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Book Review (Non-Knitting): The Rooftop Growing Guide

rooftop gardenOstensibly, I’d signed up for the Blogging for Books book review program to review knitting-related titles, but it’s been their gardening books that have snagged my interest (you can read my review of The Water-Saving Garden by Pam Penick here).

The Rooftop Growing Guide by Annie Novak was the next book I chose.

Our little house has a very (well, relatively speaking, for the neighborhood) large front yard, and a backyard that is more like a normal house’s side yard.  I’ve always liked the idea of growing our own produce and herbs, but don’t really have a place in the front yard (we’re pushing it in the neighborhood with our drought-tolerant native plants, let alone an edible landscape), and the backyard was always for our dog Rigel, and doesn’t get a lot of sun anyways.

We do have a deck that sits partially on our single-car garage. Part of the roof of the garage is visible and reachable from the deck, especially since our deck repair a few years ago included a gate for access to the garage roof (before that I was climbing back & forth over the railing).

We’ve set up Earthboxes that we now just use a big planters (rather than the Earthbox system) on the garage roof.  It’s not the most cosmetic set up. I’m really envious of the lovely redwood planters set up on a garage roof down the street (I KNOW they got the idea from us and just did it up nicer).

We also have some very nice pots with a mix of herbs and succulents on our deck itself.

So, with that intro, that’s why I was interested in The Rooftop Growing Guide.  Had I started out with this book, I’m sure our rooftop garden would be a bit more successful (though we have sage, thyme and mint year ’round, and volunteer tomato plants!).

The Rooftop Growing Guide discusses gardens ranging from huge, green roofs through more modest set ups like ours.  It includes assessing your particular situation (from sun exposure to microclimates to budget to zoning and more) then addresses the nitty gritty of soil, irrigation, plant choices, composting, pest management and more. A lot the information is addressed towards commercial use, but it applies to smaller-scale home gardeners as well.

It’s divided into 9 chapters (see below), and lavishly illustrated with photos of examples and diagrams and sketches as needed.


1 Why Rooftops?   9
2 Assessing Your Rooftop   15
3 Containers, Greenhouses, Green Roofs,
and Irrigation Methods   41
4 The Dirt on Rooftop Soil   87
5 Rooftop Seeds and Starts   125
6 Flowers, Herbs, Shrubs, and Trees   149
7 Planning Your Planting   167
8 Rooftop Pests and Problems   189
9 Taking Care of Business   229

The passion of the author, Annie Novak, is apparent. From her bio: Annie is the head farmer and cofounder of the nation’s first commercial green roof vegetable farm, the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm atop Broadway Stages in Brooklyn. She is the manager of the Edible Academy at the New York Botanical Garden, and founder and director of Growing Chefs, a field-to-fork food education program.

As noted above, the information covered is pretty extensive, and you can definitely use this book to create your own rooftop garden plan.  It’s a lot easier to consult this book then try to search different options online — trust me, I’ve been periodically doing so for years! If you’re thinking of tackling this sort of project, I do recommend this book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions are my own.


Overdue for One Small Change

I realized I’d neglected updating this for February.

Visit One Small Change for details.

January was supposed to be about turning off the computer monitor when not in use.  I hate to say I was not perfect, nor even 90, 80 or 70% good on this;  I’d guestimate about 50% success rate.  It’s still not yet a habit.  However, that’s better than not doing it at all…

Lights off when not in the room:  doing pretty well there (but that’s not quite a new habit, just reinforcing an old.)

The deck lights:  still on, but the other outdoor lights are off.

Meat & eggs:  did great.

For February:  with all the pattern designing, there’s a lot of printing, despite that I’m trying to work primarily on the computer.

I don’t want to say I’ll only print out ONE FINAL COPY, because that’s just not going to happen;  I’ll print out what I think is the final copy, then, despite countless times proofing it on the computer, I’ll still find another error or something wonky happened to the layout between Word and saving as a PDF etc.

But — for February (and beyond) I’m going to make a conscious effort to really decrease how many copies do get printed, and if I don’t need to reprint the entire thing, I won’t.  I do print double-sided, so will continue with that.


One small change…

It’s hard to come up with an idea for a small change.   We’ve done a fair amount of things already:

  1. solar panels
  2. tankless water heater
  3. tore up our lawn, replaced primarily with natives
  4. growing some of our own produce in earthboxes on the roof
  5. replaced nearly all bulbs with CFLs
  6. use cloth napkins instead of paper
  7. shop for produce at the FM
  8. buy meat & eggs at the FM (not always able to do so…perhaps that can be one thing to add to the to-do list, to do so exclusively)

One thing we’ve gotten a bit complacent about is electricity — though we produce more than we use,  we can cut back a bit in our usage.

So, for this month:

  1. turn off computer monitor when not in use, and preferentially use the laptop rather than the desktop (unless I need to use the desktop to use specific software)
  2. make sure we turn out lights when we leave the room
  3. unplug the deck lights, unless we’re actually up there at night  (I think they’re pretty, but how often do I look at them?)
  4. buy meat & eggs exclusively at the FM (we can get bison & chicken & chicken eggs at the Torrance FM)

Interested in the challenge?  Check out Hip Mountain Mama:  One Small Change.


Summer Goals

Summer  Knitting and Related Goals

  • finish Curtis’ socks (the first sock needs some surgery, have yet to cast on for the second)
  • finish Helene (currently on the foot of the 2nd) 
  • finish Anniversary Socks
  • finish all the other socks I start!  (Lizzy, Rivendell)
  • continue designing & then knit my Mollusca fair isle vest
  • design & knit some sort of top down, fitted tank/cami
  • finish St Brigid
  • finish all other various WIPs or frog them
  • spin 10-15minutes per day
  • wash all fiber that needs to be washed
  • dye fiber

Summer Gardening Goals

  • Mini-meadow
  • Herb raised bed, add’l raised beds
  • start seedlings for fall planting
  • ’stream bed’/ arrange river rocks
  • hypertufa troughs
  • fountain(s)  including one in the mini-meadow

Triathlon Goals

  • continue to run 3-4x week (well, this is going fine)
  • ride 2x week (but this isn’t)
  • gym/lift 2-3x/wk (nor is this)
  • train for a fall half marathon (should go well….thinking Long Beach Half.  I’ve done this one before, but it’s a decent course & close *)

Actually, looking at the registration fee for the LB half….not so sure.  Other options for me:  Big Sur Trail 1/2, Napa Wine Country Half, some of the XTerra events.