How to design and plant a tiny balcony or rooftop garden, plus a simple herb project to get you started
Essentials before you begin Before designing and planting a balcony or rooftop garden, think about the style you’d prefer, how often you’ll entertain there, and whether you want to grow vegetables or herbs. Most importantly, consider how much time you will be able to give to maintaining your urban oasis.
First, it’s essential to ask a qualified architect or structural engineer how much weight your roof can take, and whether you need planning permission. You’ll also have to ascertain whether your balcony or roof garden is waterproof. This may sound strict, but it’s worth following the correct regulations initially to avoid paying for any damage if, say, you flood your home or the roof or balcony collapses under the weight of heavy containers. Ideally, position containers on the perimeter of a balcony or roof garden, near load-bearing walls or over a load-bearing beam or joist.
Then you can give some thought to the plants that will thrive there, as well as how you want to use your new outdoor space. Follow a few simple guidelines, and your garden should flourish.
Be selective Choose containers that create focal points and spend money on a couple of larger containers rather than on lots of smaller ones – too many plants or ornaments make a small space look overcrowded.
American Society of Landscape Architects
Mark Morrison, FASLA, Mark Morrison Landscape Architecture, who did his first green roof in Moscow in the 1970s and works on lots of diverse rooftop spaces (restaurants, hospitals, and community gardens), said the issues relate to policy. “We need policy changes.” He pointed to his Visionaire greenroof project in Battery Park City, where there’s a “strong authority” that didn’t want to see plants on roofs, so he had to make design changes to hide the roof produce. Keith Agoada, Urban-ag, agreed, adding that “commercial farming is often illegal.” Rooftop farmers often need “special use permits” to get around out-dated regulations meant to encourage densification by keeping farmers out of the city. There are also complications with adding greenhouses on roofs, which are “technically another floor,” so farmers need “legal and design workarounds.”
Residents can find info on growing food in containers and on rooftops
From rooftops to balconies to tiny backyards, gardens can bloom anywhere, even in small spaces.
An event organized by Live Green Toronto in partnership with the Carrot Common Green Roof is aiming to help people grow food anywhere.
The Food from Small Spaces Fair: Urban Backyard, Balcony and Rooftop Food-Growing event takes place Saturday, Aug. 13 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Eastminster United Church.
“We’ve had a lot of requests from community groups on how they can develop container growing or how to start a community garden,” said Martina Rowley, one of Live Green Toronto’s community animators. “There’s a huge interest in urban gardening.”
Nearly half of Toronto residents live in apartments or condos so if they want to garden they have limited real estate in which to do it.
“If you live in an apartment building or condo (you’ll learn) what you can do or if you just have a small patch of grass,” Rowley said.
There will be information and displays on growing food in containers, raised beds and on rooftops. The fair may be of interest to homeowners, too, as many backyards can be tight places to grow.
Rowley said the idea of growing one’s own food is on the rise for several reasons.
Greening up: Rooftop farms and gardens flourish in the cities
By Elizabeth Millard, The Line
Compared to the meadow and prairie wildflower plot nearby, the organic vegetable garden is neatly organized, and bees make their way through all of it, buzzing from a woodland garden to unmowed grass. Although it sounds like a rural scene, there’s a catch: This setup is a few stories off the ground, on the roof of Fire Stations 1 and 10 in St. Paul.
The green roof is now in its second year, located at West 7th and Randolph, and the 8,000-square-foot space keeps the firehouses cool in the summer and warm in the winter, according to Steve Zaccard, the city’s fire marshal and public information officer. A small vegetable garden is tended by the firefighters, who use the produce for their meals.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2011) — Growing plants on rooftops is an old concept that has evolved from simple sod roofing to roof gardens and new, lightweight “extensive green roofs.” Modern green roofs have environmental and social benefits; they can reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, mitigate urban heat, reduce the demand for air conditioning and greenhouse gas emissions, and provide habitat for birds and wildlife. Long-used in urban planning in Europe, green roofs are becoming more popular in North America, and new research designed to promote the integration of green roofs into current and future buildings is burgeoning.