Finding Space to Garden – Rooftop Gardens and Terraces

by Rachel Laurendeau on April 13, 2012

If you would like to grow vegetables and herbs at home but don’t really have the extra space to dedicate to them in your yard, think about alternatives to the traditional veggie patch. Look up, look way up…one great option is to grow them on your roof. If your house or your garage has a flat roof, that is a lot of extra space that you can use to create a green roof or a terrace with potted plants.

Start With the Structure
Although adding a rooftop garden sounds like a quick and easy home improvement project to solve your small or urban yard issues, there are some important points to take into account and to discuss with your roofer before you get started. You will need to get an engineer or contractor involved in the project as well. You will need to be sure that your roof is structurally sound and that it can withstand the extra load. All that weight from the soil, planters, plants and water can put a burden on your structure. You’ll need to have a safe staircase or ladder installed to give you easy access and you will likely need a railing in order to comply with your local building regulations. Check with your county on this last point.

Are you willing to haul water up the stairs or will you be installing an extra water spigot, irrigation system or water storage system up there? And with all the water that is being retained, you’ll need to be sure that there is a membrane to protect your roofing from moisture problems such as mold and rot.

Reminder: this is a specialized project, not all roofers or deck builders have the necessary experience to build a rooftop garden and terrace, be sure to hire someone with plenty of knowledge on the subject.

Plan Your Garden
When planning your garden, your main concern will be which materials you choose. Instead of garden soil, use lightweight potting soil with perlite and vermiculite to make it fluffier or coco fiber to help retain moisture and reduce the frequency of watering. For drainage, instead of using stones, use styrofoam peas, or better yet, diatomaceous earth which also helps with pest control. For containers, use modern fiberglass or plastic rather than concrete pots.

As for your plants, consider using hearty species as they will be subjected to the elements a bit more than if they were tucked away in a sheltered corner of the yard. What you grow on your rooftop garden is limited only to your imagination; the sky really is the limit!

If you liked this blog post, you may also be interested in reading Add A Deck.

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