Do you enjoy gardening but find your outdoor space is limited? Did you know that rooftop gardening is a relatively easy and charming alternative for people living in areas having little or no space? A rooftop garden makes use of space that would otherwise go unnoticed. Rooftop gardens not only enhance a building’s appearance but can save energy as well. Plants in a rooftop garden supply buildings with additional insulation
by reflecting heat from the sun and providing shade to the roof. Rooftop gardens have another benefit as well; they absorb rainfall which helps to reduce runoff.
Depending on the kind of garden you want to achieve, nearly any type of roof can accommodate a rooftop garden. However, it’s highly advisable to seek out a professional to check the structural capacity of the building prior to designing your rooftop garden. A well-qualified person, preferably licensed, can assess whether or not your particular roof is stable enough to support the additional weight of a rooftop garden. Ultimately, this will be the determining factor as to the type of rooftop garden you would like to design. For instance, roofs having a limited weight capacity may require a less extensive gardening design, such as one involving the use of containers.
Rooftop gardens can be constructed in one of two ways. The easiest and most common rooftop garden is merely one full of container plants. A rooftop garden designed with containers is often popular with homeowners due to the lower costs and maintenance it provides as well as the flexibility with which these gardens offer. Rooftop container gardens can be designed to fit nearly anyone’s lifestyle and budget. In fact, there are many items in which people may already have on hand that are quite suitable for growing plants. For example, old Tupperware containers or plastic butter bowls can make ideal pots for plants. Since weight issues can often be a factor in choosing appropriate containers for a rooftop garden, lightweight containers, such as these, are excellent choices. Consider using fiberglass or wooden planters as well. Also, it might help to line the bottoms of containers with a lightweight material such as peat or sphagnum moss. Another upside to choosing a container rooftop garden is the versatility it offers. At any time, plants can easily be rearranged or relocated to different sites, especially during winter when plants can be moved inside.
The other, more complex, rooftop garden involves covering the entire roof, or parts of it, with soil and plants. This type of ‘green roof’ includes individual layers that provide insulation, drainage, and a growing medium for plants. If you are considering a green roof design, some research, beforehand, may be needed. This type of rooftop garden usually requires the assistance of highly qualified professionals that can properly install each layer. There are, however, many resources that can provide more in-depth, step-by-step instructions for creating this type of system yourself.
The first layer is applied directly to the roof and is intended to guard against leakage. It also acts as insulation. Again, since weight can be an issue, adequate drainage is important. All rooftop gardens should have suitable drainage for catching excess water. With this in mind, the next layer of your green rooftop should consist of some type of lightweight material, such as gravel or plastic that will provide drainage. A filtering mat should be positioned on top of the drainage layer. This allows water to soak through while keeping the soil in place. The final layer includes both the growing medium and plants for your rooftop garden. Irregardless of what type of rooftop garden you design, the growing medium should consist of lightweight soil or compost. When applying the layer of soil for your green roof, maintain a depth that will not only anchor the plants but support the weight capacity of the roof itself. Remember, wet soil can be quite heavy.
In addition to being attractive, rooftop gardens are energy efficient and easy to care for. Rooftop gardens require little maintenance, once established, other than occasional weeding and watering. These gardens are favorable to limited spaces. If, however, you find yourself with little space and no rooftop (such as with apartment, townhouse, or condominium dwellers), you can still have the garden you desire. Simply incorporate a balcony garden instead using containers. As weight may also play a role with balconies, avoid using heavy containers. Those made from wood, fiberglass, or plastic are more commonly used. Make sure your roof or balcony, whichever the case may be, is easily accessible as well. Designing a rooftop garden can be both fun and fulfilling. It allows you to show off your creative side. When it comes to gardening, there is really no right or wrong design. It’s all about experimentation and what works for you. So if you love to garden but have little space, try a roof top garden. The sky’s the limit; and with a rooftop garden, you’re just that much closer.