May 20, 2009
NYC Rooftop Gardening
Every summer I dream of getting out of the city heat for a few months to some nice summer home upstate. That dream hasn't come true yet, but I've found a way to bring a little bit of that summer back home to the city.
My garden is my refuge, my happy place, my growing place. It's amazing what a few plants will do to your outlook. They've lived on my fire escape and window sills before I graduated to the rooftop.
A few tips
I love the book The City Gardener's Handbook. It's written by a New Yorker, and I swear for New Yorkers, though I think anyone would benefit from it. Easy enough for a beginner but with plenty of resources for the intermediate (and dare I say advanced) gardener.
Don't spend too much money!
All of my pots (or plastic tubs) I got off of craig's list or from the dollar store. I even got a few just regular tubs and drilled lots of holes into the bottom for drainage. Some of them were free.
Try growing from seed.
They're cheap and I certainly don't mind that they sprout irregularly. You can move them around or trim them back as they grow so you have even seedlings throughout your pots. Or try growing them inside!
Spend money on plants that you know will last.
This is the rose bush's second season on my roof. Handled the winter just fine. Learn what zone you're in and shop accordingly. Perennial plant tags say what zones are best for them. Otherwise, you can bring tropical plants indoors. Just remember to keep them in until the temperature has stabilized above 40 deg F at night. I tried to bring my Aloe Vera plants out too early this year and almost killed them.
Know what you have and Use what's already there.
And I spent a few days going up to the roof at different times of day to get a feeling for how much sun and shade my roof gets. During the summer it gets more sun than some plants can handle. But I do have that wall that provides a bit of shade in the afternoon, even with the silver paint.
And I use what's already on my roof, like this pole will eventually be supporting these snap pea plants.
Ask an expert!
Find your local nursery, plant and garden store, or even a hardware store and find someone that will answer your questions. Start out small and learn as you go. It's ok if it doesn't work out at first, a lot of it is trial and error. While I love the plants themselves, I also just love playing in the dirt.