Learn how to build a garden or rooftop farm with Annie Novak’s book, “The Rooftop Growing Guide.” (Credit: Annie Novak)
Annie Novak, author of ‘The Rooftop Growing Guide,’ on urban gardening and rooftop farming
By Meredith Deliso
Chatting with the author of ‘The Rooftop Growing Guide’
Tips on how to get your own green space started
If you’ve ever wanted to turn your barren backyard or empty rooftop into a green space for fresh veggies, herbs and flowers, Annie Novak has you covered.
The co-founder of the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint and manager of the Edible Academy at the New York Botanical Garden is also behind the new book, “The Rooftop Growing Guide” ($23, Ten Speed Press), a how-to in green roofs, container gardening, crop planning, pest management, harvesting and more.
“I remember thinking when I was asked to help start the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm that there was a book missing,” Novak says, who had to navigate legal and safety issues to implement her farming knowledge on a rooftop. “If you want to see a good idea spread, you have to teach people how to do it. My hope with this book was that everyone who has a question mark gets to a place where they have an exclamation point. They can get excited about what they want to do.”
Curious? Novak shares her tips for getting started:
Get permission first
“Permission is the first thing, and often the step that’s skipped,” Novak says. “If you’re going to invest the time and money in a space, you need to make sure it’s all right.”
The green roof installed at Toronto’s Mountain Equipment Coop in 1998 it was one of the first of its kind- the extensive lightweight planting of low-maintenance, smaller native plants. It was not designed to be looked at; the only way you can get to it is via a ladder and a roof hatch, and the only people who can see it are in the new condos surrounding the store now. It was a nice touch, but nobody knew what a revolution in building design it was the start of.
There really is no reason that ground, walls, balconies and roofs cannot all feed us, provide habitat for wildlife, shade and cool our buildings, and provide feedstock for our furnaces and electrical generators. There is no reason that our own waste can’t be digested on site and provide compost for the farm. There is no reason that our buildings cannot provide employment for people living in them, growing the food that others in the building can then have for dinner.
This is the future of green living building, it’s not walls, roofs or garden; it’s everywhere.
Dr Sara Wilkinson tends a tomato crop on a rooftop above Broadway at UTS. Photo: Peter Morris
Rooftops offer a viable and sustainable space for growing edible produce
by Robin Powell
What if the greens you need for tonight’s dinner were grown on the roof of the office where you work? From a cook’s perspective this is a dream – fresh produce and no time wasted on shopping. And the advantages of urban farming extend way beyond the wellbeing of the time-poor consumer. Produce farmed on urban rooftops also contributes to reducing the heat island effect of cities, lowering summer temperatures and minimising the carbon footprint of food.
Rooftop vegetable gardens increase urban biodiversity; decrease stormwater run-off; offer psychological benefits to those involved with the garden and with fellow gardeners; and can even protect and extend the lifetime of the roof.
Interest in green roofs is growing like dandelions in spring: the City of Sydney reports an average of one development application a week for a green roof or wall. Already, 100,000 square metres is given over to green roofs across the city, and Lord Mayor Clover Moore says the City is doing all it can “to introduce more of these features into our urban landscape”.
Yet few are food producing. Sydney’s environmental conditions suggest an urban harvest could contribute significantly to food production. The city of Toronto, for instance, which is under snow for three or four months of the year, estimates that 10 per cent of its fresh food could be grown within the city limits.