Urban Edibles: how to reap the bounty of your rooftop garden

Spring is creeping up on us, and those early hints of summer sun are awakening our instincts as earthen homesteaders. Seeds are on sale at the coop, and everyone is dreaming up what horticultural experiments with take place this summer in their rooftop, balcony and alley way gardens. This planning phase determines so much of what our gardens will grow into. Its not easy to make a garden flourish in the harsh hot sun of an urban roof top, or in the darker depths of an alley, but there are a few things you can keep in mind while planting your urban edibles that might bring more bounty to your table.

If you are working on a roof top there are two things to think about, harsh summer heat, and wind. It gets hot on our new york roof tops; baking midday heat, reflecting up around our little green buddies striving to survive in the world. The hotter it is, the drier it is. There are a few way to combat this. Clustering your little guys together will help to lock in moister, plants like company, and they always do better huddled up together. Huddling them together also helps to block out direct sunlight on different sides of the plants, creating some local shade and protecting their little leaves from sunburn. Bolting is another heat concern on roof tops. If you are planning on lettuce, cilantro, or other bolt tending herbs watch out! Try to plan them in areas that will receive some shade during the afternoon. A common problem on roof tops is plants bolting before they’re even mature enough to eat. A bitter bolted lettuce is hardly a reward for a sweetly sown seed.

Next, wind. Wind is a big issue, to avoid this issue try planting shorter fruiting plants. Plants that tend to grow tall and bushy, like tomatoes, corn and pole beans are likely to be blown over and damaged by the wind. Most people that set out to plant a garden usually go for tomatoes, but in an urban environment I might steer clear of these guys. Tomatoes are tender, they are very susceptible to disease, and their bright red fruits make them very popular amongst our furry friends. Tomatoes are a lot of work and don’t lend themselves to a large urban harvest. Other hardier plants that are lower to the ground and preform well on roof tops are leafy greens, eggplants, summer squash, winter squash, hot and sweet peppers and herbs. All of these plants provide a bigger bounty without as much work and bring an range of flavors and colors to your plate!

Good luck with those gardens! Check out the link to Garden Design Magazines roof top gardens for further reading.

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