Rooftop gardening, as the name suggests, is a garden on the roof.
The practice of growing plants on the roofs is existent since the ancient times of Mesopotamian civilization.
The hanging gardens of Babylon, one among the seven wonders of the ancient world, are depicted as a prominent example of rooftop gardening.
With ever-increasing urbanization and skyrocketing real estate prices, one may not afford to have an additional space near their home.
So roof gardening is the perfect choice in such cases.
Rooftop garden Benefits include
- Availing fresh organic vegetables, fruits and other herbs
- Reduction of stress as one can spend time there with family
- keeps the home cool
- Helps cultivate a great hobby.
- Environmentally friendly as it helps reduce greenhouse gases
♦ One can avail fresh vegetables and other herbs by cultivating them on the roof garden. Since they are collected just before cooking, they retain the aroma and flavor, enhancing the taste of food.
Further, they have grown away from large farms, the chances of pests are low and the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides is avoided. So, the vegetables grown here are free from toxins.
♦ One can have dinner or even spend time with family in the fresh air amid the greenery. This will help calm the mind and helps to reduce stress.
♦ The concrete roof on the tops would get heated during summers. Having a garden on the roof will minimize the chances of getting overheated and keeps the house cool inside.
♦ The plants in the garden absorb the polluting gases from the atmosphere around and reduce greenhouse gasses emitted from the vicinity.
Setting up your rooftop garden
Gardening on roofs is a simpler and fun-filled task if you have little or hands-on experience with plants. For amateurs, though not challenging, I would suggest you take some help from experts while setting up your garden.
For rooftop gardening, you can either go for green roofs to plant directly in the soil laid on the roof or go with growing plants in containers. Though the former is eco-friendly, it isn’t easy to establish and maintain and one would need professional help in planning and constructing your garden. I suggest you go for containers for an easy experience (you can always customize the containers based on your plants).
Things you need- Gardening tools, Containers, Plants, Soil, Fertiliser
So here are the few important steps you need to follow in designing your rooftop garden.
- Preparing your roof
- Gathering the garden tools
- Having the right containers
- Getting your soil ready
- Choosing your plants
- Utilize the vertical space
- Decorate your rooftop garden
Techniques to consider while preparing your roof
First, you need to visualize your rooftop garden and make a rough plan. Track the area and map down where you want to place your plants. Do not overload your roof.
In rooftop gardening, you have to consider waterproofing your roof to prevent water leakage. However, unlike conventional buildings, present-day houses are constructed by installing waterproofing layers beforehand. If your roof is devoid of a waterproof layer, consider having one.
You can waterproof your roof easily by applying waterproofing polymer coating on the concrete surface (thickness would be around 2 mm). This is available in the form of paint. Mix it with cement and apply it to the concrete slab. Ensure waterproofing your roof, at least in the area where you wish to grow your plants.
If you have a big terrace, consider installing a fiber net. The net is sandwiched between two layers of polymer coating and provides additional strength to your roof. You can also use Bitumen felt rolls. These are popular for their high coverage area and durability. Remember, these waterproofing membranes should be root and rot-resistant. You can always seek professional support in installing the structures.
A proper drainage system is prominent for a garden. This helps to remove the excess water quickly from vegetative layers and roofs. Traditional drainage materials that can be used are stone, broken tiles, gravels, etc. Place them before layering your soil for planting.
You can also install drainage systems like drainage mats which act as a sponge and absorb water. Lightweight plastic sheets or polystyrene drainage modules made of high-density polyethylene also serve as excellent drainage structures. Drainage cells are also popular these days. Plants love to grow in polystyrene drainage modules or drainage cells because of the warmth they provide to them.
Make sure not to use the complete roof. Though rooftop gardening needs the efficient use of space, limit your garden space to 3/4th of your roof. Have an arena for placing the furniture where you can sit and enjoy.
Peak into your roof and identify the amount of sunlight it receives. Plan your plants according to the sunshine hours.
Keep it open. This makes your garden look bigger. You can always create and decorate the corners with hedges and climbers to make them more elegant.
Painting roof in white or silver color helps reflect the sunlight and minimizes the surface temperature.
While black-colored roofs can reach high temperatures during summers affecting the plants.
Roof gardening equipment
For rooftop gardening, you would need minimal tools as compared to traditional gardening.
A trowel, soil scoop, pruning shears, garden fork, gardening gloves and water can or hose pipe would be the main assets for your rooftop gardens.
