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How Do I Start a Rooftop Garden?

Gravel may be laid to help with drainage.
Gardening tools and potted plants.
Many people grow vegetables in a rooftop garden.
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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2014
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People who live in urban areas can cultivate their own gardens by planting flowers and plants on top of their roofs. Developing a rooftop garden is an excellent way that city dwellers can benefit the environment and create a tranquil space at the same time. If a person wishes to make a rooftop garden, he or she can decorate the roof with potted plants or flowers. An urban dweller can also design an elaborate rooftop garden, using soil spread on top of a waterproof layer. If the gardener is not the owner of the building, he or she should seek permission from the building's owner before embarking on this project.

Before deciding to design a rooftop garden, the would-be gardener must determine if it is safe enough to plant vegetation on the roof. Rooftop gardens need flat roofs to thrive. Roofs that slope are not ideal settings for a garden. Consulting an architect or engineer will help a person determine if the roof is strong enough to support the weight of plants and decorations that will be used.

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Other items are needed to make a successful garden on top of the roof. For example, rooftop gardens require an insulation layer and a waterproof barrier on which the soil can rest. Gardens on the roof also require a root barrier that prevents plant roots from penetrating the waterproof layer. In addition, the garden must include a layer of clay, gravel, or plastic which allows water to drain. A filter section is also necessary so water can soak through it without the danger of soil erosion.

After placing the foundation layers, the gardener can choose appropriate plants for the rooftop garden. He or she should select plants that can withstand cold, heat, wind, and rain since they will be exposed to the elements on a daily basis. Plants native to the area are a sensible choice for those who wish to cultivate plants that will thrive in a rooftop environment.

Depending on the amount of weight that a particular roof can support, the urban gardener can arrange a variety of decorations to complement the garden. Trellises, gazebos, statues, and other decorative objects are just a sample of the items that can be used to decorate it. More elaborate rooftop gardens may even include large trees and shrubbery.

People build rooftop gardens for a variety of reasons. Despite its obvious aesthetic benefits, a rooftop garden can lower temperatures. During the hot days of summer, the cluster of plants uses evapotranspiration to transfer heat and moisture from the soil into humidity. This, in turn, makes the air cooler.

Rooftop gardens also serve as insulation during the winter, protecting buildings from heat loss. This particular benefit saves people money on their heating bills during the frigid winter months. When it rains, rooftop gardens collect the water that falls. It also collects leaves and sediment, purifying the water before it enters the city's sewer system.

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