Interest in green roofs is increasing. but there is not yet much information on rooftop vegetable gardening. Some gardeners are also growing herbs and vegetables on roofs. Vegetables such as tomatoes and okra and herbs such as basil are combined with flowers in large containers may also be grown on these green roofs.

Green roofs categorized as “extensive”— those with a growing medium depth of 6 inches or less — are not well-suited to growing vegetables because the growing medium is too shallow. Root crops do not have room to develop properly, and taller vegetables are likely to blow over in wind and will dry out very quickly in the shallow medium.

Grow vegetables in containers that are at least 5 gallons if you would like to garden on your rooftop without any beds. Be sure that your roof can support the weight that is added by the new containers. They will be heavy when filled with wet growing medium. You will also need a water source, because the heat and wind will dry the plants out quickly. It is best to raise the pots off the roof deck with lumber or some other material so that the plants’ roots do not bake. Mulch the tops of the containers to help reduce water loss. You can use self-watering patio containers, as an option for growing vegetables.

Intensive green roofs have a growing medium of 7 inches and above. The deeper growing medium can support a variety of vegetables and herbs. As the growing medium approaches 12 inches in depth, use beets, lettuces, onions, spinach, carrots and Swiss chard. Grow broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in depths of 12 to 14 inches. With 16 to 18 inches of growing medium, you should be able to grow beans, potatoes, cucumbers, summer squash and tomatoes. Your success and yield will increase as the depth of the growing medium increases.

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