Tips for Designing Rooftop Gardens

Rockefeller Center rooftop gardenRooftop gardens are a rarity in urban jungles like New York City. There are so many buildings and people that gardening and plants takes a backseat to offices, stores and living spaces. New York City balconies are rare, but there are some rooftop gardens that people can enjoy.


Rooftop gardens can be for recreational and aesthetic purposes, but don’t confuse them with “green rooftops,” which use plants (or “green” technology) to absorb rainwater, insulate a building, create wildlife habitats and to help lower urban temperatures. As opposed to the purely functional green roofs, rooftop container gardens are enjoyable escapes from the stressful city, and they also provide many of the benefits of green rooftops.

There are some famous rooftop gardens in New York City, including the Rockefeller Center gardens and the Trump Tower public gardens. Trump Tower is much more accessible to the public, while the Rockefeller Center gardens can be viewed from expensive office space and can be rented for a large sum ($15,000 per night, for example, if you want to host a party among the rooftop plants).

If you are lucky enough to have your own rooftop that can be converted into a garden, there are several things to keep in mind when creating your garden.

-Check with the building owner (if you are not the owner), any applicable homeowner association rules, and local ordinances and building codes.
-Find out the weight limit that the roof will handle and build accordingly (consult a contractor for this).
-Keep lightweight plant containers on the roof.
-Add windbreakers to keep your light containers from blowing away in the wind. Use trellises with climbing plants to diffuse the wind (wind diffusion is more beneficial than completely blocking the wind with a wall). Trellises will cut down on wind, but will also allow some sunlight to pass through.
-Finally, plan how to water the garden. Add a rainwater harvesting system and install an automatic watering system to keep maintenance low.

Even if you aren’t able to have a rooftop garden, be sure to visit one when you get the chance. They are a spectacular sight in a busy city.

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