The key to creating green roof or balcony garden spaces is to choose plants that will survive in very little thickness of soil and rock. Following are some ideas to create these gardens.
Plant a garden on a flat section of shed extending out from a second floor deck that also has built in planters.
This is the portion to look at while seated on the balcony. It is your view of green providing calm and peace amidst a sea of the tar paper shed roofs in the neighborhood back yards.
My shed roof was already waterproofed with heavy duty green roofing paper. To protect it from pebbles in the garden above I laid down a mat of one eighth inch recycled roofing felt. Over this is a layer of lava rocks about one half inch in diameter.
Next the turf layer. I chose succulents rather than grass, but turf grass is an option. For the sake of interest and to make it look like a meadow I cut slits in an X shape, and tucked in small perennial herbs.
I spread out the roots of the herb plants to make them as flat as possible, to stay in the turf without being blown out in strong winds. If you live in a climate that goes more than a week or two without rain you'll need to sprinkle your turf the first couple of years until it is really established.
My roof garden is three years old now and even has earthworms thriving, so many birds alight and eat, especially the blackbirds and crows. Here in The Netherlands our crows are called Jackdaws and have a collar of light gray; pretty birds, really. Around the edge of the roof is a fascia board with holes drilled for drainage that extends an inch above the top of the turf.
The balcony garden
I sit on the wooden slatted balcony garden surrounded by lavender, rosemary and tall grasses in the built in planter boxes. The planters have bases of slatted boards set an inch apart for drainage. I laid permeable garden cloth on the floor of the boxes. This is an open weave black plastic material that repels weeds and allows water to easily drain through. With six inches of soil space total, I filled the lower two inches with sand and 4 inches of potting soil above.
Because you have six inches depth to plant in, you can choose larger plants with larger root systems for the planters. But you still may need to spread the roots sideways to get enough nutrients. After the initial planting I strung two wires lengthwise from screws drilled in to the inside near the top edge of each end of the boxes.
Then using a lighter weight garden wire I tied each plant loosely to the long wires to keep them from being lifted out in storms. In our weather, here on the coast, we have strong winds regularly. So far no plants have lifted out.
Okay, all the plants are in and thriving and it's time to sit and enjoy a good meditation amongst the greenery. It's as if sitting on a hillside and feeling the wind and sun against your skin; your own meditation retreat from daily life!
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Article by Susan Helene Kramer