Veggie Gardens, Roofs and Social Upliftment

Producing fresh, organic and healthy food does not need to be limited by a lack of space. While a lack of space is a dilemma faced by many as the popularity of townhouses, ­flats and apartments grows, it shouldn’t prevent the privilege of gardening – just look up and consider rooftop gardening.

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. In addition to 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 – perhaps consult 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.
  • Take note of the pitch of the roof – a slope that is too steep may cause plants to slip off, while a roof that is too flat may cause excess water to pool.
  • Observe the aspect of the roof, regional climate of the area, and 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. Tomatoes, cabbages, spinach, lettuce, green peppers, spring onions, brinjals, amadumbe and chillies are some plants that can be grown successfully on roofs.
  • In areas of excessive wind, an artistically placed shade cloth or trellis could add an interesting feature to the rooftop.

Rooftop veggie gardens can be incorporated into social upliftment or employee well-being programmes at the office. Perhaps a successful rooftop garden can be used to supplement the needs of the office canteen. The benefits of being able to harvest organic food, sustainably and with no threat to our environment, are considerable. Also, roof gardens use rainwater and in doing so prevent excessive stormwater run-off , making them Water Wise too!

The Gardener