Imagine peering down from the window of an airplane that’s flying over a major city and seeing a veritable forest of green below. Sound like the Utopian vision of a science fiction novel? This scenario is actually becoming a reality, albeit gradually, as more and more urban buildings are using their only available space – their rooftops – to cultivate gardens that can work wonders on the surrounding environment.
America has been a little slow in comprehending and capitalizing on green roof technologies, and its markets remain immature in comparison to many countries across the Atlantic. Roof gardens, which feature layers of soil deliberately placed over roofs to support vegetation, were first developed in Germany in the 1960’s. From there they spread to other European countries. It’s estimated that 10 percent of German rooftops have become “greened”. In America, the practice is becoming more common in cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland, where legislation encourages it.
Chicago’s City Hall roof garden, one of the most prominent and well-known in the U.S., is significantly cooler during hot summer months than the surrounding area. The “heat island effect” occurs in cities when traditional building materials reflect the sun’s radiation back as heat, making these urban environments at least 7 degrees hotter than other areas where the overall temperature would otherwise be the same. Gardens offset this problem by absorbing the heat into their soil and organic matter.
Rooftop gardens offer a slew of other advantages as well. They can produce food, as well as plants that are useful for other purposes (like botanical medicine). They store water, which can reduce flooding (and wastewater contamination) from stormwater runoff. Buildings with roof gardens benefit from increased thermal as well as noise insulation. There is simply no other way to bring nature’s bounty into tightly-enclosed city environments than by taking advantage of unused roof space.
The gardens grown on these otherwise vacant spaces work to combat pollution, as well. Rooftop plants filter Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants out of the air. Their roots drink up the rainwater, removing pollutants and heavy metals out of it in the process. Rooftop gardens also encourage “green” practices in their tenants, like organic waste recycling through composting. All in all, they are increasingly becoming a focus for reducing the negative environmental impact of cities.
Last but not least, they can serve as feeding stations. A variation known as “brown roofs” – which consist of a thin layer of crushed ribble and gravel – are intended to be colonized by spiders and insects, which then provide food for birds.
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September 11, 2001. Everyone who was old enough to understand what was going on that day remembers where they were and what they were doing. Like many other people, the economic effects of that day were far more lasting for me personally than I had imagined they could be.
3 months later I was laid-off from my contract I.T. job in Austin, TX. With short notice, I had to find a job in a tough economy. I scoured Monster.com and other job search; I applied at local grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and other retail stores. No one was hiring.
February rolled around and my best friend recommended I apply with the pest control company he was working for. I had done some contract I.T. work for them before since a common friend of ours owned the business. After some thought, I called the owner and told him my situation. He hired me over the phone.
When the summer season hit, I went out to the company’s Mesa, AZ branch. I attained a full license in Arizona, and worked as the primary technician for new sales. This is when the job got interesting. The majority of customers were NOT sold on the service when I showed up for the first time. I had to use the customer service skills I had learned working on I.T. Help Desks to re-sell the account and assure them of the need for treatment.
Dealing with people was by far the best part of the job. All kinds of people live in this world, and all of them have pest problems at some point; from the modest homes in a subdivision, to the multi-million dollar homes on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale.
It takes all kinds of people to be exterminators. Many people think of the profession of exterminator as un-respectable. I say to the contrary. They are men and women doing honest work, and supporting their families. It takes quite a bit of intelligence to perform this demanding job. I admire all who undertake it as a profession.
I’ve since moved back into the I.T. field, but still retain my knowledge of pest control, and perform treatment on my own home. Everyone should have a trade they can fall back on in hard times, and clearly this is one that will always be in demand.
This part of my story led me to decide on re-making a blog about home improvement, and I wanna start on sharing what I know about pest control. We all want to give a shelter that is safe and relieved from pests, right? Most especially if we have children in the house, we hate insects and rodents lurking around the house.
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First things first: Ants and their tactics. The main thing you need to know about ants is that they leave scent trails, so no method for getting rid of ants is 100% effective. Which is to say – if you’re the kind of person who wants to nuke ’em with toxins, the next ant colony will to show up tomorrow anyway.
But you’re probably not that kind of person, because you’re reading this article. And, fortunately, some of the best ways of getting rid of ants involve getting rid of their scent trails – something that’s easy to do with natural and organic pest control methods.
Second things second: terminology. “Organic” is a misnomer – lots of poisonous chemicals are organic in the sense that they contain carbon, but that’s not what this article is about either. I’m going to list some natural pest control methods that are available in your cabinets or at your grocery store, that are non-toxic to humans, that can be bought with or without “certified organic” status.
Necessary information: The first step to all of these methods is to find where the ants are coming in. It’s often a little crack in the frame of a window, or by the floorboards. Ants are very small!
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- Vinegar. Use a spray bottle to spray vinegar around the area where the ants are coming in, and anywhere else you’ve seen them walking. Smell that funny smell? So do they, and it confuses them and removes their scent trail.
- Black Pepper. Sprinkle around the ant area – again, it blocks their scent. The oil may also be an irritant to them.
- Diatomaceous Earth. This is a fancy name for a kind of chalk-like powder which kills insects. The grains are sharp-edged and absorb hydration, causing the ants to dehydrate and die. For a widespread problem with ants in the floor, such that blocking one or two entrances won’t remove them, sprinkle this powder over the entire area and then vacuum later. A dust mask is recommended, as breathing the powder in can be harmful, but it’s otherwise non-toxic.
- Cinnamon. This is my favorite way of getting rid of ants, though be careful, as it might stain. Like black pepper, it blocks their scent.
- Combined methods. Wipe the area down with vinegar, getting rid of the ants that are present, and follow up by sprinkling black pepper or cinnamon over the place where the ants are getting in.