Not all gardeners have a backyard to grow in. Some of us have limited space, but our desire to garden leads to creativity. Windowsills, porches, and rooftops may be unorthodox, but they can still support a vibrant garden. Rooftop/urban gardening has been gaining popularity as young gardeners bring their green thumbs into urban living. There are a few obstacles to overcome, but with a few changes and considerations you can have a beautiful garden growing right above your head.
Bringing gardens to locations usually not considered a "growing space" is innovative and fun. Thanks to raised-bed gardens, we can satisfy our gardening habits without the traditional backyard, and bring life to previously barren locations. They provide a controlled space gardeners can fill with their preferred soil in a soil-less environment. Although the challenges are slightly different than those faced by in-ground gardens, they can be easily overcome with know-how. If you want to garden, but don't have access to the coveted ground, then you should consider rooftop/urban gardening.
To start, you need to be aware of the following factors.
Rooftop/Urban Gardening Factors and Benefits
Along with utilizing previously vacant space, rooftop gardening is also environmentally friendly and provides ample sun exposure. It's not a new practice, but it's becoming a major gardening trend. Thinking outside of the box and getting creative is a Millennial attribute, so younger gardeners who don't have traditional household luxuries – like a backyard – are looking at other available options. Upon discovering the benefits, they've also revealed important growing considerations that can make or break a rooftop garden.
Roofs may be strong, but they aren't built to support the weight of an expansive garden. Soil and materials are heavy and get heavier with added water. If you want to build a large garden on your roof, speak with a structural engineer first and heed their advice. Fortunately, almost any roof can handle a few lightweight containers filled with lightweight soil (potting mix).
Due to possible access restrictions or challenges, you'll want to consider watering options. One of the best methods is to use a lightweight irrigation system connected to a hose running up to the roof in a concealed location. This way you don't have to transport water to your rooftop garden every time its thirsty, and you are maximizing your water efficiency. Because your garden will be more exposed to the sun's heat, water utilization is vital. You'll want to ensure the soil stays moist which is easy with an irrigation system.
One of the biggest concerns of growing on a rooftop is the heat. Although gardens love the sun, too much exposure can kill them quickly. When searching for the perfect place to start your new-age garden, try to find an area where your plants will get some reprieve from the mid-day heat. If there is none, maybe a neighboring building casts a shadow that you can take advantage of. If it is totally vulnerable to the sun from morning till evening, you can always erect a simple cloth shade. Just stick some supports in the soil that can hold up some shading that will protect your garden during part of the day.
Which Plants Are Right for the Rooftop?
Just because your rooftop is a viable growing location doesn't mean everything will thrive. It's a harsher environment than what in-ground gardens face, meaning the plants need to be hardier. You want to choose flora known for their resilience to heat and drought so they can weather the occasional extremes. The following are a few plant characteristics ideal for a rooftop garden:
As their name suggests, evergreen flora stay healthy in multiple environments throughout each season. They are drought-resistant and comprised of small leaves covered in a waxy, protective layer. They can withstand excess wind, heat, and long periods without water which makes them perfect for the rooftop environment.
These plants are defined by their ability to store moisture for long periods of drought. It also helps during hotter parts of the day, when the sun evaporates the soil's moisture. Succulents grow to maximize water-consumption from all available sources, making it perfect for the rooftop.
Fuzzy Leaves: Lamb's Ears
Fuzzy leaf plants are both protected from the elements and able to maintain hydration due to their fuzz. Like our eyebrows or arm hair, it's a protective layer that keeps the sensitive leaves safe from the elements. When growing a rooftop garden, look for plants with fuzzy leaves.