My roomates and I are new to gardening! need help!

snooks86February 20, 2011

Hi everybody,

I live in NYC, and my roommates and I want to create a rooftop garden using containers. I have some general questions though? What kind of materials do we need? We already know we want to use a mixture of pots and wading pools, and want to have as much organic produce as possibles. Here are some things we want to grow: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, pumpkin, squash, greens, broccoli, peas, beans, watermelon, and some herbs.

If you guys could help us get started, it would be most appreciate. Thanks.

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Sorry no one responded to you earlier. It is certainly not too late to start in NYC.

You will need some very large pots and full sun for tomatoes. I'd suggest using a patio or cherry variety for your first try. It's probably best to buy a couple of plants rather than start them from seed at this point.

Lettuce, spinach and herbs can be easily grown in pots, even in a bright window. If they are in full sun, you might move them to a partly shaded location when it gets really hot so that they don't bolt and go to seed too early. Stagger your plantings every few weeks.

I have been told that sugar snap peas grow well in a big hanging pot. Just let them trail down instead of trying to stake them up. Certainly worth a try!

Squash, pumpkin and watermelon... whew. Those could be tough in containers. They need full sun, lots of space to trail, and a long growing season.

For fertilizer, I suggest making compost tea using a quality compost from a reputable garden center. Liquid fish emulsion is great for the leafy greens, but don't use it if there are any cats on the roof!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 2:44PM
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The other thing to keep in mind with a roof top garden is that in order to avoid having to water every 5 minutes, you need a decent depth of soil.

And soil is HEAVY -- 100-120 pounds per cubic foot. Just because you can walk around on the roof, doesn't necessarily mean it's strong enough to support containers.

You may also need to make sure the surface of the roof is protected. Often people put up decking, or some kind of panels to protect the tar paper, or the asphalt. and that adds some weight as well.

I don't mean to discourage you, because there's a ton of stuff you can do with a rooftop garden, but nothing can bum you out faster than your landlord finding out the leaks in the neighbors ceiling are coming from your produce!

Just be sure to check the structural strength of the roof before you starting designing. and then enjoy!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 7:17PM
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One thing I do is to put a potted plant into a takeout plastic container full of water so it can draw up the water as needed.

I like to keep these containers in part sun so they don't dry up if I forget them. This is particularly helpful for plants that are small.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:17PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I really think you should check out some of the posts in the container gardening forum. Your best bet for growing veggies on a roof in NYC will be to use very lightweight potting media and fertilization with every watering. That is how the upscale restaurants do it there. Basically you are going to be creating a "to waste" hydroponics system. But don't let that discourage you. A "to waste" system is very simple. All you have to do is mix up some fertilizer in a watering can and water you pots. I'm not talking about a recirculating system or anything like that. The materials you are going to want to use are things like pumice or turface (a calcined clay product). There is also Axis which is a mined diotomaceous earth product that is substantially lighter than turface.

Now with regards to being organic, this is possible but the fertilizers are going to be a bit more expensive. You will probably need to buy your ferts from a hydroponics store.

If you use a potting medium like turface you will be able to use that medium over and over and over again. If you try to use organic "soil", it will break down and depending on how fine the soil was to begin with will only last 2 maybe 3 years tops before you have to lug all that soil back down from the roof and replace it by lugging new soil all the way back up. Container culture is vastly different than growing plants in the ground. The plants exhaust the organic nutrients in the pots very quickly at which point they have to be supplied by you.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 5:17PM
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