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Starting an Indoor or Rooftop Garden


Whether you live in the city or in a neighborhood, the luxury of having a large yard is becoming quite rare. For garden lovers, the lack of a yard can be a painful curse. It doesn’t seem fair that the city life automatically disqualifies you from growing something beautiful. While I don’t have the greenest of thumbs, I welcome the presence of plants in my home for their many healthy and positive benefits. Growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers in and around the home is a very fulfilling hobby, but you don’t have to have a huge piece of land to enjoy it. Instead of planting out in the backyard, you can plant up – yes, up, right on the top of your roof. If you can’t plant up, then bring the garden indoors. With a little guidance, hard work, and seeds, you can be seeing green no matter where you live.

Safety and Rules

Before starting any project, you need to talk to your landowner, structural engineer, and city to get approval and advice. Rooftops are a little more complicated than an indoor garden, and ensuring the structural system can support the additional weight of soil and plants will make your garden a safe place to walk. Fencing needs to be added to protect the people on the roof and passers-by on the sidewalks below. Anything from a bucket to a shovel could be bumped off and cause serious harm to anyone standing on the ground level. Make sure to follow any regulations and laws: A project done the wrong way can end up costing you thousands in fines.

Select Soil

Along with safety comes the decision of the type of soil to use for your plants. Soil can be incredibly heavy and place too much weight on a roof. A planting medium can be used in place of soils to lighten the weight load. For indoor plants, buy a regular bag of soil from any garden store and place it in your planting containers.

Pick Your Plants

Picking plants is my favorite thing about gardening; it allows me to express myself through the various plants available. Herbs, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, kale, green onions, and snow peas are going to be your easiest plants to grow both on the rooftop and indoors. Herbs love to be propped up in a kitchen window and thrive in a small pot with lots of sunlight. Larger plants such as watermelon, broccoli, and cauliflower don’t grow well indoors and should be avoided in rooftop gardens as well.

Gather Containers

Choosing containers really depends on what you want. You can recycle something as simple as a yogurt container or buy your own potting plastic containers. Before placing any plant or seed inside, make sure there are holes in the bottom. Small holes allow for drainage, so excess water can easily escape.

Choose a Watering System

Indoor plants are a little tricky to water properly. Too much water can wash out a seed, while too little can kill the plant. Drainage holes will allow excess water to get out, but spraying a mist daily will keep the soil moist while preventing water from flushing out the seed. Rooftop gardens give room for a little creativity in watering systems. A hose can be run up the side of a building and attached to drip lines. Drip lines take a huge work load off of your hands, and keep the water spraying equally.

Bring on the Lights

Rooftop gardens have the luxury of being drenched in sunlight all day long. Indoor gardens can be placed appropriately to receive the most sunlight possible; remember, windows are your best friend. Setting up fluorescent lights above your plants will help them grow faster and stay in a comfortable warm climate. Play around with the lighting and watch your plants reaction. If they are thriving and continually growing, you are doing it right. When the first hint of green pops up from a planted seed, you will feel a rush of both pride and excitement. Gardens make it possible to eat healthy while providing positive endorphins from hard work and accomplishment. If I can grow something in my home, then I know you can grow many tasty plants inside yours.

Image Courtesy of Peter Blanchard (Flickr)

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