as is very coarse sand if you need weight to prevent toppling in high winds but not fine “beach” or “mortar” sand.

The third consideration is filtration and root blockage

  1. geo-textile fabric and drain board to provide filtration and space over drain.
  2.  BioBarrier (TM) with a plastic-embedded non-systemic herbicide, with a lower toxicity than table salt or aspirin, that creates a 2″ thick root deflection zone around the drainage material by preventing root cell tip division. The product, guaranteed effective for 15 years, has been used as a weed control system for more than 35 years in agriculture to prevent weed growth between row crops.  Drainage pads place it over the drain hole.
  3.  To prevent clogging you need to slow the water so that the fines in the planting medium settle to the bottom and not onto the filter medium. This is an integral part of the drainage system. Traditional pea gravel is too large and the water will flow rapidly to the drain and clog it with fines.  Fine sand will flow too slow and form an impenetrable layer clogging with fines.

 It is best to use a 2 to 4 inch thick covering of very clean, very coarse sand of between 1 and 2 mm particle size mounded over the drain filter.   For reference, the wire of a medium paper clip is 1 mm. “Paver Base” is an acceptable readily available alternative from most large home improvement stores and will work in our planter liners with a side drain as the well below it provides a place for fines to settle.

Container Gardening Video: selecting a garden planter liner

Container Gardening Video: preparing and planting a garden planter liner

Individual action against green house gas, thermal gain can make a difference

August 12th, 2015

As the sea level here in Miami rises faster than originally predicted just a few years ago, we at DeepStream Designs have put a lot of effort into providing a full range of garden plantersgreen wall grids, and hanging planters that can help reduce global warming by absorbing carbon, releasing oxygen, reducing both water usage and the solar gain that heats building walls, roofs, and surrounding pavement while reducing the energy need to cool buildings.  This is a virtuous cycle that reduces the fossil fuels used in electricity generation used to provide artificial cooling to the same buildings.

Container grown plants cool roof decks

Container grown plants cool roof decks

Railing mounted planter box on parking garage

Railing mounted planter box on parking garage

According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  According to estimates in the AIA’s Architects and Climate Change report, buildings represent 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and industry representing 27 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Some people argue global change is normal state, that there is no proof of human impact on climate change, it is just a normal process humans have no impact on.

 

Green Wall Garden Planter

Climate change may have normal cycles, but there is nothing historically normal about the human population explosion and the impact that their energy consumption and pollution has on the earth’s bio systems.  Many independent thinking people believe that the individual CAN make a difference.  However, working in conjunction with Architects we could do a lot more.

 

Not only do high concentrations of people in mega-buildings concentrate green house gas, but building these high-density buildings also increases the surface area on, if not of, the earth that can absorb heat.  It is not just office towers; residential condo towers are creating increasingly dense urban and coastal areas that contribute to the formation of “heat islands” and global warming by adding heat-retaining surface area.   Any city resident knows that it is often 10 degrees warmer in the city than the suburbs or rural areas around them.

 Green Wall Garden Planter

The Green Roof movement is great, but the ratio of wall to roof area is much greater on high-rise buildings.  If Architects designed balconies with drainage and water spigots built into their clients’ high-rise buildings, it would allow residents and offices to help offset their impact to a far greater degree both in terms of cooling and exchanging oxygen for carbon and absorbing other pollutants.

 

Successful landscaping and gardening on balconies and rooftops, especially of condo towers, has many challenges that residents with terrestrial gardens in homes don’t share, especially if the building Architect is not on the same page.  Balcony and rooftop gardening, however, can help offset the green house gas emissions and despite the difficulties in cooling these heat islands, it is a worthy endeavor within the grasp of individuals using low tech, renewable resources.

Container Gardening: Unique Watering and Fertilizing Needs

August 8th, 2015

Container gardening has unique watering and fertilizing needs because the containers are closed systems.  The needs of moderate or larger installations are best met with simple drip irrigation and fertilization systems which require no electricity.  Hiding the feeder lines for aesthetic reasons is one of the key features of the containers I design for DeepStream Designs.

