From a few personal plants that might include some herbs to full on community agricultural plots, people are using their rooftops in bold new ways. Well, maybe not so new. City dwellers have long turned to their rooftops to bring a little peaceful green space into their lives, only now, it’s becoming a trend.
Limited square footage and a lack of personal space in city apartment housing means people have gotten creative with their urge to grow. A rooftop garden gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a living roof. They’re green powerhouses, keeping the spaces below warm in winter and cool in summer. They also absorb rainfall, which means less stormwater down the drain, and less erosion. Add in the healthy habitat for birds and insects and you’ve got a reason to climb up and get planting.
A rooftop garden can be anything from a few containers to create a pleasant oasis in the midst of the city to a functioning small farm right on your roof. Rooftop farming seems to be a natural offshoot. The movement has exploded in New York, with the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and several others, and it’s going strong in the Philadelphia Rooftop Farm.
Cities aren’t the only place where a rooftop garden can thrive. Suburban homes with small lots can also benefit from gaining a few extra square feet of usable space – especially if that space is producing food!
If the whole idea really appeals to you, the first step is do your research! Before you start having visions of fresh vegetables dancing through your head, look into your municipal and building codes and ask your home owner’s association (or equivalent) about the legalities. You should get hard facts on load capacity – this part is not a DIY project, you’ll need an engineer to help you determine what you can build on your roof and what type of garden it can support. Determine how you will access the roof, and safely get garden equipment and supplies up to it, then start considering how to secure your garden equipment once it’s up on the roof. How will you water your plants? How will you deal with removing waste?
Once you’ve done all the planning legwork, it’s time to get started. You can make the project as DIY as you are able. Raised container beds are easy to construct and there are several companies that sell pre-fab and semi-custom rooftop gardening systems that are essentially plug and play with minimal assembly required. Or you could hire a pro (or find a student at a local horticultural college who’s looking for a final project). They can help you design the best possible garden for your space. If you want to go all-out, you can design and build an entire green roof – it’s best to enlist the aid of a pro to ensure structural safety and long-term success.
Check out the exposures and the wind – rooftops are surprisingly breezy places. Consider your climate, and your diet (what vegetables do you want to eat), and start planning your garden. Green Roofs For Healthy Cities has a wealth of resources to get you started in the right direction, and if you want an easy start, check out our selection of container-friendly herbs and garden plants.
Go ahead, take it to the roof!