Monday, July 20th, 2009...12:36 am

Creating a Roof Garden in NYC

Terrace Roof Garden Img_1126a by Lanterna

Terrace Roof Garden Img_1126a by Lanterna

TheGardenLady received this question from Michelle.

I live in NYC, and would love to plant flowers and herbs outside my apt. Outside our kitchen window is a blacktop roof. I’ve tried to grow basil and parsley, but they never stay moist enough–sun is too strong. But, I would like to build something bigger to include many flowers and herbs. What would you suggest?

What a lovely idea to use the roof for a garden. However, in your case, living in NYC, one has to be concerned about the weight of plants on an old roof. Your landlord might object. If you think the landlord does not object, TheGardenLady recommends using light weight things for planting.

Plastic pots weigh less and don’t dry out as easily as clay pots or aren’t as heavy as ceramic pots.  Also, if you will be watering the plants, you have to be sure that the water will run off and not seep into the roof – down into someone else’s apartment. You don’t want plants that need a lot of watering.

rooftop garden by bondidwhat

rooftop garden by bondidwhat

Attempting to grow herbs is a good idea because herbs do love sun. Most herbs come from the Mediterranean area where they get lots of sun which is needed for the herbs to have strong herbal flavors. But growing in a field is different than growing on a roof. TheGardenLady imagines that it is probably due to the blacktop roof that your herbs are drying out too quickly. Getting all that heat from the sun plus the heat from the black bottom under the pots might create too intense a heat and cause the small amount of soil in the pot to dry out too quickly.

If the roof can support larger plant structures, TheGardenLady has other suggestions than the ones she is writing today. If you are unhappy with the suggestions I am giving today, I welcome your writing to this column again for other suggestions. Today TheGardenLady has another direction for your rooftop garden that might be more fun, less work and less weight on the roof.

TheGardenLady suggests that you try raising plants that like dry locations with little watering, plants that are small, love sun and don’t need much soil to be planted in. Plants that might even survive outdoors in winter.

Sempervivums by Badly Drawn Dad

Sempervivums by Badly Drawn Dad

Have you considered raising succulents like sedums (see here) and sempervivums (see here)? In some areas sempervivums are traditionally grown on roofs. And today roof gardens are being created on buildings throughout the country.  See here.

Terrace Garden from above by AlisonLOL

Terrace Garden from above by AlisonLOL

Succulents are some of the hardiest, easiest to raise perennials. They come in myriads of interesting shapes and unusual colors and they have lots of brilliant, lovely flowers – you can have blooms for up to 9 months a year. Succulents make interesting container plants, they can be tiny and ground hugging or can grow taller but they don’t grow like rampant weeds so that there isn’t much maintenance once planted. You can try using all sorts of interesting containers to plant your succulents – your old shoes, driftwood, hanging planters – you can even make living wreaths.

Succulents are great plants to use creatively. See here.  Some succulents are easy to propagate and raise because many succulents don’t mind neglect. They like drought- the hotter and dryer the better. Rain might be adequate water for them. However, they do like good drainage because they don’t like to sit in water. An added bonus if you make pretty arrangements with your succulents is that you can bring them indoors to show off when company comes to visit.

There are numerous nurseries in NY.  See hereTheGardenLady hopes there is one near you that sells succulents.

Mixed succulents by mondomuse

Mixed succulents by mondomuse

If you do create succulent planters, please share photos of your garden on the roof.  If you want to see the NYC rooftop gardens of the wealthy check out these photos.

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