Monday, May 19, 2008

Creating a Mittleider rooftop garden

I have a flat concrete roof on top of my building in eastern India and
I have waterproofed an area 15ft by 50ft for installing a roof top
garden. I have put a mixture of 75% sawdust and 25% sand (as indicated
in the book 'More food from your garden') which is 8" deep and I have
covered the area with a green, porus gardening cloth about 6ft high to
make it look like a porus greenhouse to filter the hot sun from
burning the plants and yet to let the air and rainwater come in
through the tiny seives in the plastic cloth.I have put in the
preplant fertilizer in the prepared 'soil' (as shown on p48 of the
book) and also got the nutrient formula ready for the planting.
It is peak summer time in India now with temperatures around 100F
during the days with full sunlight for 10 hrs/day and high humidity.
So only a few select plants can normally grow now such as corn, okra,
chilies,summer squash, pumpkin,cucumber, bitter gourd, tomatoes and
I would like to be advised on how to proceed if someone has experience
with the Mittleider method of vegetable gardening on concrete roof
tops in hot climates. Winter time would, ofcourse be wonderful with
temperatures in the 70F range and a whole host of vegetables to plant
including brocolli, cauliflower, turnips, zuchini, celery, parsely,
basil,leek, cabbage, beetroot, peas etc.
Any tips on the do's and don'ts for my first venture into such
Thanks. Ashok Pandit

Ashok and Group:

It sounds as if you have prepared well.

I recommend you study the materials in the Learn section of the Foundation website at www.growfood. com in the Grow-Box section. Some improvements have been made over the years since More Food From Your Garden was written. Changes have been made in the Fertilizer section, which should make that aspect a bit easier for you.

A shade cloth, such as you describe, is best if it's no more than about 25%, and it is high enough that it allows direct sunlight except for the hottest hours of the day. You may find that the middle of your area will not grow fruit-bearing crops as well, because that area won't get direct sunlight. I recommend you plant accordingly.

Zucchini is a warm-weather plant and should be added to your summer list. And the other varieties, which are traditionally considered cool-weather crops can also often be grown successfully in hot weather, if you keep them watered adequately.

It is very important that you water sufficiently, and that you have adequate drainage also. Daily watering, until the water comes out of the bottom of the box, is essential. Be sure that you leave a way for the water to drain out of the bottom of your boxes.

Best of success. Don't hesitate to write with further questions. We would love to have you post pictures of your garden - now and as it matures - to the Groups Photos section.

Jim Kennard

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