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Rooftop gardens are one of the best ways to titivate your urban living space. Luckily, it's deceptively simple as well – as long as you follow the instructions below, you can be relaxing high above the busy streets in your own little private conservatory in no time.
First things first: where exactly are you going to put your rooftop garden? That might seem like a no-brainer, but you actually do need to put some thought into this.
If you fall under the jurisdiction of a homeowners' association (HOA), then you’ll have to make sure you have permission to set up a rooftop garden, or even a windowsill or indoor garden in your home (after all, a lot of the same concepts apply). You should also check your city’s building codes, as there might be restrictions on what you can put on your rooftop and how high it can go.
Once you’ve picked a designated area, you’ll want to make sure that the building can actually support the weight. Just a single planter box can weigh 200 lbs when you fill it with soil and plants, so it’s not a light thing we’re talking about here. Therefore, check the load capacity of your roof, and get a structural engineer to check the plans to make sure you aren’t going to cave a ceiling or cause major damage to the building.
Also, keep in mind it’s not just the garden – you're also going to be using things like tools and a water reservoir, as well as inviting other people and carrying up chairs and benches for people to sit in.
And if you hire an engineer, please be sure he's licensed – that can't be stressed enough.
Here comes the fun part, actually figuring out what your garden is going to look like! So, get yourself some graphing paper, a ruler, and a pencil, and draw a rough sketch of the area you have to work with.
Then, take a look at a few different types of planter boxes that are available to you. You can absolutely have a contractor build them for you, but looking at some standardized ones will give you a good idea of what you are working with.
For example, there’s this 96x24x10in garden bed that sits on the floor, which you can place side to side or back to back depending on the space you have. There’s also a metal version if you prefer that to wood. On the other hand, if you have a bad back, you might want to go for a raised planter box instead, or you could make a mix of the two depending on where the sun hits on your rooftop.
Best Choice Products 96x24x10in Outdoor Wooden Raised Garden Bed Planter
Best Choice Products
Of course, if you have a bit of money to splurge and want to make life easier on yourself, I’d suggest trying out the Glowpear self-watering planter. The only downside is that it’s small, so you’ll mainly want it for herbs & spices, rather than the bigger ticket items. As such, you’ll want to use it sparingly and mix it wither other types of planters boxes.
Either way, you have a few building blocks to work within figuring out how you want to build your garden. I’d also definitely suggest involving your neighbors – it’s a great way to get community spirit going and generally getting to know your neighbors better!
This section is going to be relatively short because I’m going to suggest you pick your plants based on how difficult it is to grow them. If you’re a novice (which, if you’re reading thing, I’m assuming you are), then going for the easier plants will help you grow that green thumb so you can take on some of the more challenging plants.
So here’s the list of ‘easier’ plants:
15 Culinary Herb Seed Vault
Lettuce and Greens Seed Pack
Cherry Tomato Seeds & Variety Tomato Seeds
Green Bean seeds
Bell Pepper seeds
As you can see, you have a nice selection of herbs and vegetables, a few of them being cool foods and great to eat during a heatwave, and we also have a pretty great recipe for oil-poached grilled tomatoes.
On the other hand, if you already have a green thumb these vegetables are slightly more challenging:
Once you have the plants you want to grow ready, the next step is preparing them. When it comes to the infant stages of plants, called seedlings, they tend to need a lot of care to make sure they not only survive but have the good roots to thrive.
To that end, you’ll want to get some nursery pots to get them going. This 2.75" x 3.25" little pot is both cute and doesn’t take up much space, and is great if you generally have a good environment for the plants you’re growing. On the other hand, if the plants are delicate and the weather isn’t great, you might want to go for a domed nursery pot instead.
Either way, the next thing you’ll need is soil, and for that, I’d suggest the Espoma seed starter potting mix. This soil is made specifically for helping seeds and seedlings grow, as well as being made for organic gardening, meaning things that you’re going to eat!
Once your seedlings have grown a little, you’ll want to transplant them into your rooftop garden. Before starting though, make sure you have a good set of gardening tools, and a tool organizer to make your life easier.
Stalwart 75-ST6010 Garden Tool Organizer
Then, you need to fill your planters with soil, and for that, I’d use Espoma AP16 organic potting mix for your vegetables, and the Dirtco indoor herb planter soil for your herbs (don’t worry about the name it works for outdoors too).
Once you’ve filled the planters with soil, use a trowel to open up a small space about the size of the nursery pot, then up-end the put in your hand on the soil and around the plant. Don’t ever pull a seedling out by the stem itself. Once you have it upside down in your hand, turn it back around and place it in the hole you made and tamp it down with some soil.
At that point, it’s all about taking care of your plants. Personally, I’d suggest getting an automatic watering system from one of these options:
Raindrip R560DP Automatic Watering Kit (Budget option)
DIY Micro Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit ( Mid-tier model)
RAINPOINT WiFi Automatic Watering System (WiFi-enabled model)
FCMP Outdoor Rain Catcher (if there's no water connection on the roof)
Then, I’d suggest getting some plant shades, such as this FARAER 30% shade or this E.share 40% Shade. Then I’d suggest getting a trellis to act as a windbreaker, either this VIVOSUN trellis netting or the Best Choice iron trellis for better results.
That should do it! Be sure to enjoy your new, relaxing outdoor environment with the ice cold drink of your choice.
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