Urban Gardening: Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens are rapidly gaining in popularity as urban culture trends shift towards the organic food market and sustainable practices. Rooftop gardens are popping up on office buildings, apartment complexes and homes all over the world; providing fresh food, beauty and energy efficiency to its inhabitants. A rooftop garden has so many benefits to homeowners and urban culture but can be difficult to start and keep running.

Why Start a Rooftop Garden?

Rooftop gardens help cut energy use and costs by insulating the rooms below, keeping the temperature warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. These living roofs also act as sponges, retaining and filtering rain water, reducing flooding and the amount of polluted storm water from entering into our waterways. A rooftop garden brings life back to unused space, brings communities together and provides food and a peaceful place to get away from the urban atmosphere.   

Not All Roofs are Created Equally

Rooftop gardens can be grown on office buildings, apartment complexes, homes, garages or just about any other structure with a roof, but you must take precautions beforehand to make sure your rooftop garden will be allowed in your community and will be safe. Before beginning a rooftop garden, research local ordinances, rental property rules or home owner association regulations. After you’ve got the go ahead, contact a contractor or architect to assess your roof’s structure and strength. Although flat roofs tend to make for the best rooftop gardens, they have been built on slanted and domed roofs. Make sure you know how much weight your roof can handle and plan accordingly. If your roof is heavy duty you may be able to install a greenhouse, lounge area or any other structure your heart desires but if your roof is deemed weak, don’t fret. If your roof is deemed safe but weak, try installing smaller beds with less soil. Lighter-weight gardens can be just as beautiful.

Get Building

Make sure your roof is waterproof and cannot be penetrated by plant roots. Apply a waterproof base coat and cover your roof with pond liner or lining made out of polythene or butyl wherever you install your containers. Choose containers that are lightweight but provide drainage. Rooftop gardens have been created with wading pools, feeding sacks and even tires. You may also want to invest in containers made for rooftop gardens that do not allow roots to grow through to the roof membrane.

During hot summer months, rooftop temperatures can become scorching hot. Your plants will need to be watered daily unless it rains. Lugging large buckets of water up to your roof is not fun or practical. Consider installing a water storage system or automatic watering system. 

Tough Plants for a Rough Environment

Temperatures on your roof can become extraordinarily hot and windy. Not all plants can survive these conditions. If you would like an ornamental garden, try native wildflowers. Wildflowers are more attuned to your environment’s conditions and will fare better than foreign varieties. If you are looking to feed yourself and others with a vegetable garden try herbs, lettuces, bush beans, pole beans, snow peas, bok choy, kale, spinach, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and mustard greens.

To comply with your roof’s weight limits, use lightweight potting soil. Make sure to water them every day in hot months and pay special attention to your plant’s fertilizer needs. Fertilizer can wash away easily but too much fertilizer can also burn plants. Try Grow big 521, a lavender-scented, all-purpose fertilizer that comes ready to use on your garden and has been shown to strengthen your plant’s resistance to pests and diseases.

A rooftop garden can be just as fun as a land-based garden. It can also provide all of the same healthy benefits such as good food, exercise and relaxation. Don’t let a concrete jungle stop you from igniting a passion for garden in yourself and others. Turn that concrete jungle into a living jungle instead.

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