Rooftop Garden: Now the Plants!

Now what we’ve been waiting for, the planting of what’s hopefully going to be a garden full of delicious vegetables in a few months! After some research, we decided to build a garden based on square foot gardening, it’s the concept of building a small but compact garden. Depending on the size of what you’re growing, that decides how many plants can be in each square foot. Broccoli is a big vegetable, so only one plant per square foot, while you can get a whopping 16 carrot plants in one square foot. Here’s a chart to help illustrate.

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We had some ideas of the vegetables we wanted so we started out with those in mind and used a few compatibility charts to figure out what grows best together, and what vegetables aren’t very friendly. One night we got so into it we used a Excel spreadsheet to find the best matches and then plotted it all out on the iPad with diagrams. I’m telling you, this is serious business. This was our plan:

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So off we went to the Home Depot nursery. Sadness set in quick, we were too late, no broccoli or cauliflower plants to be found (we were months too late for the seeds, so we were going straight for the plant). Also, no celery seeds could be found. So with some rearranging of our garden, we checked out with our seeds and plants.

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Square foot gardening: Planting per foot, so to separate all the vegetables, we used twine to make our 16 squares. We also marked A-D, 1-4 on the boxes.

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Our blueprint.

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Rearranging and making sure everyone likes one another.

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Let’s go peas! Work your magic!

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Probably the most exciting!! I grew a pumpkin in elementary school and it overtook our very small backyard. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

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I put labels on everything for identification. Also I’m really dirty. Also check out my NYC tree workshop apron, I look like I work at Home Depot.

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Here we are! Everything is planted and we’re hoping for the best. :D )

Box to the right:

A1-Patio Cherry Tomatoes, A2-Husky Cherry Tomatoes, A3-Early Girl Tomatoes, A4-Beefmaster Tomatoes

B1/B2-Green Peppers, B3-Big Boy Tomatoes, B4- Beefmaster Tomatoes

C1- Petite Carrots, C2-Tall Carrots, C3-Green Beans, C4- Yellow Beans

D1- Catnip, D2- Peas, D3- Green Beans, D4 – Yellow Beans

Box to the left:

A1-Pumpkin, A2-A4 – Corn

B1 -Pumpkin, B2-B4 – Corn

C2-C4 – Corn

Small Box: Strawberries

Growing seedlings inside: broccoli, cauliflower (eventually be transplanted to the D row)

Also planted in pot: catgrass

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The sky even put on a happy face for us.

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Then we watered them.

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Have a nice day sweet babies.

Brooklyn Garden: Carry, Carry, Carry

So with the garden boxes built, we needed to get the soil and plants. We live in Brooklyn, we don’t have a car and we wanted to do this as cheap as possible, so that means good ol manual labor fun. Thankfully we have a Home Depot just a few blocks away, so we were able to make shorter trips. To transport all this home, we just borrowed one of the Home Depot carts and also got a hand cart to transport through the building. We also had stairs and obstacles to jump over, it was like a video game, except with us carrying soil.

We did the soil and plants separately. So first the soil!

We did some math and fun calculations and knew that with 2 4×4 boxes, we would need 28 bags of soil as each bag filled .75 cubic feet. Each one weighs 40 lbs.

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The freight elevator saved us from 5 flights of stairs!

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But it didn’t save us from these stairs. There are 2 sets of stairs here to the roof.

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And then all the way across the roof. We both had 14 bags for each box. I will let you guess which pile is Matthew’s and which one is mine. Ok time is over. Matthew is the organized pile. Mine is "throw it down, I’m about to die".

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Me, dead, for a few minutes after.

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Filling the soil in the boxes.

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Both done!

Gardening: Making of the Boxes

So we created 2 4×4 boxes, along with a small planter box for strawberries (we’ll get to that later). Because we don’t want to damage the roof, we wanted to make sure the boxes were secure, protected and would allow water to run through them on the bottom. After building them and filling with soil, we did a water test and poured water on one side, and it quickly came out the other side, so it seems to be a success.

We lined the boxes first with a landscaping fabric. A big row of this was 14.99 at Home Depot. This would help the packaging the peanuts you’ll see below.

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We put 2 pieces down for each bottom and attached them to the inside of the box.

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We then put packaging peanuts down, they are a light weight alternative to rocks that help with drainage by keeping the soil from compacting against the roof.

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We could have used more, but we worked with what we had. Bonus points if you can find a store that will give them to you for free.

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Then we repeated the landscaping fabric on top to prevent the peanuts from blowing away and from touching the soil.

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Here are both boxes lined and ready for soil!

Rooftop Gardening in Brooklyn

Matthew and I are from small towns, lots of land, green grass, backyards, farms. Now we live in New York. Often we get romantic about wide open spaces, getting a cottage and starting a cat sanctuary upstate (mostly Pamela), and very often – gardening. Matthew is Ohio born and raised. He spent his childhood planting and harvesting, once he got a wheelbarrow for his birthday – awesome, right? For a few years we have been doing the window box with some plants in them, but Essy usually likes to crash into them and sleep, or Xanadu eats the beans off them. This year we decided to build a garden on our roof! It has alot of free space, good light and the ability to grow anything – maybe. So for the next few months, this blog is going to follow these adventures and see if we’re successful or hints/tips to other rooftop urban gardeners.

First the building of the garden!

We live in Brooklyn, NY in a 6 floor building that has a amazing rooftop. We reside on the 5th floor. Thankfully we have a elevator and freight elevator, but neither elevator goes to the roof. In fact, we have 2 roofs, but the roof we wanted to garden on is the one on the other side of our building. What does this mean? This means going to Home Depot, buying supplies, "borrowing" their shopping carts and pushing the stuff to our building (and taking the carts back of course! hate those people that don’t take the cart back), loading the supplies down some stairs, taking the freight elevator up, lugging the supplies all the way down the hall to the other side of the building, then lugging it upstairs to the roof, then across the roof to the other side. Easy right? Well imagine wood, supplies and 28 bags of potting soil – with a girl who has the weakest arms ever. It’s also 90 degrees out.

This first post is about building the boxes. We built 2 4×4 boxes. We were just going to build a 8×8 box, but we decided this would separate plants better and make it more manageable for multiple reasons. We got weather treated wood (which can’t be cut at Home Depot btw due to a chemical in it) and outside wood/deck screws. While making the boxes, our wireless drill decided to die just before finishing the first one, so we had to hold off finishing the boxes until the day after.

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We needed some power for the tools so had to figure out how to find power on the roof!

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The finished 4×4 boxes.

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The finished boxes lined up on the roof where we want them.