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Is Rooftop Gardening as Good as Having an Actual Garden?

Emma MetsonOne of the limitations of living in an urban area is the lack of available of land for activities such as gardening. While residents of suburban and rural areas can maintain gardens on the ground, people who live in buildings and densely populated cities do not enjoy the same luxury.

One creative workaround to this drawback is rooftop gardening. Rooftop gardens are man-made greenery typically situated in roofs, balconies, or terraces of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings.  This trend has become more popular over the years, especially with an increasing number of young property owners valuing sustainability and lowering their carbon footprint.

If you are looking to create a rooftop garden on your property, one question that might come to mind is whether this type of gardening is just as good as having an actual garden on the ground. To answer this question, it is useful to look at the different factors as well as the benefits of having a rooftop garden.

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Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Space Limitations

One of the topmost reasons why people opt to create rooftop gardens is because of inadequate space. When you live in a concrete apartment complex or your office is located inside a high-rise skyscraper, your options are limited.

For urban homeowners who have a green thumb and want to enjoy gardening, maintaining a rooftop garden is a great alternative. Rooftops are often unused areas so turning them into rooftop gardens can maximise the space. It can also serve as an additional living area for the building residents.  

Commercial buildings that do not have vast surrounding lands incorporate rooftop gardens as a key feature of eco-friendly architecture designs. Depending on the size of the building, a commercial rooftop garden can range from a small greenhouse to a large park-like environment.

Many of these rooftop spaces provide commercial workers green spaces that they can hang out in even if they are in the middle of a highly urbanised district.

Garden Design

Aside from considering the space available, the design of the rooftop garden will also depend on the weight capacity of the roof itself. Unlike a normal garden, you can’t just crowd a rooftop with plants and fixtures without knowing the weight capacity of your roof. You have to make sure that your roof can handle the added weight of the plants, fixtures, water, etc.

This is one reason why many rooftop gardens adopt a modern design. Modern gardens typically take on the minimalistic approach by focusing on clean lines and eye-catching features. The use of lightweight materials and fixtures are also techniques to meet weight limitations.

Types of Greenery

Just like when you have an actual garden on the ground, the choice of greenery should be dependent on the climate conditions of where your property is located. You have to do your research on whether the plants are suitable for your climate.

However, an added guideline is that the types of plants that you can grow on a rooftop garden will be limited to those that can thrive in pots and plant beds. This means that the plants should not have deep root systems. You also need to make sure that the plants will be able to survive the rooftop conditions (wind, weather, sunlight, etc.).

You may be surprised to know that even with the seemingly restrictive rooftop environment, there are actually many different types of plants that you can grow. Many people have the misconception that only ornamental plants, vines, herbs, and succulents can be grown in rooftop gardens. However, even vegetables can be grown on a rooftop garden including carrots, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and beans.

Building and Maintenance

If you’re looking to build a rooftop garden, there are important factors that you should consider. First, you need to make sure that you have the necessary permissions to build on that rooftop space. Next, you have to ensure that the rooftop does not have any structural issues. If there are any potential problems, have these fixed for safety reasons.

You also have to ensure that your rooftop has waterproofing, insulation, and drainage features. You wouldn’t want water to be leaking inside the building.  If you are unsure if these features are in place, consult with a professional to confirm that your roof is suitable to be converted to a rooftop garden.

Maintaining a rooftop garden may also prove to be more challenging than a typical garden. This is because you have to take extra care to ensure that the plants will endure the rooftop growing environment. You have to have easy water access, so you won’t need to carry buckets of water to the rooftop.

Another potential challenge is protecting your garden from unwanted pests, insects, and animals that may want to inhabit your garden. While the occasional bees, butterflies, and birds may be a welcome addition, having insects and pests can be troublesome and can even damage your roof.

You may need to consult with specialists in case you encounter any problems with your roof caused by the garden, which can be costly.

Enjoying the Benefits of a Rooftop Garden

If you’re short on space, having a rooftop garden is definitely as good as an actual garden. You get to have an extra living space, make your home more visually attractive, as well as enjoy the environmental and wellness benefits a rooftop garden can provide.

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This graphically rich guide provides inspiration and advice to aspiring growers through photographs of successful rooftop farms and gardens, as well as interviews with industry professionals. Easy-to-use checklists and a decision tree are included to help gauge the viability of each unique rooftop opportunity. Essential reading for home gardeners, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, policy makers, academics and designers, Eat Up takes urban agriculture to a whole new level, proving that rooftop farming is not just a pie-in-the-sky idea - it is the future of urban food. Order from the Mother Earth Gardener Store or by calling 800-234-3368.







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