Is rooftop gardening possible?

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Hey friends,

I have a relative that manages parking garages downtown and we've been having discussions about an urban garden on unused roofs of a garage. I'm new to gardening, only started last summer, so I'm hoping people here can lend their knowledge to what could be a pretty cool nonprofit project!

The project would be in smack downtown Indianapolis, 7 floors up. The roof is 100% exposed to sunlight. We can have access to the building and elevators to tend to the gardens, transport water, etc. as much as necessary. Is there a reason this wouldn't work?

As far as the actual gardens, our favorite idea so far is to build Ikea Growroom spheres (Google Ikea growroom) right on the roof. They might need to be customized, or we can also use typical planter boxes depending on what we grow. If you think the spheres are a no-go I'm completely open to hearing alternate ideas.

All produce will feed food-insecure kids at inner city schools!

If any seasoned gardeners are willing to give input on why "rooftop farming" may or may not work I'd be very grateful. Before it moves any further I want to think through all the potential problems. And if you'd like to contribute more or join the team please don't hesitate to message me!

Thanks!
 
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Meadowlark

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Absolutely it will work. You have sun and water and couple that with good compost rich soil, that will be a successful garden.

Some plants do better than others in containers so selectivity will improve your success rate.
 
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Absolutely it will work. You have sun and water and couple that with good compost rich soil, that will be a successful garden.

Some plants do better than others in containers so selectivity will improve your success rate.
Thanks for the feedback! The more I think about it the more I think we'll do containers.
 

JBtheExplorer

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I've seen quite a few rooftop garden videos on youtube. You may want to search them for some inspiration and/or ideas.
 
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Sure it will work. I don't know about the growrooms but any type of container will work as long as it drains. They are all over NYC
 

zigs

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It'll work, but bear in mind the extra weight that it'll put on the roof. A cubic metre of wet soil weighs about a tonne.

Welcome to the forum BTW :)
 
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One thing that must be a concern is trapped moisture.

I have an oak tree that drops tons of leaves on my roof that didn't get my attention because I was away in the Navy; however, after retiring in 2005 and moving back here in Florida, I cleaned the roof only to find my roof needed replacing due to the pile of leaves had basically composted and turned into soil and all the little microbes that grow in compost/soil eat away at roof tiling.

I can see the same issue with containers trapping moisture between them and the roof.

I'd be interested to see how that issue is addressed in the various designs....
 
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I can see the same issue with containers trapping moisture between them and the roof.
Hmm ... maybe raising any pots up from the roof .. using "pot feet" ... it would create and airflow so any moisture would evaporate and not be left sitting on the roofing material? Just a thought.
 

alp

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Absolutely possible. Just need some plants which can withstand the microclime on your rooftop. You can even grow tomatoes and strawberries there. Need something to anchor the pots and roots. You don't want to see your pots flying around like a meteor!
 
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Hmm ... maybe raising any pots up from the roof .. using "pot feet" ... it would create and airflow so any moisture would evaporate and not be left sitting on the roofing material? Just a thought.
Yes, you can do that, but then the weight issue is magnified, by reducing surface area to support all the weight. So, I'm kind of curious how much that will reduce the garden area?...
 
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It worked for Derry and Thoms, a former Knightsbridge store, the building is now used for offices of different companies. The garden is "listed" so has to be preserved.

 
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alp

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Re @Sean Regan 's video. A most famous one in London is in South Kensington. The rooftop garden must have a specialist treatment as it actually has a canal where you could enjoy wood ducks swimming around.


A feast for the eyes. I used to work in South Kensington and never knew of its existence. Might go there for a very expensive cup of tea and snap some pics in the summer.
 

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Re @Sean Regan 's video. A most famous one in London is in South Kensington. The rooftop garden must have a specialist treatment as it actually has a canal where you could enjoy wood ducks swimming around.


A feast for the eyes. I used to work in South Kensington and never knew of its existence. Might go there for a very expensive cup of tea and snap some pics in the summer.
I went there for an award presentation :)
 
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zigs

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Come on, zigs! Spill the beans please!
Got a green apple award for the work we did on The Conduit in Sherborne :)

Can't find a thing about it on the web though :(

 
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one would think the "right" roof first is top importance. whatever that is.
Yes that is important and if you listen to a lot of the videos about roof top gardening, many roofs must first be reinforced. I know that I would have to do that for my house, just for the weight issue, forget the issue of trapped moisture.

I'm not anti-rooftop gardening, I just have questions about how it would work over time, but the problem is that the vast majority of videos out there are so pie-in-the-sky and only just quickly skim over some of the challenges, if they even mention those issues.

I've known about this type of gardening for a while now, but I'm really curious how some of the older ones are doing now and how much money, time and effort has gone into keeping them up.

Here's one of the only videos (albeit very short) that speaks to some of the challenges.


 
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