Is rooftop gardening possible?

Hey friends,

I have a relative that manages parking garages downtown and we've been having discussions about an urban garden on unused roofs of a garage. I'm new to gardening, only started last summer, so I'm hoping people here can lend their knowledge to what could be a pretty cool nonprofit project! 

The project would be in smack downtown Indianapolis, 7 floors up. The roof is 100% exposed to sunlight. We can have access to the building and elevators to tend to the gardens, transport water, etc. as much as necessary. Is there a reason this wouldn't work?

As far as the actual gardens, our favorite idea so far is to build Ikea Growroom spheres (Google Ikea growroom) right on the roof. They might need to be customized, or we can also use typical planter boxes depending on what we grow. If you think the spheres are a no-go I'm completely open to hearing alternate ideas.

All produce will feed food-insecure kids at inner city schools!

If any seasoned gardeners are willing to give input on why "rooftop farming" may or may not work I'd be very grateful. Before it moves any further I want to think through all the potential problems. And if you'd like to contribute more or join the team please don't hesitate to message me!

Thanks!

Posts

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 616

    You'd need to check that the roof is strong enough to take the extra weight.  If it was only designed to keep the sun and rain off the cars, it might not be. If it once had parking spaces up there, then it'll most likely be OK (many UK multi-level car parks have a parking level on the top but I don't know what's the norm there, sorry).

    If you were in the UK I'd also say check with the local council to see if you need planning permission, but I don't know whether that would apply to you.

    And you probably need to make sure that there's adequate railings, fire escape etc, according to your local regulations if it wasn't originally designed for people to spend time up there.  From a gardening point of view, high fencing that will filter the wind might be good.

    I'm in the UK so I can't really volunteer to join the team, but thanks for the invite!

  • philippa smith2philippa smith2 Posts: 6,439
    I'd say Jenny has covered most of your queries - it may be better to contact a local gardening site to you as your laws, climate, etc. will be somewhat different to those in the UK.
    Best of luck with your plan tho :)
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 3,527
    The kicker is as Jenny said - the load bearing capacity of the roof. Until you have that sorted any other plans are on hold. You will certainly need the auspices of a structural engineer to determine that (unless it had been used to park cars as pointed out. Very few roofs are load bearing - they are basically just umbrellas. 
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 50,083
    hogweed said:
    The kicker is as Jenny said - the load bearing capacity of the roof. Until you have that sorted any other plans are on hold. You will certainly need the auspices of a structural engineer to determine that (unless it had been used to park cars as pointed out. Very few roofs are load bearing - they are basically just umbrellas. 
    And wet soil/compost is very heavy! 
    'There's a flower that shall be mine, 'tis the little celandine.' W Wordsworth





  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 14,795
    If you google "book+USA+roof gardening" you will find all sorts of publications which can help you with design and management of a rooftop garden and then check them out in your local library.

    However, as others have said you first need to check local by-laws, council regulations and the load bearing capacity of the roof plus access for getting materials up there so you can build and stabilise containers, seats, windbreaks etc.   Assuming that's all OK you can maybe find a local gardening or horticultural group that's interested in a project to green up urban spaces or put out a call for volunteers on local Facebook pages and other community spaces.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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