Rooftop farming

(Redirected from Rooftop gardening)
Higher topic: Gardening
Underlying topic(s):

Green roofs on apartments blocks in Amsterdam
Topic in Gardening courses. By John Eagles.

Rooftop farming is the practice of cultivating food on the rooftop of buildings while a roof garden is any garden on the roof of a building. One particular type of a roof garden is the green roof or living roof, a roof of a building covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. An older form of the green roof is the sod roof, which traditionally was applied on houses in Scandinavia. Sod roofs are composed of several layers of birch bark covered with sods.

Green roof

Green roof of City Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

Green roofs are also called living roofs. They are roofs of buildings partially or completely covered with vegetation in a growing medium. The roof is protected by a waterproof membrane. Sometimes drainage and irrigation systems are integrated.

Green roofs absorb rainwater, provide insulation, create a habitat for wildlife and help to lower air temperatures in cities.

Intensive roofs are thicker and heavier and support a wider variety of plants. Extensive roofs are covered with a light layer of vegetation.[1]

One type of green roof is the sod roof.

Sod roof

Sod roofs on farmhouses in Gudbrandsdal, Norway.

A sod roof is also called turf roof. It was used to cover roofs of rural log houses in Scandinavia. Sods are placed on a layer of birch bark. The main purpose of the sod is to hold the birch bark in place and to give additional insulation. The layer of birch bark ensures that the roof is waterproof.[2]


Between ca 200 to ca 500 BCE there were built the ancient ziggurats or temple towers of ancient Mesopotamia. The oldest of these constructions were sun-dried brick towers had stepped terraces with a temple at its summit. Archeologists have discovered that large trees had been planted on the upper terraces of the towers.[3].

Hanging gardens of Babylon

King Nebuchadnezzar II who ruled between 605 and 562 BC built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.[4] The gardens were built for his wife, Amytis of Media, who longed for the plants of her homeland. According to estimates the gardens would have required at least 37,000 liters of water per day.

Roof gardens must have been an essential part of Roman life in Pompeii. One such roof garden was found in the Villa of Mysteries.[5]

The Palazzo Piccolomini[6] was the private summer residence of Pope Pius II. The city of Pienza where the palazzo is located was one of the first examples of Renaissance town planning. Atop Pius II's palazzo was a magnificent roof garden filled with sculpted trees.[7]

Sod roofs on log buildings of Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo.

"A sod roof or turf roof is a traditional Scandinavian type of green roof covered with sod on top of several layers of birch bark on gently sloping wooden roof boards. Until the late 19th century, it was the most common roof on rural log houses in large parts of Scandinavia."[8] Sod roofs added an additional layer of insulation and protection to the house.

In the late 1800s rooftop gardens began appearing in New York City. The first major roof garden was built on top of the Casino Theatre at Broadway in 1882. Other theatres followed, for example Madison Square Garden and Winter Gardens.[7]

In modern architecture, throughout the 1920s Le Corbusier developed the 'Five Points of Architecture,' which became the new model for architectural design. The fifth point was the roof garden to compensate for the green area consumed by the building and replacing it on the roof.[9]


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New York is a city notoriously short on space, but also one whose residents
are big on innovation. In the Big Apple, the latest trend is rooftop farming.


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