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This is what they are seeing in more and more cities around the world, which take advantage of the environmental, economic and social advantages of urban gardens on their rooftops.
This article outlines the world's top urban roof gardens, their benefits and challenges, and how to create one.
The World's Most Outstanding Urban Roof Gardens
The famous New York skyline, that line drawn by its skyscrapers on the horizon, includes fruits and vegetables thanks to the Brooklyn Grange (in the image above), an urban orchard located on two rooftops in the popular neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Its managers produce a wide variety of crops in their 10,000 square meters (m2), they have laying hens and 30 hives that manufacture more than 700 kilos of honey.
"It is the most famous urban roof garden in the world, they sell their products to restaurants and individuals and annually receive thousands of visitors for educational activities and workshops," says Gregorio Ballesteros, sociologist, member of Ecologistas en Acción and the Spanish Society of Ecological Agriculture (SEAE) and expert in urban gardens.
An urban roof garden provides vegetables and an energy saving of 14% of the building. And it's not the only one. “More and more restaurants are springing up - never better said - that grow their own ingredients on the roofs of their buildings in Paris or London.
And more and more communities of neighbors or individuals are installing a garden on the roof. They range from home flowerpots-gardens to installations that cover the entire roof, through cultivation tables or modular systems that adjust to the possibilities of each one ”, says Marta Rosique, environmentalologist and one of the founders of Plantea En Verde, on line specialized in urban gardens.
This is also how they work in hotels such as the Waldorf Astoria in New York or the Fairmont Royal in Toronto, which use the products obtained to feed their customers.
In Spain, the best-known urban rooftop garden is the Hotel Wellington in Madrid, where they cultivate more than 300 m2 of vegetables and varied aromatic herbs, “and it can be freely visited by making a call,” says Rosique. The following video shows a timelapse of the rooftop transformation process:
In addition, initiatives have been launched in very diverse areas, from experimental gardens in universities, such as the Autónoma de Barcelona, to educational gardens on the roofs of schools, such as the Escolapies de Figueres (Girona).
Studies are being carried out in Madrid and Barcelona to use the roofs of their buildings as a contribution to the naturalization of cities. The Madrid Más Natural project values the creation of green roofs and rooftop gardens.
Advantages and challenges of urban roof gardens
Its proximity and accessibility are the most obvious advantages of urban roof gardens, but they are not the only ones.
Ballesteros explains that they work as thermal and acoustic insulator and reduce the building's energy consumption by up to 14%, since it considerably reduces the temperature in summer and contributes to greater insulation in winter.
According to Marta Rosique, “they help reduce stress, educate the little ones at home and eat healthier; They help to strengthen ties with neighbors, to participate even in small markets to give way to extra production; and they imply an expansion of urban green areas and an increase in their self-sufficiency, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from transport ”.
Regarding its challenges, Ballesteros highlights its limitations for cultivating with a very shallow soil depth. The person in charge of Plantea en Verde points out that the initial investment is higher, "although it varies a lot depending on its complexity", and that it requires a little more maintenance.
“Like any container crop, it is necessary to be more aware of irrigation and maintaining the nutrients in the soil. Nothing that is not solved with a good automatic irrigation system and good fertilizers ”.
Toni Amich, head of the Sempergreen company in Spain, specializing in the installation of green roofs and vertical gardens, adds to the above challenges the “heat island” effect of cities, which makes the higher temperature complicate harvests, especially in climates like Madrid or Barcelona.
“It is easier to make low-maintenance green roofs with resistant sedum-type plants adapted to our climate,” he suggests.
How to create an urban garden on the roof
Once its promoters are convinced of the advantages of installing an urban garden on the roof, Gregorio Ballesteros proposes to do it well to ensure that it does not pose any risk to the building, due to the considerable load on its structure. Marta Rosique therefore recommends having the approval of an architect.
Regarding the type of plantation, Ballesteros recommends species that require a lower depth of soil such as lettuce, garlic, aromatic herbs, etc. Rosique considers the same and adds spinach or strawberries, although she ensures that depending on the installation you can plant everything, such as tomatoes, aubergines or pumpkins.