Check out backyard on the rooftop

Amarjeet Batth

For those living in urban areas, a rooftop garden may be an ideal way to bring home the greens. Besides adding to the beauty of your house, a rooftop garden can become a platform for family interaction, while offering ecological benefits like helping lower the temperature and creating a habitat for birds. The following tips can be helpful when you design a garden on your rooftop:

Make a beginning

Start by placing a few pots along the parapet or the periphery. If you plan to extend the rooftop, it is better to check the structural stability of the house with an architect or civil engineer. Avoid natural grass if the building is old and without proper gradient or waterproofing.

Open up the boundaries

If privacy is not a concern, open up the boundaries of your garden with a grill railing or glass borders. This will give it a bigger look. Replace the concrete boundaries with herbaceous linings. If the house doesn’t offer a good view, plant high vegetation for a green effect.

Get a net house

The rooftop can get too hot during the summer and too cold in winters. Though watering the plants helps lower the temperature, a net house (50-70 per cent shade grade) is required to protect the plants from the scorching heat and frost. Ensure that this structure is stable.

Containers and pots

Flowers are best planted in 10-12-14-inch earthen pots while the size for growing vegetables can vary from 12-18 inch pots. For small trees, use bigger pots which can be made by cutting a plastic drum into two parts. In a new construction, make raised plant beds that don’t touch the roof surface.

Accessorise your garden

  • Craft a focal area like a miniature waterfall, a small statue, an interesting plant arrangement, or a specimen tree so as to catch the attention as soon as you step in the garden.
  • Hang some baskets to lend colour and add foliage at an eye level. These can be used for screening purposes as well.
  • Go for furniture that fits your style and theme. Too many colours will make the place appear busy and cluttered.
  • Use vertical space to add more plants, especially the trailing varieties.
  • Add musical notes to the garden by hanging some wind chimes.
  • Good lighting can lend another dimension to the rooftop greens. Be careful that the lights do not hit the eye directly. Brighten up the entrance and focal area.

Starter’s manual

As a beginner, don’t get atrracted by exotic plants but go for the hardy ones, which require less maintenance. A few options that will not fail the beginners are bougainvillea, dwarf date palm, Texas sage, trailing lantana (lantana sellowiana), wild sage (lantana camara) and weeping fig (ficus). Among flowering winter annuals, English daisy, carnation, cineraria, dahlia, ice plant, kale, lupin, pansy, petunia and Sweet William are highly admired in pots. Plant ‘jhumka bel’ or ‘juhi’ for attractive flowers and fragrance at ground level and trail these to the roof garden. Plant double chandni and motia (jasminum sambac) in pots.

Gardening and caring

To prepare the pot mix, take one part garden soil, one part well-rotten farmyard manure and half part sand. Add moss for better aeration and making the pot light in weight. Mix DAP in it. Rotate the pots fortnightly. Irrigation should be done on need basis. Ensure that the top soil does not totally dry up. During the monsoon, ensure that excess water doesn’t get accumulated. Tilt the flooded pots to drain out excess water. A dose of fertiliser (NPK 20:20:20) should be given as and when required during the growth period. Ensure repotting once a year. Top the pot soil periodically. Keep pruning all the year round to keep plants healthy.

Veggies and fruit corner

Fruit trees like lemon, pomegranate, mango (amarpali) flourish well in big pots. Vegetables such as brinjal, capsicum, green chillies and tomatoes grow well in pots while bottle gourd (ghiya), summer squash (chappan kaddo) and bitter gourd (karela) need staking to trail. You can also plant shrubs and herbs like kari patta, tulsi, dhania, pudina, lettuce and aloe vera.

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