Urban Gardening: How to Start a Rooftop Garden

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A great way to garden outdoors when renting is to start a rooftop garden—a great solution for urban gardening. It’s a solution if the apartment building doesn’t have a backyard, or you can’t directly access one, because you’re renting on a higher floor. You can set one up for fun only, or you can produce food that is healthy to eat. Some flower varieties do well in a rooftop garden, so keep that in mind as well for cut flowers or for other uses.


You’re not going to want to start a rooftop garden on a roof that’s sloped. It should be flat, and one that you can safely access to water and take care of the plants. If portions of the roof don’t get full sunlight because other buildings are obstructing it, then choose a spot where you get the most sun. Before you get started, obtain written permission from your landlord, who might be concerned about liability issues with you making frequent trips to the roof.

Container Gardening

Since you don’t own your apartment, your best option for rooftop garden is growing a container garden. Buy or find pots and other containers that have drainage at the bottom to release water. You’ll need to set the containers in something to catch the water that drains out, so that it doesn’t spill out on the roof.

Fill containers with soil, and you can buy potted soil mixes at stores that sell garden supplies or top soil from a nursery. If you want to grow an organic garden, be very picky about what soil you buy. You can buy organic potted soil online if it’s not available locally. Mix compost in the soil, even if it’s a soil mix. Your plants will appreciate the nutrients. Place the containers on the section of the roof that your landlord is allowing you to use for the rooftop garden. Transfer plants or seedlings when you get them.

Start Seedlings Indoors

You’ll have much better success if you start your seeds indoors, rather than starting them outside on the roof. Growing flowers and plants from seed is a longer process, but it’s cheaper. Some seeds require more work than others. For example, it’s better to sprout a pea seed before planting it, which involves more steps, than just putting them in potted soil. Learn how to germinate seed for the specific plants you want to grow. You may also need LED grow lights if you don’t get enough sun in your apartment. Controlling the temperature in your apartment is also important, since seeds like warmth when trying to grow.

Transplant Plants

An alternative to germinating seeds yourself is to buy transplants for your rooftop garden. Your local nursery or an online garden shop can sell you the plants you want, and all you have to do is transfer it, without shocking the plant. The way to do that is to water the plant first, and also to water the soil you’re transferring the plant to. Some transplants can stay in the container it came in for a little while, if you haven’t already set up the rooftop garden.

Once you get started, growing a rooftop garden is like any container garden. You may have to cover plants with tarp from time to time to protect it from heavy weather storms. Bringing the containers indoors is another way to protect plants during rain and hail storms.

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