Rooftop gardens are the ultimate way to transform an urban area into a relaxing green space. If you have been thinking about utilising your rooftop, chances are these questions have crossed your mind.

Image via  Inside Out .  Design:  William Dangar  Photography: Chris Warner 

Image via Inside Out.  Design: William Dangar Photography: Chris Warner 

1. How can I use my rooftop as a liveable space?

While rooftops present certain challenges, they also give you the opportunity to create an outdoor area for relaxing, entertaining and gardening. To turn a rooftop into a liveable space, the biggest issue you need to address is a lack of protection from the sun and wind, as too much exposure to the elements will really undermine your enjoyment of a space.

The most effective way to overcome these issues is to create protected nocks within the large area. You can do this using built shade structures, small trees or hardy hedge varieties. This layer of protection will ensure that both you and your plants will be comfortable year round.

2. Can I have a grassed area on my rooftop?

Lawn is a wonderful addition to a rooftop garden, especially if you have children or pets. Given that rooftops are hot and windy spaces, artificial lawn is the most practical solution for this type of garden. It doesn’t require any maintenance and there are some fantastic options now available.

Artificial lawn can get hot in the sun, so have some kind of shade available such as a portable outdoor umbrella that you can pull out on hot days.

With an open grassed space, glass balustrades and low-set planting scheme, this rooftop garden in Sydney designed by Secret Gardens allows occupants to relax and appreciate the view. 

Image via  Secret Gardens

Image via Secret Gardens

3. How can I introduce shade into a rooftop garden?

Fixed structures are the most realistic shade option for a rooftop garden. This is due to the sheer amount of wind that rooftops are exposed to. Ensure your shade structure is strong and fixed to the wall and floor.

Options for shade include pergolas or open structures that can be used for growing climbers. Only use an umbrella or a retractable awning if you have the discipline to put them away before heading indoors. Supplementary sources of shade include small trees and green walls.

In the planning phase, study the direction of the sun so you can position your shade structure and plants in a place where they will be most effective. If you’ve ever sat underneath a pergola that’s casting shade away from the sitting area, you will understand the importance of getting this right.

4. What plants can I grow on a rooftop?

Plants provide you with an escape from the surrounding urban environment, but you will need to choose hardy varieties. Plants suited to the sunny, windy conditions include:

  • Cypress varieties

  •  Indian hawthorn 'snow maiden’ and ‘oriental pearl'

  • Crassula varieties

  • Kalanchoe varieties

  • Westringias

  • Dragon trees

  • Aloe trees

  • Succulents

Cypress are ideal for using as a hedge to offer protection from the wind, while the remaining plants are suited to large pots, planters or a garden bed.

In this rooftop, raised garden beds have been planted with hardy plants and trees that are used for privacy and a supplementary source of shade. 

Image via  Dezeen . Photography  Ross Honeysett

Image via Dezeen. Photography Ross Honeysett

5. Am I able to have a garden bed?

Yes, it is possible to grow your own garden in the sky! If you want grow your plants in a raised garden bed rather than pots, you will need to ensure that you have the right drainage in place and choose well-draining soil.

Where you place your garden is also important. If it isn’t sheltered in some way from the elements, choose hardy plants varieties.

6. How can I grow my own herbs and vegetables?

There are a number of ways you can turn your rooftop into a kitchen garden. You can build a raised garden or grow produce in pots or planters. Edibles require protection from the elements, so you will need to position them near some form of shelter. If you are using planters to grow your produce, a good idea is to put them on wheels so you can move them around.

This structure acts as a windbreak and source of shelter for the plants. Image via Pinterest.

7. How can I improve the aesthetic of a tiled or waterproof membrane floor?

The reality of creating a rooftop garden is that you will need to use industrial materials for waterproofing, but that doesn’t mean you need to live with this look. Use an outdoor rug as a simple way add personality or place floating deck platforms over the tiles.

8. I don’t want to carry cushions and other items back and forth between my home and the rooftop. What’s a solution for this?

To ensure you get maximum use from your rooftop garden, it’s a good idea to eliminate any barriers that will prevent you from heading outdoors, such as the issue of where to keep your outdoor items. The simplest soΩlution for this is to build bench seating into your space with storage underneath. That way you can keep items like cushions, barbecue tools and insect spray in one spot.

Bench seating is a great solution for a rooftop, as it’s durable and doesn’t take up as much space as individual chairs or an outdoor lounge.

9. What safety considerations do I need to make?

The primary safety consideration for a rooftop garden is its balustrades. If you want to make the most of your view, use glass balustrades to ensure the space still feels open. High balustrades also have a secondary benefit of protecting your plants from the wind. Check with your local council for guidelines on the legal height of balustrades in your state.

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