Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Hannah Thomas. Her opinions are her own.
A rooftop garden isn’t anything new in big cities. For decades, people have been searching for ways to bring in a dash of nature into cold and concrete buildings and make a little piece of heaven for themselves. A garden on a rooftop allows just that – a small private space in the greenery with a wonderful view of the city.
Even if you live in a house or don’t have the possibility to have a garden on the rooftop of your building, maybe there is a chance of you having one at work. Before you dismiss this idea, consider just how many benefits your business would get from this.
All the good reasons
First, a rooftop garden can help you keep the heat in during cold months of the year and reduce your heating bills significantly. And during the summer months, a garden keeps your workplace cool and pleasant to be in. This natural insulation also reduces noise pollution, which greatly helps with everyday work.
Next, these high-positioned gardens often provide privacy for you or your employees. They are an excellent solution for an unused space without a purpose and they provide you with a beautiful scenery with a good sun exposure most of the day.
Another great thing about them is that they are environmentally friendly and can help you develop a biodiverse area for everybody to enjoy. And last but not least – depending on a type of the garden, they are more or less easy to install.
Types of rooftop gardens
Depending on what you want to achieve with the garden and how demanding you want it to be, here are your choices:
Extensive / Sedum green roofs – this type is really low-maintenance but still highly environmentally friendly. They are also really easy to install. Only one thing – they serve more decorative purposes that they actually serve as a real “garden”.
Semi-intensive green roofs – if appearances are important for your business, this is a good choice. You can also grow shrubs and other types of plants. However, this type demands some devotion if you want it to look really impressive.
Intensive green roofs – obviously, this type demands some serious landscaping because it’s supposed to be a complete and stunning garden. The good side is that your staff will definitely have a beautiful place to relax.
Biodiverse roofing – in environmental terms, this type is the best option. It usually uses recycled materials to create a habitat for diverse species, such as bees and butterflies. Although this type isn’t as visually attractive as others, it gives a clear and strong statement about you and your business and sends a message that you are highly devoted to sustainability at the workplace.
No matter which type of garden you would like to have, there are still some factors you need to consider before you actually start creating a garden.
- Determine loading capacity of your rooftop – it’s best to contact a structural engineer for this. An engineer will precisely determine the weight that the roof can handle, including plants, plant containers, visitors, garden furniture and weather loads (snow, for example). If there are any obstructions, such as a chimney, an engineer will advise you on how to work around them.
- Review the municipality’s building codes – you need to be sure that a rooftop garden is allowed in your area or if there are any restrictions regarding its height or certain decorations. You also need to check that the building isn’t a part of a historical neighborhood. In that case, you would have to contact district leaders to get possible additional regulations.
- Monitor the roof’s sun and wind exposure – it’s best if you check the sun exposure three times a day – in the morning, at midday and in the evening. You need to make sure that the plants can get between 6 and eight hours of sun a day and that some other building casts too much shade on them. A weather vane or an anemometer will show you how strong the wind is. If you notice that the wind is very strong at that height, which can seriously damage the plants, consider installing structural windbreakers, for example, trellises.
- Make a rough sketch of the garden – use a graph paper to present the organization of the plants and garden furniture. Before you start sketching, determine how much space will each square on the graph paper represent, so that you can have a realistic image of what can actually be put and where. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a MUSA landscape designer to make a precise sketch. You can always re-do the sketch if you change your mind or notice a slight omission while creating the garden.
The actual building of the garden
Once the actual work starts, here’s what you’ll need to do and to decide on:
- Install a hose to the rooftop – some areas get enough rain for the plants, but if that isn’t the case, you’ll need to find a faucet on the roof and attach a hose to it.
- Get containers – check your sketch when deciding how big containers you need. Plastic and wooden pots are a better choice than terracotta, as they are lighter.
- Plant the seeds or seedlings – the choice is yours, just bear in mind that seedlings are pest-resistant and strong, while seeds are significantly cheaper.
- Choose lightweight garden furniture – they are a better option when you consider the roof loading capacity. Choose foldable furniture, it doesn’t take too much space, either.
- Use vertical space – don’t overcrowd the garden by putting a plant on every inch of the space available. Wherever you can, install plant climbing vines or hang flower pots on the walls. An empty space also has a purpose, so don’t overdo it.
- Decide on the central point – central point will make the garden feel harmonious. It can be a tree, a big comfortable sofa or an elegant statue. Don’t hide the garden focal point with too many plants and decorations around it and make sure that there is a mutual tie (for example, a color) that connects the central point with the rest of the garden.
- Get multi-functional decorations – as you have limited space, make sure that any decoration or a piece of furniture you put on the roof has more than one use. For example, look for a bench that can also serve as storage for you foldable chairs or chairs that can be made into a coffee table.
Maybe it seems like a considerable work and time to invest at first, but once when the installation is over, all that remains is a regular maintenance. When you sit in your garden during a coffee or lunch break and enjoy the peace, quiet and natural beauty, you will know that it’s all worth. You will know that this rooftop garden of yours will benefit both your and your employee’s mental state and your business.
Hannah Thomas is an expert in business innovation and management with a love for writing, currently cooperating with Sydney based garden designers. Always eager to learn new things and to share the knowledge she acquired along the way.