Last Updated on April 21, 2022
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that a passionate gardener with an itchy green thumb will find a way to grow plants, no matter the setting.
The rooftop garden is proof of this, as even a concrete jungle without any grass or soil is no hurdle for someone who loves to garden.
Rooftop vegetable gardening takes this trend to a whole new level though, and it’s a great way for city folk to stay in touch with nature and supplement their diet with homegrown vegetables, fruit, and herbs.
So, what is the key to success with rooftop vegetable gardening?
First, you need to establish the space is right, and the best way to do this is with a container or raised garden beds.
Then, you’ll find the best vegetables to grow in your climate, have a plan for pest control, sun exposure, irrigation, and maintenance, before you get started growing.
If you live somewhere where green grass is not an option but have ample space and the okay from building management, growing a rooftop vegetable garden can be a real treat.
We’ll walk you through the basics of what’s involved in these gardening setups so you can see if it’s something you’re capable of committing to.
Table of Contents
Can Vegetables Grow on a Rooftop?
The conditions on a rooftop, even in the middle of a bustling city, are ideal for growing a range of vegetables and it can be done easily with some planning.
Containers and raised beds are the easiest approaches to growing vegetables up here, but if you want to get serious you could use a green roof that has the roof covered in soil.
When situated on a rooftop, plants get access to sunlight, rain, and fresh air, but you’ll need to be savvy about where you place them.
Making the most of the shade is important otherwise they’ll be too exposed and knowing which vegetables will thrive in this setting is important in the planning stages.
Some of the best vegetable options for rooftop gardens include tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, beans, and cucumbers, as these all survive well in containers and with lots of sun.
However, you’ll need to understand the limitations of your climate and choose plants that work with it and not against it so you can yield the best results.
The Benefits of Growing a Rooftop Vegetable Garden
Having a vegetable garden is one of life’s greatest pleasures because of the sheer number of benefits it offers.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a green thumb or haven’t successfully grown a vegetable before, don’t let that deter you, as there are so many great things to experience from having a rooftop vegetable garden.
- Improves your diet: With full time access to homegrown vegetables and herbs, you’ll find your diet improving, and without having to spend a penny at the farmer’s market.
- Provides relaxation: There’s nothing like gardening to get your mind off your troubles and it’s a good way to engage in mindfulness. Just spending 20 minutes a day up in your rooftop garden will be a great stress reliever.
- Gives you a green space: The benefits of having somewhere green to go, especially for city dwellers, is reason enough to do it. Making an unused space into something green and beautiful is a real treat for the mind.
- Minimal pests: You won’t find any of the usual garden pests up on a rooftop in the city, so you can stop worrying about rabbits and deer. However, common pests like bugs and squirrels might still be an issue.
- Good sun exposure: A rooftop has unlimited access to the sun, provided there aren’t any buildings or structures in its way. Many vegetables do well with this much sunlight so it’s the perfect place to grow.
Is It Legal to Have a Rooftop Garden?
Before you can jump in and start planting tomatoes in containers, you need to be aware of the limitations, rules, and laws surrounding these types of gardens.
The best place to start is with the management of the building you live in so you can confirm whether it’s okay to create a garden on the rooftop.
However, where once rooftops were kept out of bounds, there have been pushes to make better use of them in more environmentally friendly ways.
In New York City specifically, recent legislation states that new buildings should have green roofs or solar panels, so more and more people are making the move towards turning these unused spaces into something nature-friendly.
Protecting Your Garden From Pests
Being high up on a rooftop and in the middle of an urban area means a different approach to pests must be taken.
Although you won’t have the typical suburban pests sniffing around your vegetable patch, that doesn’t mean a container vegetable garden on a rooftop will be pest-free.
The best protection against pests is to keep an eye on your vegetables to spot potential dangers.
There’s a good chance you won’t spot things like slugs or squirrels up that high, but other issues like bugs, rodents, and birds could be an issue.
You’ll have to determine what the potential pest problem is and try to deal with it as it happens.
Tips for Optimal Rooftop Vegetable Growth
Planning is key when creating any garden, and this is the same for a rooftop vegetable setup as well.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to ensure your garden is planned to perfection and the vegetables you grow will be tasty, juicy, and healthy.
- Consider investing in shade cloth to cover plants if you think the heat from the sun exposure will be too much. Some plants tolerate these conditions better than others, so you’ll have to assess their growth.
- Look at the structural integrity of the roof and make sure it can handle the proposed containers and soil you’ll be using. This is a good question to ask management during the planning stages.
- Find the access points that you’ll rely on during the setup phase and how you’ll get materials like soil, pots, and gardening accessories up to the rooftop.
- Know what irrigation system you’ll be using to water plants and make sure there is access to water on the rooftop or nearby. You don’t want to be lugging up gallons of water there every time your plants are thirsty.
- Establish a good fertilizer schedule that is directed specifically at growing vegetables. Try to group similar plants so you can treat them at the same time and reduce the guesswork.
Making a Green Life in the City
Just because you’re surrounded by skyscrapers and not a scrap of grass, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of the benefits of gardening.
No matter how much space you have to work with or the surroundings, you’ll be able to create something magical on your rooftop.
There’s a lot of planning that goes into making a vegetable garden and one on your rooftop will be no exception.
However, with a bit of patience and choosing the best vegetables to grow in this unique setting, you’ll get somewhere peaceful, green, and healthy to spend your time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Growing a rooftop vegetable garden is a great way to make the most of the limited space you have and it means anyone can have access to their own garden.
If you’ve got more queries about growing vegetables in containers and pots, read on to see some of the frequently asked questions we’ve answered.
If you’re looking for container or pot-friendly vegetables to grow in your rooftop garden, some have a better reputation than others.
Tomatoes, spinach, beans, peppers, Asian greens, and radishes are some of the easier vegetables to grow in pots as they require less space than a garden.
The best home for vegetable growth will depend on the plant and the surrounding conditions, but some are known as being better in the ground or in a pot.
Before planning a rooftop vegetable garden, get an idea of the plants that grow best in containers so you can focus on these instead.
Tomatoes are known for being easy to grow in containers and if you have access to a five-gallon bucket this is the perfect size for the vegetable.
Provided the bucket has adequate draining and quality soil, you’ll get great results from planting tomato seeds in something this size.