Food for Thought: Roof Top Vegetable Gardens

As a sustainability designer I always try to see what ways we can transform our built environment for the betterment of all. Living in NY, I am always trying to see what things we can transform and roofs always come to mind. They are usually unused space that only add to the heat island effect of cities.

Green roofs are a great way to change those effects. These can be created by adding native plants to the roof that do not need much care. Others are trying out other things such as creating roof top vegetable gardens.  These types of gardens can do many things, such as: Reduce heat island effect, purify the air and grow food for the local building or community.

There are many out there who are trying and succeeding in creating these roof top farms / vegetable gardens. One example is Brooklyn Grange who is a commercial farm, meaning they grow food and sell it.  They recently planted a roof top farm in Long Island city Queens.
Check out the report from NY1  .  And their website at  These farms are great to reduce heat island effect, conserve energy for the building, feed the community and so much more.  Lets hope more will pop up all over the city, especially in lower income neighborhoods where fresh organic and affordable foods is not easily accesable.  Growing food right in the neighborhood would reduce the cost of organic vegetables as there will be no cost for shipping the products and that savings would go to the families in the area.

There are also publications that will help you find more information in you area.  Check out Edible Communities websites for your borough or location publication.  Here is the link for the Queens publication that has a story on the roof farm
These types of roof top farms are developing all over the country, check out Sky High Harvest who is the first commercial scale roof top farm in the midwest ( ).

Other methods have been developed to create a roof top garden without the use of heavy soil that might not work on some roofs of existing building.  New uses on existing technology like aeroponic / hydroponic systems.  Hydroponic is a technique of growing plants (without soil) in water containing dissolved nutrients. Aeroponic is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.  A restaurant here in NY is growing vegetables this way for all the food it will serve.  Here is a picture of the roof top with these units.  This roof top not only has these units to grow the vegetables but also was painted white to reflect the suns heat and reduce the heat island effect.

Check out the story reported by the Huffington Post and a video report on CNN.

It is time we took back the unused spaces in our urban environments.  Be a leader, be creative and think outside the box.


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