Rooftop Gardening : Everything you need to know

Rooftop gardening is fun, simple and brings many benefits

What is a rooftop garden? A top roof garden is simply just what it sounds like, you create a garden where you can either plant things in soil placed directly on top of a roof or place various kinds of containers on a roof to grow plants.

Rooftop gardening is great when you are in a situation where you want to grow some vegetables, flowers or other plants but don’t have the space or land to do it elsewhere. These types of gardens don’t require as much room as some traditional gardens, and can be anything from very simple to quite complex, depending if they are on your home’s roof or a top roof garden on a commercial building or apartment complex building.

Rooftop gardening could go in one of two directions. You can opt for a top roof garden that covers the entire roof space where you cover the roof with dirt and plants. However, these are not practical for residential homes because they are quite heavy and put a big strain on the roof. By the time you put up the soil, it could end up being more than a hundred pounds per square foot and that’s not including the weight of a person tending to it!

The other option is easier and more personally suited to a residential home. You use containers to grow the plants, and these work great since they are lighter, more portable and much more affordable too. You don’t have to buy planters or pots, you can use just about anything from old kitchen pots and pans to baking pans or large plastic containers or glass jars. It all depends on the type of plant.

Gardening tools for the rooftop gardening

Another consideration when deciding to do rooftop gardening is the tools you are going to need to maintain it.  Tools can be expensive if you’re not careful, plus as stated earlier you need a place to store them.

Depending on the kind of rooftop garden you create, you are going to need some minimum tools to keep your garden going, including gardening gloves, trowel, shovel, pruning shears (if you plan on bushes or trees),  garden fork for turning up the soil, spade for digging, a rake to get rid of debris, a hoe for getting rid of weeds and making rows for your plants, and a watering can or hose.

There are ways to get your tools and gardening supplies for cheap or even free so you can save money. For instance, you can sometimes find things like spades, trowels, and gardening gloves at the dollar store or even at a yard sale. And you could always use an empty plastic milk jug as a watering can. You might even be able to get things for free by seeing if any of your friends or relatives have extras or old tools they no longer want or need.

Setting up a garden rooftop

Gardening on the roof can be fun, educational and a great way to get some delicious fruits or vegetables and to help the environment. A rooftop garden can be designed for different reasons and can be either aesthetic or edible type gardens.

For instance, you can grow ornamental plants like small trees or shrubs, various kinds of green vines, or assorted flowers. Or, you can put in different sized containers to hold edible plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, etc.

There are, however, some considerations you have to make prior to just throwing down some dirt onto a roof or bringing in lots of supplies for gardening on the roof. For instance, prior to putting in a top roof garden you should check with the local building codes or any other type of regulation that could prohibit gardening on the roof.

Test your roof strength — Next, you need to check the structural integrity of your roof to be certain it will hold up to the stress and weight of your rooftop garden project. You should hire a licensed professional to check on this. You may not believe it, but the weight of dirt, plants and gardening supplies adds up fast and you don’t want your roof to come crashing down into your living room!

Check for accessibility — You also need to think about how accessible is it going to be getting to and from your rooftop garden to tend to the plants. Is it safe to walk on your roof? Do you need a ladder or is there another way to get to the area you plant to make your rooftop garden? Plus you need to figure out if you can easily run a hose to the garden for watering the plants, as carrying up buckets of water could be very messy, heavy and annoying.

Check for sun, lighting and your budget — You also need to determine if your roof gets enough or too much sun, or if it’s too windy to support growing plants. What about lighting? If you plan to be up there in the evenings, you may want some light to work by. And then there’s storage considerations. You will need a place to keep your gardening tools, fertilizer, etc. And you also have to consider your budget. How much are you willing to spend to create and maintain your rooftop garden?

Map out your design — Once you have determined the above, you also should map out your rooftop garden to be sure of using your available space wisely. You can do this by drawing it out onto graph paper or likely there is some sort of phone app you can download that does the same thing.

“Gardening is also good for your health as it gets you out in nature and is a great stress reduction tool, along with providing a bit of exercise as you walk around the rooftop garden and tend to your plants.”

Choosing plants for your rooftop garden

So, now that you have the basics figured out, it’s time to start buying your plants or seeds for your rooftop gardening project. It’s best to get plants native to your particular climate or environment so they have a better chance of thriving. You can buy starter plants or you can buy seeds, it is up to you and to how fast you want to reap the produce from your rooftop garden.

The plants you pick depend on whether the rooftop garden is meant to be ornamental or edible. If ornamental it is a good idea to pick small shrubs or dwarf type trees that don’t get that big or heavy, or to stick with different kinds of green vines or flowering plants. It’s recommended not to use plants with large leaves as they could get shredded if you live in a windy area.

If you plan an edible rooftop garden, them you can buy just about any type of vegetable and grow them in containers, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, melons, etc. These grow quite easily in various sizes and shapes of planters, boxes, or other containers.

Advantages of a rooftop garden

There are several advantages of having a rooftop garden from the obvious enjoyment of the beauty of your flowering plants to having tasty fruits or veggies at your fingertips. Plus it’s good for the environment since plants take in carbon dioxide and give off needed oxygen.

Gardening is also good for your health as it gets you out in nature and is a great stress reduction tool, along with providing a bit of exercise as you walk around the rooftop garden and tend to your plants.

Rooftop gardens can also benefit the environment by providing energy conservation in the form of being a natural insulator for your roof. The rooftop garden will reflect both light and heat, thus you won’t need to spend as much for heating or cooling your home. Plus, this added insulation will help to cut down on noise, so you may get the advantage of a quieter home too.

Another possible benefit is that the plants will use rainwater that would have otherwise runoff and possibly contributed to flooding. The top roof garden might also help protect your roof from damage since the plants and dirt shields the roof from things like extreme temperature or UV radiation.

And a personal benefit is that if you are growing edible foods your rooftop garden is out of reach of many pests such as rabbits, deer or mice. Of course the birds can still get at it, but it is at least protected from the majority of possible predators.



Rooftop gardening is a great thing for homeowners for several reasons. The first is that it provides a steady supply of pesticide free fruits and vegetables that are much fresher and tastier than what you can buy at a store, and it provide you a way to get out in nature and burn a few calories while you get proven stress release from maintaining and enjoying your rooftop garden. So, if you love veggies, fruits and flowers and you also want to help the environment, and bring up the property value of our home, consider putting in a rooftop garden.

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