Dear PoPville – Advice on Rooftop Gardening for a Condo or Rental Building?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Bonnie Culpepper

“Dear PoPville,

I’m wondering if you all know of any rooftop gardening happening at condo or rental buildings in DC? I know about Bread for the City and some other organizations doing it, but not aware of any tenant efforts.

I’d be very interested to connect with people who have made this happen at their building so I might follow their lead 🙂

Thanks for any insight you might have!”

6 Comment

  • Our condo building has beautiful gardening done by one of the owners. He approached the board and asked if he could do it. He periodically submits plans and proposed expenses, the board approves the expenses (which are always way less than we were previously paying to a company to do a really terrible job of keeping a couple plants around). He hosts gardening mornings twice a year, where people help out, but there are really just the same few that generally show up. The maintanence man does the watering during the week, and he takes care of it on weekends (if he is out of town, he will arrange for another resident to do it in his stead). Over the past few years, our outside spaces have transformed from small, barren, unused slabs of concrete to luscious living spaces that are constantly used. What used to be nothing has now turned into an amazing community asset. I would highly recommend talking to your Board if you would like to help them turn around their areas.

    • Any chance you can post pics so the OP can get some ideas?

      Sounds like you lucked into a great building! I’m hoping he trains others to take over when he’s gets too old for the work.

  • you should keep in mind that gardening can be really hard on a roof–the weight of planters, wet dirt, and plants is significant and most roofs are not made for that (Bread for the City specifically constructed its expansion to be able to bear the weight). DC Greenworks can probably give more detailed advice.

  • The building that I just moved into at the beginning of summer has a little rooftop garden. It does appear as if the entire rooftop patio ground has some kind of porous tiles set down over a large bed of rocks, though (I assume for drainage from all the plants!). The board installed a hose so that people can water their plants, and everyone just brings up their own pots and plants. There is an understanding that you shouldn’t mess with anyone else’s pots, but people are generally helpful – I’ve certainly come up to check on my tomato plants after a few days to find them parched and watered by a helpful neighbor!

  • When I lived in a Douglas Development managed building I was able to speak with Paul (one of the VP’s about getting a few hundred bucks to put toward 8-9 potted plants for the rooftop. They provided some funding (seedlings, potting soil, pots, big watering can, etc) and we did the work and watered them by schleping water up to the roof. We grew peppers, tomatoes, a sad (nonexistent) pumpkin, lots of herbs, a rosebush, chillies, eggplant, etc. Had a pretty good harvest and learned a lot about what can stand the summer heat on a roofdeck. Douglas was very supportive! When we moved we left the pots up there in hopes that someone else would pick up the project, but haven’t been back to check. A great experience overall — I recommend approaching your landlord with a budget, promising to do the care and keeping, and seem excited about it… In my experience, landlords have trouble saying no to excited tenants who want to improve the building!

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