Green Roofs: Gardening in Small Spaces


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If you are looking for ways to conserve energy, and costs, while maximizing the appeal of your home, take a look at roof gardens. These are ideal for urban areas, making use of space often overlooked and most certainly unused. Growing your own food can take some creativity, particularly when you have a specific amount of space, as you find in cities and suburbs.

There are many different ideas for using your growing space efficiently and strategies for adding to your actual growing space while your land footprint remains the same. Generally, the thought goes to adding use of vertical space, but one should look even higher, to a spot that has significant space for vegetation, and that a typical homeowner overlooks – the roof. Imagine the square footage for gardening that could be utilized potentially. Even apartment buildings are now using roofs as green space, for beauty as well as food production.

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A Green Roof?

Consider this a living entity that covers the roof, either in part or whole. There are many ways to make a roof into a garden, many that you are conceptually aware of, such as use of containers, raised beds, or even simply adding a soil base to the roof which makes planting almost entirely like you would do in your garden in the yard.

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Green roofs have been slow to catch attention in the United States, tending to be oddities and tourist attractions rather than in widespread general use by everyday homeowners. There are more benefits other than the obvious of produce growth:

  • Protection for your roof – experience shows that roof lifespan is increased two to three times
  • Improved insulation qualities – reduce heating and cooling costs
  • Heavy rain runoff and flooding risk is less due to the green roof
  • Food source and natural living areas for native wildlife
  • Bee support to encourage and feed bees and other good bugs
  • Noise reduction through dampening effects, improves neighborhood ambiance
  • Air filtering effects of more plants results in better air quality
  • Adds beauty and character to urban areas, natural landscaping

Now to the complications. Prefabricated green roofs are not inexpensive to install, and many pre-built options are far beyond the financial reach of the typical person. They can be very complex technologically, which adds to the cost, of course.

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The good news is that throughout history people have been using living roofs and they did it without all the manufactured components. The simple concept is that you need a building that is able to support the weight of only itself but also the sod and plant life.

This can be done by the do-it-yourselfer with some knowledge and planning. So, while you will need to anticipate an economic investment to create your green roof, you will see pay back in costs of produce for consumption and your utility costs of your home. Over time, this will allow your roof to pay for itself in those benefits.

Need more visuals? Take a look at these 30 green roof and rooftop garden design ideas from around the world

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