Rooftop gardens have become a much more common sight over the past few years. Just drive along the Gardiner Expressway and check out the green roofs on all those condos – even trees are being planted above our heads! These urban gardens serve a number of purposes, including aiding in keeping heating and cooling costs down in a building, helping to combat air pollution (so important in our downtown core!), as well as providing a pleasant and beautiful environment for building residents in an otherwise concrete jungle. But why not take this one step further and go beyond decorative gardens of flowers and shrubs, and introduce vegetables, herbs, and fruits?
Last week I was invited to visit Toronto’s first corporate urban garden, at TELUS House in downtown Toronto. It was a beautiful day, and the garden set-up was really quite exciting to this gardening gal. (I may have asked permission to pinch the suckers off some tomato plants – can’t help myself!)
This rooftop garden was created to maximize the green space at the building and generate fresh, local, organic produce for team members and local charitable organizations including Toronto-based charity, The Stop Community Food Centre, in addition to giving team members a chance to learn about sustainability through educational workshops and hands-on learning. TELUS staff, volunteering on their Green Team, Communities Growing Together (CGT), a collective initiative focused on addressing urban food security, sustainability and community empowerment through a palette of artful co-created growing projects, and the building owners, Menkes, will work together to tend the garden throughout the season.
|A TELUS Green Team member waters the marigolds|
This year marks the beginning of the endeavour, and a testing phase. Renée Nadeau, an Urban Garden Consultant, has been brought on as the garden’s Curator, and she has chosen plants and locations on the roof to experiment with what will grow best where. Rooftop gardening brings its own particular challenges with intense sun, high winds, pollution, and more. As soil is being brought in, and the building structure and strength has to be considered in terms of the weight of soil the roof can hold, we are essentially talking about container gardening. Soil levels, drainage, and moisture retention, as well as nutrient composition and extra fertilising all have to be considered.
|Renée Nadeau leading a tour of the garden|
The beds are a mix of elevated and low to the ground and house a large variety of plants. There are numerous tomato varieties, beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, beets, radishes, a variety of herbs, and more. Plantings have been planned to make the best use of space and light, including nasturtiums planted to cascade down over the sides of the higher planters for visual appeal. (They’re edible – you know that, right?) Companion plants have also been put in, specifically marigolds, to help combat pests such as nematodes. Irrigation pipes have been placed in the beds, and a layer of mulch helps to regulate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
|Marigolds provide an excellent, natural protection against certain pests in an organic garden.|