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Tips for Growing a Rooftop Garden

By: Sherri RibbeySherri Ribbey
No green space? No problem! Learn how this Chicago gardener created a beautiful rooftop garden in the city.

Bethany Bey rooftop garden: Bethany Bey's Chicago rooftop garden is full of flowers and plants. Follow her on Instagram @ChicagoGardener.

Smart tips for a successful rooftop garden

In order to get room for a garden, Bethany Bey took over the roof of her zone 5 Illinois home. She added a comfy seating area to the 18-foot-long-by-19-foot-wide deck along with seven 3-foot-tall wooden raised beds around the perimeter and 50 containers and grow bags of assorted sizes. Now Bethany has plenty of room for growing plants! This beautiful rooftop garden earned her an honorable mention in the 2024 Container Challenge. Here’s what she does to create a lush rooftop container garden:

1. Water rooftop garden plants with drip irrigation

Bethany tried using single drip emitters with everything at first but found that she needed so many, the water pressure decreased and didn’t reach all the plants in larger pots. Her solution is to use drip emitters for single plants in small pots and sprinkler emitters for larger containers.

2. Stake plants as soon as possible

Wind is a problem on the roof, so plants that might not need staking in the border do need help staying upright in this garden. Bethany’s sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), dahlias (Dahlia hybrids) and zinnias (Zinnia hybrids) all get stakes early in the season. In addition, she looks for dwarf varieties that will have a similar look without the need for extra support.

3. Use plants to camouflage the "uglies"

What looks like a border across from the seating area is actually a group of 10 containers that hide the air conditioner. Over the years Bethany has learned to arrange them more purposefully instead of just setting them here and there. Now when she puts this border together in spring she considers the habit, size and flower color of each plant before putting them in place. This gives her a layered and harmonious design.


Follow Bethany on Instagram: @chicagogardener

Youtube: Chicago Gardener


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container gardening issue 177 may june 2024 reader tip small space spring summer

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