How to Design a Rooftop Garden

We’ve talked about looking up when designing a garden, especially in a small space. Well, how about looking WAY up – as in, your rooftop?

Urban gardeners have been planting atop their homes for generations, and green roofs are very trendy, yet rooftop gardening is gaining popularity for many reasons. These gardens take advantage of underused space, attract birds and are eco-friendly ways to grow more plants, fruit and veggies with great sun exposure and few pests to invade your turf! Here’s how to get started:

Portable pots
The simplest, most economical way to create a rooftop garden is by planting in containers. But before dragging your pots up top, be sure your city’s regulations allow for rooftop gardens. Get creative with your containers – have some fun! Use pot feet to keep your containers elevated, which helps with drainage.

Pick your plants
Since it’s likely to get very hot up there, choose draught tolerant varieties. Also, opt for plants that have limited root systems and do well in full sun, such as veggies, herbs, small perennials, bulbs and annuals. Want an edible garden? Low-growing plants and root veggies including carrots, beets, and rutabagas are great choices. Peppers, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers and watermelon also make ideal crops for rooftop gardens.

Dig in
Be sure to use good quality soil, replacing it each year, and plenty of fertilizer every three weeks, so your plants will thrive. If you can’t haul a hose up there, consider a drip irrigation system or direct the flow of rainwater to your planted areas.

Beat the heat
Unless you have buildings shading your rooftop garden, your plants will likely get too much sun and heat, so plan for some sheltered spots – think umbrellas or awnings.

Getting breezy
Rooftop gardens are windy, which can dry out your plants. You may need some type of fencing or trellis to decrease wind flow. Check that your city regulations allow for this type of installation.

Think about putting in a row of evergreen shrubs or climbing vines along a trellis, to screen your garden from neighboring homes or buildings.

Stashing your stuff: To organize your tools, compost and other gardening essentials, you may want to purchase benches with built-in storage, or a small shed.

Want a fully planted green roof?
Soil is heavy! Best to hire a structural engineer to be sure your space can handle wall-to-wall plants, which can top 100 pounds per square foot! You should also consult a professional to install waterproofing and proper drainage, so your green roof doesn’t damage your home’s structure.

Modern concrete planters on roof:
Photo Credit: Richard C. Anderson via Compfight cc

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