Earth Day Texas is a huge event and exhibition each year. It’s impossible NOT to be inspired by the involvement of the community in such an important initiative. It had me thinking about the outdoors and ways we can be more green in our everyday lives, which led me to rooftop and/or balcony gardens. First of all, what is more romantic than a rooftop garden? Or at least one on a balcony? Whether you’re in an apartment or have a home that could incorporate a garden on its roof, there are many benefits to such an addition to your home.
Having a rooftop or balcony garden is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to the environment’s well-being in your own way. With plants and soil taking up most of the garden space, there will be less heat reflection and more heat absorption, which actually keeps the energy cost lower.
Recycling water in your garden is another method of incorporating a green way of life into each day. By planting perennials (plants/flowers that live for more than two years) and native plants that soak up rainwater, anyone can create a low-maintenance garden (or rain garden) that helps eliminate standing water. In this way, you also control the mosquito population around your home (we Texans know the value of that). Located near a runoff source like a downspout, a barrel can gather and preserve clean rainwater, meanwhile adding a fountain-like, rustic feel to the space.
For a proper rooftop garden, regardless of the size, pea gravel is a great flooring texture, as it is easy on the feet and offers great drainage. If you prefer some kind of hard-surface flooring, go with a rustic wood floor or luxury stone. For comfort, lay down outdoor rugs that will withstand the elements. This also applies to the furniture and garden accessories, such as benches that have storage in them for seasonal items, built-in planters, coffee tables and other sturdy outdoor seating that is also moveable and acts as extra table surface. Make sure these are all durable and will last in bad weather.
Having a rooftop or balcony garden brings an element of privacy to your home, while giving you a decent view and miniature oasis. Along with planting tall trees, shrubbery and foliage, you could add a small pergola and weave rambling vines throughout the slits. This adds some coverage overhead for some relief from direct sunlight. Similarly, adding a trellis would also bring a bit of privacy and allow you to hang other plants from its framework.
Give the space some charm with seating between two columns of the pergola, or some quaint lighting in the form of wall-mounted lights, candles in Mason jars or electrical/battery operated sconces. Good lighting is crucial for safety and ambience, especially for entertaining or date night. Another good lighting source and means of warmth would be a fire pit — gas or wood. Obviously, it’s important to make sure this is safely and professionally installed to meet standards and local codes. Another unique feature that soundproofs the space, becomes a focal point, and preserves water is a decorative water feature or fountain.
Railing style is dependant on your taste, but there’s a lot you can do with iron railing. You can treat it like the pergola and trellis by wrapping and weaving vines throughout its poles or hanging planters off of it. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to customize the area to your environmental goals and design tastes.
As we head into spring, I encourage you to find your way of incorporating an environmentally healthy goal into your home design, whether it’s a rooftop/balcony garden, a spruced up back patio or transforming the shed into a greenhouse.