Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rooftop Garden

Way back at the end of March, I posted an entry about my fantasy “summer sunshine paradise” out my kitchen window and on the neighboring rooftop. What began as a modest project of starting seeds on a secondhand shelving unit

has turned into this:

My tomatoes are getting taller, the one cucumber that didn’t die after sprouting has baby cukes already, the freesia and iris are blooming. The replacement cukes and summer flowers I couldn’t plant till May have already made a good start as well.

What follows is a mini-version of Make (which I know you geeks read religiously) — I’m going to tell you how I constructed my tomato boats, for anyone who might be considering planting in a small space like mine.

Here’s a visual to help:

I purchased 2 meter-long window boxes at the hardware store. Approximate cost/window box: €2.20

I purchased a 2m x 1m piece of what was called ostrich wire. It was a straight sheet of wire mesh which I cut in half with my wire snippers. Approximate cost/window box: €1

I purchased 2 1m tall wooden dowels. Cost/dowel: €1

First I prepared the window boxes for planting by punching out the drainage holes. Then, I stood the ostrich wire in the planter, curving slightly so it would fit. Using floral wire, I wired the mesh to the planter through the drainage holes. I also wired the support dowel to the wire mesh, and strung one piece of wire from the dowel in the front under the planter and around to the mesh on the back, securing tightly. Each of these contraptions looks sort of like a boat, with a large wire-mesh sail. The benefit of the wire mesh is that I can secure my tomatoes easily, again with floral wire, as they grow, giving the stalks support against the weight of the tomatoes. I then filled the planters with dirt and seedlings and placed them against the wall to protect them against the wind and give them plenty of sunshine. So far it’s working well! I can’t wait till I have fresh tomatoes. Even accounting for the floral wire, dirt and seed, I believe each planter of tomatoes has cost only €5 total (around $6.50) — and if you can reuse the tomato boats multiple years, you would see that price decrease dramatically.

As for the rest of my garden paradise, I purchased some fake grass to dampen the sound (since I’m not *actually* supposed to be on the neighboring roof) and prevent damage to the roof from weight or pressure on rooftop-softening hot days. I bought a reclining chair, an inexpensive grill, and some flowering plants for a couple larger planters. I shade myself from the extreme heat and sunshine with a simple tarp, secured to the roof with clothesline I scavenged and a pack of bungee cords. I didn’t spend more than $100 on the entire unglamorous enterprise. Viva el verano económico!


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