While most plants do best with a consistent soil moisture content, many need to dry out between water applications.  Of course, some plants require special over or under watering applications.  A multi-valve multi-line drip system can use automatic timers to achieve both effortlessly.

drip irrigation control manifold

drip irrigation control manifold

Here is a picture of my manifold setup, which along with the drip irrigation on 4 circuits, was installed in a single  afternoon

To simplify your watering, it is best not to mix plants that may need different types of watering, fertilizing or soil in the same container.

While this concept can also be extended to root depth, in larger planters it can actually work quite well as trees or bushes with deep roots can benefit from the needs of flowers with shallow roots that dry out more quickly to be watered several times a day with a  topical water spray which can augment a deeper root drip application line fed by a line on a different timer.

Generally, I run at least two 1/2″ main lines to feed perimeter planters:  one for the deep-rooted plants watered by drip irrigation soaker hoses with emitters on 6″ spacings, and another with sprayer and/or misters that either hang from taller trees or bushes or stand on spikes.

In every case, I use in-line micro-valves on every 1/4″ feeder line from the 1/2″ main line to tailor the water delivery of each line to the planter, as the micro climates of each planter may vary considerably depending on exposure to sun and wind.

Delivering micro-doses of fertilizers on a consistent basis precludes the trough and peak delivery of single monthly doses of liquid fertilizers or the irregular dosing provided by slow-release coated dry fertilizers that depend on rainfall to dissolve.  Plants do better with this type of consistent feeding.

An advantage of installing different main line circuits for different types of plants is that a fertilizer injector system can be installed upstream of the valves.  Running one valve at a time, you can meet the needs of different plant types with different types and proportions of fertilizers with just the flip of a switch.

A visit to Dripworks’ catalog will give you a good overview of the types of products available that make this very easy, even systems that work on elevated rain barrels.

Reservoir Planter Liner

Self Watering Reservoir Planter Liner

 

Reservoir planters  and planter liners are another form of irrigation that will work when you have plantings with similar root structure and no running water.  These system use a bottom up water supply so if you have different plants, some with shallow roots that need more water and others with deep roots that need less they do not work as well as the top down found in nature.

 

Landscape Architect grade plastic reservoir garden planter available from DeepStream Designs

Landscape Architect grade plastic reservoir garden planter available from DeepStream Designs

Fiberglass, Concrete GFRC and Plastic Garden Planters

August 4th, 2015
 Readers of my blog are aware of my focus on products created with sustainable design principles that give excellent value for money and the effort that goes into bringing vibrant gardens to barren urban spaces in need of their beneficial cooling and air quality enhancing properties.  

Fiberglass garden planter

Landscape Architect quality Fiberglass planters available from DeepStream

While I created the square and rectilinear wooden garden planters sold by DeepStream Designs, there are other design and material options available from DeepStream as a national distributor of Tournesol Siteworks products for the past six years. Tournesol has an extensive product line of very high-quality commercial planters that have been used by Landscape Architects and commercial landscapers for more than 30 years.  

Fiberglass Garden Planter

Landscape Architect Quality available from DeepStream

If you need more options in terms of form and style, three of the best alternatives to wooden garden planters are fiberglass (and fiberglass reinforced plastic FRP), glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC), and LLDPE – a form of plastic. However, products manufactured with these materials run the scale from virtually worthless to the quality that Landscape Architects specify for signature projects.  

plastic garden planters

Landscape Architect quality plastic garden planters available from DeepStream

There are a lot of considerations that go into choosing the right planter for a particular location including: form, root ball heating, and drainage, as well as the inherent limitations of materials and construction methods.  You will find a detailed discussion of the issues with a lot of supporting pictures in my earlier blog entry, Garden Planters, so I’ll not repeat them here.  

