Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rooftop Garden

In the summer of 2010, another RA and I started a garden on the rooftop of our dorm. The rooftop deck has over 80 planter boxes lining the edges - and in twenty years, nobody has used them. Such a shame! That summer, we only planted herbs, and we only planted the 20 boxes along the front row.

THIS summer, the plan was expansion. We decided to get into vegetables, and we planted almost all of the 80 planters with a combination of herbs and vegetables. Because the planter boxes had not been used in 20 years, they required some work to bring them into useable shape. Many thanks to my brother and my boyfriend, who helped me and the other RA during the gardening work day at the beginning of the summer!

I do really like plants, so this project was a lot of fun. It was lovely over the summer (made it a nice place to have people over), and it produced all the way up until a couple weeks ago when we cleaned it out for the winter. I thought I would share some photos from the height of the season (late August). First of all - don't I have a gorgeous view?

Figure: Come on, let me have one photo to gloat over the Boston skyline.,,

As an overview, the front row we planted with herbs (chairs convenient for enjoying tea and a book):

Right hand side with vegetables:


Left hand side with vegetables:


And the back row we didn't quite finish planting, but it was squashes and more greens:

And then some close up shots of the things we grew:

Chamomile (I wonder if just the flowers are for tea, or the whole plant?)

Chocolate mint
Carrots! The fuzziness!
Sorrell. I didn't even know what that was before this summer.
What happens when lettuce bolts... :)
They are all hiding...
Ooh - this one's ready for picking!

Squash! Striped!

Peppers. Unfortunately these took longer to grow, and I don't have a shot of the pretty red and purple peppers we eventually got.
More peppers - sweet bell variety, instead of hot ones.
Flop! Every experiment is gonna have a few failures... in our case, strawberries were a no-go.
Eggplant. The flowers were a really lovely purple, and then when I took these photos, the very first tiny eggplants were just starting to grow.


Mexican marigold - a.k.a. tarragon
What happen when you let weeds take over one box, then decide they are pretty and let them stay...

We thought about growing flowers as well, but that didn't make it very far into the plan this year (only two boxes). It'll be in the future work section - every good project needs room for growth (*snicker*)!


The whole project has been a great learning experience - cilantro is too hard to keep from bolting, basil is finnicky, strawberries don't grow at all, and vegetables in the squash family need to be planted close enough together to provide shade under the leaves. We learned it's not worth bothering to start the plants inside - best just to toss the seeds straight in the box! If they are not hardy enough to grow outside, we probably don't want them anyway...

The other RA and I ended up generating quite a bit of interest with this project, which I certainly hadn't expected. One group asked us how to replicate the garden at their school, we were featured in an article in the World's Best School weekly newsletter, and we attracted some notice from other dorms and community local food groups. Nothing we did was all that revolutionary, but as long as the girls in our dorm enjoy it, we consider it a success!

And as a final note, I will just say that it is incredibly satisfying to take a salad spinner up to the roof, spend a few minutes walking around with scissors, and come back down to your room with a salad for dinner. It's been a great year, and I'll hang on to the anticipation of next summer all through this long Boston winter...


  1. So much variety! The squash look so pretty, and I admire the multitudes of herbs. I'm going to plant cilantro and basil since I need them fresh but in small quantities, though the windowsill is nowhere near as glorious as the rooftop. What will the poor plants do with this weather?

  2. When all those plants grow big and healthy, they will be quite a sight to behold. People will look forward to that. The rooftop will be filled with fresh and beautiful plants. =)