rooftop farm

Ever thought of growing vegetables on your roof?

Producing fresh, organic and healthy food does not need to be restricted by a lack of space. This dilemma is faced by many as the popularity of townhouses, flats and apartments grows. However, a lack of space should not stop the privileges of gardening – just look up!

Growing ‘green roofs’, or edible rooftop gardens, is a fairly new concept that is taking the world by storm. As the amount of space available per person decreases and the price of food increases, more and more people are looking at investing in home food gardens or in this case rooftop food gardens. Besides the benefit of reduced costs and a sustainable supply of food, home-grown fruit and veggies are healthier and kinder on the environment than their mass-produced counterparts.

While growing a food garden on your roof may be tricky, remember these steps when considering rooftop gardens:

• Be sure the roof can take the extra weight of the soil needed for the garden – consider consulting a structural engineer before starting.

• An additional protective layer will need to be placed over your existing roof unless trays are being used to grow vegetables in.

• Make sure there is adequate drainage from the roof garden to prevent the accumulation of water and potential damage to the roof.

• Roof pitch – a flat roof is best but check for potential excess water to pooling.

• Observe the aspect of the roof, regional climate of the area, wind and shade in order to position the right plants in the right place.

• Remember that the weather conditions on the roof may be extreme so choose plants that are able to survive and grow well in very hot, and possibly dry and windy conditions. A study conducted in Durban showed that tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, green peppers, spring onion, eggplants, amadumbe and chillies grew successfully on the roof of a suburban home.

• In areas of excessive wind, an artistically placed shade cloth or trellis could add an interesting feature to the rooftop.

• Plan for collection and storage of rainwater.

While setting up a rooftop edible garden may be time-consuming and costly initially, the benefits of being able to harvest organic food, sustainably and with no threat to our environment, are considerable. Remember, an organic garden uses only animal and plant derived fertiliser – no chemicals are involved! Also, roof gardens use rainwater and in doing so prevent excessive stormwater run-off, making them Water Wise too!

The Gardener