Build your own mini roof garden

ricardo gomez angel WsEAiVwGrwo unsplash
ricardo gomez angel WsEAiVwGrwo unsplash

If you’re longing for some greenery, but don’t want to put up with the hassle of gardening or accidentally mowing over your plantings, then plant a mini garden on the roof!

 It’s easier than you think. Just find a location on your roof that receives full sunlight and is sheltered enough from wind. 

You’ll use pots or little planters to hold plants. Add some fencing around them so they don’t fall off. Your rooftop garden can be as basic, complicated, or elaborate as you want it to be.

Something with numbers gives you the tips to build your own mini roof garden.

1. Pick your spots.

Choose a sunny roof that gets plenty of sun, and choose a location that gets adequate shade as well. Keep it away from vents and skylights. 

The less you plant on the roof, the better—and the more manageable it will be (you don’t want to be watering and weeding all over the place). 

You can use plastic pots or little planters instead of sod for this project; they’re easier to manage and if they fall over, no big deal.

 I like to use plastic chicken feeders for my containers; they’re cute but sturdy (and lightweight if you don’t put anything inside them).

2. Lay out the planters.

Plan out your planting areas based on sun exposure and where you want them to get shade. 

You can easily get 10 square feet of potting soil for this project—that’s enough to plant three plants in each pot, so you can grow up to three plants at one time (or use more pots if you want to grow more than that). 

Bury the edges of the pots 1-2 inches deep to give them a nice root ball (so they don’t tip over when it’s hot).

3. Build another layer onto your roof garden.

If it’s too windy, or your roof is hilly, you can always build a few layers on the ground to help stabilize your planters. 

Using leftover roofing materials, you can even build simple walls around the planters.

4. Add water to keep your plants alive!

Once you have some plants growing in your garden, make sure to water them every other day for an hour during the hottest part of the day (early afternoon). 

You’ll probably want to use a hose with a sprayer attachment and water slowly and directly onto the pots. 

Make sure you don’t forget and leave them without water for too long—even all-day long—or they might dry out and die.

5. Care for your roof garden.

Once you get some greenery growing, make sure it has sufficient sun and water every week. 

Also, if you have a plant that falls over, don’t worry—just prop it back up with a stick or something so the wind won’t knock it over again.

6. Plant your first seeds.

Start out with fast-growing plants like lettuce and herbs (like basil and cilantro). 

These will grow the fastest and you’ll be able to see your garden grow more quickly than with other plants. 

Just water your plants every other day for an hour; the sprayer on the hose works great for this project. 

Other favorite rooftopping plants include tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, squash, okra, Swiss chard, strawberries, etc. 

You can even plant some flowers up there if you want—just make sure they’re low-maintenance!

7. Harvest your produce.

Once your plants are mature, pick off your produce like you would with any regular garden—except that you get to eat it right on the roof! (Or, better yet, share with neighbors.)

8. Redesign.

As you start picking off the leaves of your plants, they’ll start to look bare and ugly up on the roof. 

You can use some extra planters or make some little designs while you re-plant (like a heart or something cute). Just make sure it looks nice; this will be your new “garden” for years to come.

9. Overwinter your plants.

Your roof garden garden will need some protection during the winter (and all year, really) if it’s to survive.

 You can place plastic over your plants to keep them protected; it’ll act like insulation and protect the planters from frost. 

You can also use plastic tunnels that are easy to make (they’re like igloos but made of plastic); they’re easy to make and super helpful for overwintering plants while keeping them protected (plus you get a pretty little house out of the deal).


Plant herbs on your roof garden to help with your cooking! 

Cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage are great choices for this project! If you’re going to cook these herbs with their stems on, just don’t use any part of the plant that is brown or yellowing because that means it’s going to die soon. 

Also, these herbs are best grown in pots so you can keep them tidy.


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