Obviously not everyone can do this. But many people who don’t have outdoor space, can easily grow their own veggies on their roof. Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery does not grow food, but became the first commercial building in England to have a living roof, which provides habitat for the black redstart, a bird more endangered than the Golden Eagle. There are a few pointers you need to know, but growing food on roofs is pretty popular right now (we’ll find lots of inspiration from skyscraper-laden New York further in the post). See make your garden safe for pets and grow your own herbs, to know toxic plants (and mulches) to avoid, if your roof is pet-safe (fully enclosed, near ground level etc).
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn, New York is one of the world’s best examples of a successful rooftop garden. This garden is three stories up in the air, and operates a commercial vegetable farm on the shores of the east River, overlooking Manhattan. At 6000 square feet, it grows organic food on top a warehouse. Although the book is hard to find, you can download their Rooftop Growing Guide online to your digital device.
As well as being a good way to find good free organic food, it’s also a great way for restaurants and hotels to grow some of their own ingredients, which is good for marketing and also good for your pocket, as apart from a few seeds and pots, it doesn’t cost you a bean.
Expert Albert Mondor writes that the best way to grow food on a roof is to use large (ideally fabric) pots, rather than cover the whole roof with soil. This would be difficult and unecomonical. Also using pots saves the risk of your roof falling into the building below! You need to avoid direct contact with the waterproof membrane, so using pots is far safer, especially if placed on saucers, to avoid water damage.
Most plants need lots of sun, so site the pots in the right area, but shelter them well, as high up, most roofs tend to be more windy than in a garden. Herbs are good to grow on roofs, as they grow easily, and fruit bushes also do well.
Living Roofs looks at urban gardens around the world. Whether it’s home-grown veggies or a colourful sea of flowers, this photographic book inspires, with details of Berlin country gardens to enchanting rooftops in Singapore.
Rooftop Garden is a children’s illustrated book, to inspire them to get involved in rooftop gardening. A group of city friends work together to grow herbs and vegetables, while children will also learn about the six stages of plant growth. The story concludes with a summer harvest, includes singalong audio.