Proprietary, patented growth matrix panels, made from recycled plastic, provide a perfect growing medium for plants and require no soil, minimal water (watering cycles of 30 to 60 days, and beyond), and greatly reduced need for fertilizer. Plants tested in the medium including bedding plants, small and medium-sized shrubs, turf, and interior plants, thrive in the environment. While the expanded plastic medium absorbs water, engineered pores throughout it allow the roots of the plants to breathe, eliminating potential over-watering problems.

Discovered by Joe Byles, CEO of Freedom Garden Products, the lightweight material provides the perfect solution for green roofs. “Currently, green roofs need anywhere from one half a foot to several feet of soil,” said Byles. “This amount of soil can weigh from 20 pounds per square foot up to hundreds of pounds per square foot, making a green roof or general rooftop garden prohibitive for older buildings.” Byles continues, “Also, plant material palettes have been limited. With this material, there’s a wide range of shrubs, including woody ornamentals; bedding plants, and turf that can be planted on rooftops.”

The application has huge implications for streamlining green roofs and making them more cost affordable. “Companies save considerable money over time in utility costs with green roofs,” states Byles, “but installation has been costly and difficult.” Imagine having to lift tons of planting soil up to a roof top. Now, green roof installers can fold the panels and carry them all to the roof via the elevator. “They’re very light weight,” says Byles. “Because the engineered material is flexible and continuous, you can just fold them up and carry a large number of them together with the plants in place.”

Byles, an inventor with more than 13 patents to date, is an aerospace engineer and a Master Gardener. He discovered the growth matrix while researching fuel management in supersonic aircraft when he realized that it is the near perfect plant growth medium, and that it maintains air and water in the perfect ratio with no drainage. He then incorporated the material into landscape panels. During university testing the product demonstrated up to 100 percent efficient use of water. The ability to grow plants in a non-drained state means all water applied to the plants is available with no loss. The unique manufacturing process of the material ensures that air is always maintained within the matrix where the roots of the plants can access it. In addition to green roofs, product application includes hanging flower baskets, bedding plant containers and large garden panels used to grow bedding plants that can be placed in landscapes in minutes with the benefits of the greatly extended watering intervals and reduced chemical usage. Color rotation is incredibly easy with the panels on rooftops and in gardens.

Byles, residing in Texas, has also tested the product in extreme heat and in California locations subject to the Santa Anna winds. “Plant material has done extremely well in these panels, no mater what the heat, wind, or rain conditions have been,” Byles says.

Gary Mangum, co-owner of Bell Nursery in Burtonsville, Md. with greenhouses throughout the mid-Atlantic and Ohio, has tested the panels. “We have placed panels in various conditions to test vulnerability,” Mangum states. “In some cases, the plant material went 90 days before it required watering.” Mangum also tested turf which went seven months and still was not in need of watering or mowing. “In this material, turf will only grow to the height of its potential root depth,” Byles explains. The same theory does not apply to bedding plants or shrubs which have grown to normal heights in the medium.

For more information on green roof panels or other products by Joe Byles and Freedom Garden Products, please visit or call 830-305-2299.