Having the right containers
Containers are light in weight, portable and affordable, thus make the best choice for rooftop gardening. Choose your containers wisely. You have to consider the weight and material of the container. You can choose your containers according to your plant’s growing capacity, but you should keep in mind how much load your roof can handle. You have to consider that when the plants are watered, the containers get heavier.
Using clay, terracotta, or cement pots might be a bad idea (though you may consider having a few of them). You can choose plastic pots or those made with synthetic materials while considering the type of plants you grow.
It would help if you had containers of different sizes. I would highly recommend you to choose your containers according to the plants you grow. Also, if you have a windy roof, you need containers with heavy materials.
Getting your soil ready
If you are a beginner, you may underestimate the importance of the right soil. But, I must tell you soil is the vital ingredient that determines the growth of your plant. Loamy soil is best for your garden as it contains balanced quantities of sand, silt and clay. Mix a part of compost to make your soil better for the plants.
When we talk about roof gardens, using peat moss mixed with manure or compost and garden soil is considered best as it does not exert pressure on your building. However, you will always find several potting mixes in your local nursery or online. You need to replace the soil periodically or repot it when you find any problem with your plant growth.
Choosing your plants
With rooftop gardening, you have the complete privilege to choose what you would like to plant in your garden. You can have ornamentals, grasses, herbs, flowers and even fruits and vegetables. But it would be best if you chose the plants with different heights. The combination of large plants, shrubs, grasses and vines would make your garden more appealing.
You can always have trees and shrubs in large containers, but limit them to very few. This arrangement would help in better maintenance and enhance the beauty of your garden.
Deep-rooted plants may damage the structure of your plants. So, I prefer to have shallow-rooted plants. Also, use the right containers for the plants to give their roots adequate space to grow and absorb nutrients.
Plan the arrangement of your plants according to the amount of sunlight it requires. I suggest you do initial research on the minimum and maximum light required by the plants you chose.
Vines can enhance the beauty of your space by spreading and adding more greenery to your walls. Select fast-growing vines like grapes, cucumber, hyacinth, gourds (bitter gourd, bottle gourd, ash gourd, pointed gourd, etc.).
Vegetables show better results in containers. A wide range of vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, cucumber, hot peppers, lettuce, parsley, coriander, mint, carrot, radish, etc., grow well in containers.
Utilize your space
Every inch of your garden space is important. Do not complain about the limited space you have on your rooftop. You can always make extra space by using a vertical area. Use hanging or railing planters and you can also create vertical structures to hang plants. Vines can also be trailed onto walls in different patterns to make use of the space.
Decorate your rooftop garden
Add some furniture like a sofa or chairs to your roof garden to make it a cozy space. Beautify your space by adding distinct features like a statue, rock garden, water body, or a tall tree to grab attention.
If you like to have a dramatic space to click and pose for pictures, make your garden well lit. You can even add fairy lights near the staircase or tall trees to make it more lively during the evenings. Lightning helps your garden to appear larger in the dusk.
Tips for caring for your rooftop garden
- Sunlight: Plants need sunlight to carry photosynthesis. But, too much of it is good for nothing. So monitor the amount of sunshine your roof gets at all corners and place the plants according to their sunlight requirements. You can shift them occasionally from one place to another based on the sunlight pattern.
- Wind: Wind can be devastating sometimes and may damage your plants, especially which are tender. If your garden receives excess wind, you can install trellis on the side where it will block the wind’s direction. Also, use this space by decorating with climbing roses, morning glory, crawling ivy, or any other climbers.
- Water: You will need plenty of water for your plants on the roof as they are subjected to the sunlight most of the time. Use a hose pipe or water cans for watering. If you can afford it, get a drip irrigation system installed to make your work easier (Additionally, it would help you minimize wastage of water).
- Fertilizer: Feeding your plants regularly with manure or fertilizer will make a great difference in your plant’s growth. As the nutrients get depleted or leach out over time, it is recommended to fertilize your plants regularly. Water-soluble fertilizers help your plants to absorb nutrients quickly. However, I would suggest you use organic manure. You can also mulch your soil with eggshells, kitchen or garden waste. It is minimal wastage and an economical method.
- Pests: Also, the plants on the roof are susceptible to pests and may be attacked by ants, beetles, cutworms, aphids, or birds and rodents. Monitor your plants regularly for pests and control them in the initial stages
Gardening can be a path to a free mind. It can be practiced as a hobby and, in turn, avail health benefits to the whole family.