 Fiberglass is an excellent lightweight material with which to create interesting planter forms.  Fiberglass planters that have the outer gelcoat infused with metal, which oxidizes over time, have long been a favorite of mine for their understated elegance.  You will find a myrid of forms and sizes available on the DeepStream website, and while there are four metal finishes, my favorites are the copper and bronze.

fiberglass garden planter

Landscape Architect quality fiberglass garden planter available from DeepStream

The Fiberglass planters we distribute are manufactured by Tournesol with expensive polyester-based fiberglass like we use in yacht construction, where the hull has constant exposure to water. This Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic, FRP, is fabric hand-laid in open molds, not the inferior and very weak chopped fiberglass sprayed into molds by many other manufacturers.

round fiberglass garden planter

Landscape Architect quality fiberglass garden planter available from DeepStream

Fiberglass is a lightweight, strong material made up of layers of polyester resin alternated with woven fiberglass mat.  The strength and durability of fiberglass depend upon the number of layers of resin and mat, and the weight of the mat. Because these planters are designed to withstand being outdoors, Tournesol typically uses the heaviest mat available and applies at least one layer more than most other fiberglass manufacturers.  To ensure the longevity of the planters, they are waterproofed with an additional layer of black gelcoat resin inside. 

fiberglass garden planter

Landscape Architect quality fiberglass garden planter available from DeepStream

Here are large movable rectangular commercial grade Fiberglass Planters provided by DeepStream Designs to the restaurant operator at New York City Rockefeller Center.  They rest on caster bases so that they may be rearranged to meet the operators changing needs and so that they may be rolled away to storage to change the area back into the famous skating rink for the winter.
Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Rockefeller Center: large movable fiberglass planters provided by DeepStream Design

Plastic Planters Another light weight material appropriate for even large commercial-grade garden planters is LLDPE.  LLDPE, linear low-density polyethylene, is a highly versatile plastic material known for its chemical and tear resistance.  Tournesol uses it for their rotationally-molded planters, and DeepStream uses it for its standard planter liners.

high quality rugged plastic garden planter

Landscape Architect quality plastic garden planter available from DeepStream

LLDPE is non-polar, which gives it great chemical resistance, but also prevents paint from adhering to the surface unless specially treated.  This lends the material a degree of graffiti-resistance.  For this reason, while black planter liners can be made from recycled material, planters must be made of integrally colored virgin material and pigments.  Our long-term testing shows that polyethylene exhibits very good environmental resistance when treated with a UV inhibitor as these products are.

plastic garden planters

Landscape Architect quality plastic garden planters available from DeepStream

Before I started building wooden planters, I chose the Tournesol’s Seacrest planters in LLDPE for palm trees shown here in the roof top garden of a building that I developed and now live in.  The planters are eight-years-old now, and they look as good today as the did upon arrival.  These strong double-wall planters have even been through a couple of hurricanes and, as you can see, the trees are doing very well.                    

plastic garden planter

Landscape Architect quality plastic garden planter available from DeepStream

This 48″ diameter by 30″ high double-wall 15 cu ft LLDPE planter shown above weighs in at only 150 lbs empty.

 Where heavier weight is an attribute not an liability, as in streetscapes, don’t overlook planters made with GFRC, fiberglass reinforced concrete.  GFRC, 6-7 time heavier than FRP, has the look of concrete, without the weight, and it’s even more durable.  
large concrete fiberglass garden planter

Landscape Architect quality GFRC concrete garden planter available from DeepStream

By adding long-strand glass fibers and woven mat to concrete, the strength of the material increases so the thickness can be decreased. This decreases the thickness by 60% (from typically 3” in cast concrete to 1” in GFRC) which directly reduces the weight by the same amount.  More importantly, the fiberglass eliminates the steel rebar that eventually rusts and breaks the planter apart from inside through a process called spalling as the rusting metal expands.

Cement garden planter DeepStream 89

There are two primary reason to choose GFRC planters.  First, they are very strong and rigid, and second, they offer the aesthetic choice of the two different finishes – travertine and acid etched.  The travertine finish has a rustic, puckered appearance.  The acid etch has a consistent, fine sand texture.  From one base material color, the two finish colors will vary because of the sand and aggregate exposed. All colors are integral to the material, so will effectively hide chipping and scratching.

Village GFRC Garden Planter DeepStream 83

Click here for more images of Landscape Architect grade cement GFRC, fiberglass and plastic  garden planters