Making your rooftop green

Making your rooftop green

Urban space, as we can see, is rapidly shrinking and for many, having a garden has become a pipe dream. However, those lucky to have a spacious roof could pursue and enjoy an activity that is interesting as well as useful.

Those with roofs could engage themselves in a hobby that is both, fun as well as productive. Roof gardening has its followers and once someone becomes hooked to this pastime, it would be difficult to give it up easily.

Some prefer to have just a lawn to bring back greenery and nature in one’s own premises. The size and shape of the garden depends upon the space available. Some preferred grasses for a green carpet are Calcutta Doob Grass, Fescue Grass, Korean Carpet Grass and a few selected indigenous varieties.

However, some of these grasses need adequate sunlight. Expert advice should be sought on the type of grass to be used where there is lesser sunshine. The topsoil should be chosen carefully so that the thickness is adequate, but not too much to minimise the overall weight on the roof.

Maintenance mattersRegular manure, preferably of the natural and organic type, should be used to nourish the grass. It is possible to generate enough fertiliser at home through compost from kitchen waste by using a device like the khamba. Watering is another issue. A sprinkler type of irrigation is ideal for watering uniformly and economically.

Suitable drainage outlets may be provided to channelise the excess water to the roof outlet, which could have rainwater harvesting, too. Leaks could pose problems if the roof is not made fully waterproof.That is why the method of hydro-ponics is attracting more users, where the requirement of soil is minimal.

Periodical maintenance such as trimming/mowing the grass and removing weeds must be an ongoing exercise. Use of rainwater could lessen the dependence for  water from other sources. Growing flowers and vegetables on a rooftop garden is the norm. It is surprising to note that many vegetable such as tomatoes, carrots, beans, gourds and cucumbers can be grown in pots, with good yields. Ornamental plants and assortment of flowers could be grown depending upon one’s interests.

However, proper care must be taken to water the plants well, and fertilisers and natural pesticides should be used regularly, but with discretion.Drip irrigation could prove useful in delivering the required quantity of water, thereby saving water consumption. Pots could be arranged artistically, to serve as a natural ‘hedge’. These pots have to be replenished with fresh soil at regular intervals.

If outside climatic conditions are too severe and space permits a special small enclosure, build a ‘hot house’ and grow flowers, vegetables and fruits. There are designer modules that could be used to grow plants and vegetables. For urban agriculture is an interesting development seen today in cities and towns.

Increasing popularity

Urban rooftop gardening is gaining more followers. In Singapore, the majority of residents, especially those living in flats with roofs, have shown interest. An obvious advantage of rooftop gardening is the availability of fresh vegetables, right in one’s own roof space.

It is estimated that in Tokyo even if 50 per cent of high-rise building roofs are used for rooftop gardening, the temperature could come down by about 0.5 degrees celsius. Moreover, this is one of the healthy activities that could enhance one’s wellbeing. Recycling of organic waste by own use is being environment-friendly.

Rainwater is used more efficiently for rooftop gardens. Such an activity could become a lifelong interest in the long run - something that could even encourage youngsters to show interest in such an eco-friendly activity. Investment is little, but the rewards are many. Utilisation of rooftop ‘free’ space productively is an added bonus that could be a sustained green hobby.

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