Saving the World, One Rooftop Garden at a Time

Look up – what do you see?  (If your answer is clouds, or an airplane, or smog, bring it down a notch.)  The rooftop of a building may look all business from your sidewalk stance, the edge of stone and glass, but it might be a green oasis, helping to cool down your asphalt jungle.

The Sierra Club compared and contrasted two such rooftop farms in New York City:  “To visit [Brooklyn Grange], take the R train to 36th Street in Queens. Climb to the street, escaping the subway breeze that smells like hot iron, and walk two blocks east on Northern Boulevard. Enter a nondescript six-story office building. In the elevator, push the R button for “roof.” After the bald guy with a briefcase steps off on floor three, wait for the doors to slide open again. You will be met by a disorienting burst of sunshine and a view of the Triborough Bridge, and your best New York don’t-mess-with-me scowl will be directed at a lovely row of eggplants.”

New York is leading the way in urban farming: there are at least 7 green-growing rooftops that cool down the city that never sleeps, in contrast to neighboring blacktop roofs, where that dark dearth of life absorbs the summer sun and raises the city temperatures to as much as 7 degrees higher than surrounding areas. Plus, according to the Sierra Club story “there are 17 ground-based farms in the Big Apple and 1,000-plus community gardens, far more than in any other American city.”

I don’t know about you, but come September and October, the hottest months in L.A., I’d love to find green ways to slow the rising mercury on outdoor thermometers.  Have you ever asked your landlord about leasing a little extra space at the top of your building?  If you live or work where there’s a flat rooftop, consider the benefits of growing green up high.

Communities can learn lessons from Seattle, where the UpGarden is a rooftop space for approximately 120 gardeners to manage their own food-production, built and maintained almost entirely by volunteers.

If you have limited space to grow greens, check out American Community Gardening Association to find your own row to hoe.  Do you dig in the dirt alongside your neighbors?  Tell us your story here in the comments, or via Twitter @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.

Photo: View from Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, Photography by JJ Sulin, The Sierra Club