How to build the perfect rooftop garden

How to build the perfect rooftop garden


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Inner city and urban areas in Australia are getting denser and denser, with CBD living becoming a popular choice for many.

Often, this leaves little room for ground level gardens and landscaping. But that doesnt mean you need to lose your garden space.

Embrace the rooftops

One solution that many city dwellers are embracing is the rooftop garden. They’re not only super trendy, they’re also environmentally friendly, space saving and they create a beautiful and unique area for entertaining.

An architects insights to sky high gardens

I had a chat to Nathan Clausen from PDT Architects, who is part of this years Brisbane Open House, to get his top tips on where to start when it comes to rooftop gardens for your pad.

Qu. What kind of homes & areas are most suited to rooftop gardens?

There are no specific areas that are more suited, you just need to make sure that you have the space and the strength in the structure to support the kind of garden you want to build.

There are two main types of rooftop gardens extensive and intensive.

There are two main types of rooftop gardens extensive and intensive.

Extensive gardens are low maintenance, usually consisting of mainly ground cover plants and are designed to be aesthetically pleasing more than a place to party. In fact most extensive rooftop gardens don’t have public access and would only be a maintained a few times per year.

Intensive rooftop gardens usually have larger plants and more complicated landscaping features including planter boxes and furniture. As long as you’ve got the space and the weight capabilities, there’s no limits to either type of garden.

Qu. What are the main environmental benefits of rooftop gardens?

Insulating: Rooftop gardens, particularly ‘ground cover’ style extensive gardens act as an excellent source of insulation, which means that residents can cut down on their heating and cooling as the garden keeps the air temperate inside the building.

Reduction in CO2 emissions: As a trickle down effect, less heating and cooling usage also means a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Save water: Storm water run off can also be reduced meaning that the water that would usually run off the roof will be used to nourish your garden and won’t go to waste.

Save on maintenance:  You’ll also save costs on maintenance because the life of your roof will be extended and if you keep your rooftop garden well maintained it can add value to your property.

Qu. What are your top 3 tips for keeping a roof top garden maintained?

  1. Plant shrubbery close together: For extensive style gardens you need to make sure that you plant your shrubbery very close together so as not to allow any room for weeds to grow. Extensive style gardens are designed to be low maintenance so this is a very important step in the early days of your extensive rooftop garden.
  2. Irrigation is incredibly important:  Make sure you have a decent watering system that suits your gardens. For example succulents are very hardy plants and will do well in a low maintenance extensive garden whereas ferns wouldnt flourish in that kind of environment.
  3. Don’t forget to fertilise:  People tend to forget that rooftop gardens lack the natural nutrients that ground level gardens have so it’s important to remember to feed your garden, as well as water it.

Qu. Do you have any unusual tips or suggestions for making your rooftop garden unique?

Use plants with different textures and colours:  Try different shades of green with scatterings of red leaves and trees. Also try plants that flower at different times of the year to make sure that you always have colour in your garden no matter what season it is.

Retrofit your garden with recycled pallets:  Just go to your local hardware store and have chat to their gardening expert. They should be able to help you install a simple irrigation system to help keep your plants happy in their up-cycled home.

Qu. Do you need special plants or equipment for rooftop landscaping?

For intensive gardens, you’ll need regular access and the area should also be approved for weight bearing. Extensive gardens may only be accessed a few times a year, some by abseil only so you’ll need to consider how often the garden will receive maintenance when you’re thinking about what to plant there.

Access is the main thing you need to consider for rooftop landscaping.

Communal roof gardens in new apartment buildings are also becoming popular for residents.

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