Balcony and Roof Gardening

Balcony and Roof Gardening -Flat Roof Garden, Balcony Garden, Roof Garden, Container Gardening

Balcony and Roof Gardening

Whether it's balcony gardening, a flat roof garden, container gardening or any other type of roof garden, we have the answers.

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A flat roof garden is an extremely eco friendly way to utilize flat space on the top of your house. In fact, roof and balcony gardening are becoming more in demand as a greater portion of our population gravitates to the urban setting and more people start changing locations to condominiums as opposed to single family residences.

If you have flat areas on your roof, or you have a balcony and would like to start balcony, we've got all the information that you'll need to get started.

Benefits of Balcony and Roof Gardening:
    Allows those without yard space to enjoy gardening
    Brings plants and oxygen into urban areas, as well as beauty.
    Helps to reduce heat-island effect and to cool your home.
Issues with Balcony and Roof Gardening

We like to be honest, so we'll start by saying that this kind of gardening isn't all roses...and it's not necessarily the easiest form of gardening. However, it can be done extremely successfully if you know what you're doing.

Elaborate Roof Garden

Balcony and Roof Gardening Can Be Beautiful

Some of the major challenges that these special gardens face include:
    Being located in hot, dry environment (especially for the flat roof garden)
    Lack of sunshine and exposure to winds at a higher elevation, for balcony gardens.
    Space restraints, if you have a balcony, chances are space it tight!
    Issues with getting water to your flat roof garden or balcony areas.

Following you'll find a list of things that you should check before starting rooftop or balcony gardening.

Since the containers can get quite heavy, you may want to check with a structural engineer or an architect to make sure that the roof or balcony will handle this additional loading, especially if you are going to use large amounts of plants.

Potted plants are what is considered a concentrated load for a roof or balcony. When they are filled with water-saturated soil, the load can become quite considerable.

Roof Gardening With Containers

Balcony and Roof Gardening - Containers

Older structures will be more of a concern that contemporary structures that are required to design for concentrated loads.

Typically loads can more easily be placed at the edges of support members like roof joists and rafters with the greatest stress taking place at the center of the member's span.

It is important that structural members be located and analyzed so that calculations be checked.

If you choose to start a flat roof garden, it's important to understand that a roof is most often designed to handle what are called live loads and dead loads.

A live load is considered intermittent loading like rain during a rain storm or more likely, a build-up of snow and ice during the winter time.

If you add extra loading with a deck, and planting containers, you need to be sure that you are not exceeding the structural capacity of your roofing members.

Dead loads include the weight of the structure itself, including the roofing membrane, insulation, structural members, mechanical and electrical equipment, and the finished ceiling surface below.

If you add extra loading with a deck, and planting containers, you need to be sure that you are not exceeding the structural capacity of your roofing members.

If you are installing a flat roof garden, you may also be required to install a guardrail system for fall protection. You should check with your local building department for the requirements in your area.

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Balcony and Roof Gardening: Dead Loading Concerns

If you are considering a balcony and roof gardening for a newly constructed building all of these considerations can be easily incorporated in the the building design. Just be sure to pass along the information about location and probable weights of the containers to your design team.

You'll also need to make sure you have adequate access to a water source and, to a lesser degree, an electrical source. You'll have to water your plants somehow - but intelligent plant selection, such as choosing drought tolerant plants for dry areas, can reduce your water requirements.

Preparing Your Balcony and Roof Garden Balcony and Roof Gardening: Choosing Containers:

There are a variety of wooden containers available for balcony and roof gardening. Also available are terra cotta and plastic based containers. Make sure all containers have adequate drainage holes in the bottom of the container. To conserve on weight restrictions, consider using lighter-weight mixtures in lieu of heavy garden soil.

If you choose to install a flat roof system, there are many plastic containers on the market that are designed specifically for a flat roof area. The manufacturers of these roofing systems will assist you with plant selection and everything else you need.

Plant Selection:

Since roof and balcony gardens tend to be hot, windy, dry environments, you should be careful to select durable plants that can withstand such brutal conditions. It's probably best to select plants that are hardy to one or two zones below your USDA Hardiness Zone. The reason for this is that the plant is subjected to colder temperatures being in a pot and does not benefit from the mass of soil on level ground.

Be sure to line the bottom and sides of your large containers with packing peanuts in a curved pot structure or 1 inch extruded polystyrene in square or rectangular containers. This will insulate the plant and minimize the effects of the sever freeze and thaw cycles.

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Balcony and Roof Gardening - What about Watering:

Since dehydration is a concern with container-bound plants, plan on watering your plants every day. To minimize this chore consider installing a simple drip irrigation system with appropriate watering tubes to each and every container.

There are some cool Patio Drips Systems available now which will minimize your work load. Also check out options for Self-Watering Containers and Moisture Retaining Crystals.

In the end, roof or balcony gardens can be a great way to enjoy the benefits of gardening, even if you don't have yard space for a garden. A flat roof garden can also help to cool your home and provides a good use for water.

Choosing the right system for you will take a bit of work and research, but remember that you can always start small and expand your garden as you become more confident!