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edible forest rooftopgarden


name: edible forest rooftopgarden
type: rooftop garden
address: vlaamse steenweg 66 brussels 1000 belgium
gps location: 50.8517, 4.34583
dimensions: 20.00x17.00 meter
start date: 2010-03-05
end date: 2014-11-07
webcam: http://thoughtsandtalks.so-on.be/archives/1362
download information: http://so-on.be/SO-ON/OpenGreen/articles/forest_garden.pdf
more information: http://thoughtsandtalks.so-on.be

General description

The range of habitats in urban areas is surprising. Most of the major terrestrial habitat types are represented in towns and cities, either as remnants of previously rural environments, or as artificial analogues of semi-natural habitats.
In the OPenGreens project I'll focuss on two rooftopgardens located in Brussels’ city center, 400 m apart : an edible forest rooftop garden on top of a parking lot and a wild flower rooftop garden on top of an old warehouse.

Historical: the garden is built on the parkinglot in the center of Brussels. This parking is constructed on the site of a 15th century convent, a nunnary active in writing, copying, and gardening.
Het Brusselse regularissenklooster 'Onze lieve Vrouw ter Rosen gheplant in Jericho' wordt in 1456 (de akte dateert van 10 mei 1456) door de rechtstreekse tussenkomst van Filips de Goede, hertog van Bourgondië, en diens vrouw Isabella van Portugal gesticht door samenvoeging van twee communiteiten: het Catharinaklooster van de Witte Zusters, gelegen aan de Oude Graanmarkt in Brussel, en het klooster van de reguliere kanunnikessen van Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Cluysen in Eigenbrakel dat op 5 april 1456 door brand verwoest was. Enkele van de Witte Zusters uit het Catharinaklooster worden daarbij opgenomen in de nieuwe kloostergemeenschap Jericho. In 1490 gaat het klooster een spirituele associatie aan met de congregatie van Windesheim. In 1783 wordt het convent door keizer Jozef II opgeheven.

Ecological description

Untill recently the design of green roofs was based almost entirely on engineering considerations: it focuses on how they affect building performance through energy consumption and storm-water retention. We would like to focus on the role that green roofs can play in the conservation of biodiversity in the cities, their functionality in terms of habitats for wild plants, for insects (bees, solitary bees, wasps and ants) and for birds. Green roofs provide not only food habitats but also breeding habitats for those animals.

In the Open Green project, we want to research if a diverse flora develops on green roofs in inner cities and compare this development to similar flora growing under different conditions. By monthly observations of some permanent quadrats we will research the long-term vegetation dynamics on two large rooftops gardens in the inner city of Brussels.
We have created a variety of sunny and shady areas and we monitor the plant diversity in the different microclimates of the rooftop gardens. In our findings we take into account the different soil compositions : lava, crushed bricks and concrete, organic matter, homemade compost, volcanic tuff, native soil.

We make statistics of climatological factors such as temperature and rainfall to study how they affect the floral diversity. We also take the surrounding city vegetation into account.
We research if we can mimic natural habitats with varied microtopographies, scattered rocks, rubble, dead wood and a more diverse vegetation.
We look for natural analogues to these manmade environments. We study species of plants that are adapted to shallow substrates and extreme temperature and moisture conditions. Barren ecosystems often bear the same characteristics and therefore can be useful natural models for green roofs.

Sociological description

One rooftop garden is modelled as an edible forest garden. The other rooftop is freely exposed to the natural elements. Both garden-models are an important part of our ‘urban permaculture system’.
Permaculture is about designing human environments that have the stability, diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. The system integrates energy efficiency, food and gardening systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.

We organise our research on urban habitats via the observation of city honeybees. Hives are installed in both of the city gardens. The bees will manage to bridge the spatial distance and will associate the locations. The activities of the bee colonies make the gardens interconnect and interfere. The respective trajectories and areas of floral visits will overlap and an interference of the hives and gardens takes place. The emerging inter-space can be perceived as place of encounters and neighborhood. Observing and monitoring the activities of the hives makes bee information directly available online.