Garden-Up Your Roof in Winter

Winter is a resting period for an urban garden oasis in New York City.

There’s few things sadder or slightly absurd than a roof or balcony garden in February. You can hardly imagine the lush growth that was there last July. Cheer up, though. We’ve only a few short weeks till we can pull out that dead growth and sink some pots of hyacinths or daffodils into the planters. All the withered foliage, beat up by winter winds, makes a great carbon addition to your compost or worm bin.

The picture above shows a garden in New York City that must have been gorgeous last summer, with vines that covered a corner pergola for shade. You’ve got to have some shade if you garden on a roof, so you can be out there and enjoy it yourself. Why should the tomatoes have all the fun? A garden this size would benefit from an automatic watering system, as the amount of cultivated space means lots of water to lug.

A few pots with evergreens can perk up your landscape on the roof or patio.

Evergreens on the roof can keep your winter landscape looking more inviting. And—shh— even good fakes, with a string of white mini lights can really perk up your view.

If you plant live evergreens, make sure that you line your container sides and bottom with one inch thick styrofoam. Cut it in strips if it is going into a round planter. Square ones are easier to work with for this reason. The styrofoam doesn’t stop the freezing, but prevents the freeze/thaw/freeze, which is what kills the plants. The planter at left is from midtown New York City, where the winter climate is a tad warmer than Toronto’s, so the pot may not be lined at all. Make sure you water your pots if you have live plants, especially before freeze up, and if there’s a thaw.

I’m looking forward to the day—maybe soon—when a roof or balcony space without a garden on it will be the exception, not the rule.

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