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High Yield Gardening: Rooftop gardening raised beds, container advice needed

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amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 7, 2013
9:00 PM

Post #9378782

I read through the forums and decided that my post would belong here, hopefully I am not mistaken!

A quick explanation - I am planning our rooftop oasis for my first year of full gardening here in Mexico City. Had many successes our first year here but due to a back injury I did very little gardening - cherry tomatoes, basil, dill, mint, sage and caring for the succulents that were already here was very easy and manageble. All were in containers (approx 5 gallon buckets or decorative pots) . This year I am planning my version of square foot gardening, with a few adjustments as needed. Will be increasing bed depth to 8 inches instead of 6, for better water retention. Also, would like to be trying our luck with some SIPs in 5 gallon/whatever size I can find buckets.

My questions are (to cut to the chase):
1) what kind of raised bed loses the least amount of soil/ leaks the least? As the garden is on the roof, a bunch of dirt and water collecting/sitting on a flat cement roof is a recipe to mold growth and eventual weaking of the roof. The roof drains when it rains, has a slight incline to it for that purpose. I just dont want to loose all of our soil to a poorly designed bed, AND dont want to damage the roof.
2) is there a way to reinforce/seal concrete block planters? Would love to utilize some of those in growing some greens (lettuce, kale, spinach) around the edges of a raised bed perhaps built from the concrete blocks?
3) what plastic bed DIY options are there? I am considering leaving the concrete blocks out and instead going with a much lighter plastic option but I live in MX so not all the commercial options available to those in the states are available here. We do have Home Depot here.
4) am I better off doing mostly container (buckets) gardening and trying only one raised bed for now?
5) would it be helpful if I postd myplanned veggies? Lost of peppers (hot and sweet) , tomatoes, herbs, greens. No huge vining planta this year.

I havelearned so much here already, as I lurked for a long time before deciding to join the party officially! Thank you for any advice in advance. We will also have rooftop chickens. We are fun like that.

Oh- we are considered zone 10a , get rains daily from April-September and it is not like a desert where I live LOL. Mexico City has a long growing season and lots of rain. If there were much grass in this urban jungle, it would be very VERY green ;)

(Editted to add, photos posted reply 5 ,after a couple failures posting LOL)

This message was edited Jan 8, 2013 9:36 AM
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 7, 2013
9:06 PM

Post #9378783

I should add, there is a 4 foot wall around the perimeter of the roof (safety and convience! I have two little ones as well ;) ) which can provide for some shade and a break fom the wind. Wiuld like to base most of the garden around the perimeter of the roof for weight bearing reasons and to protect from the wind (we are on a second level) . I do not have any issues building some shade /improvising for shade if that becomes an issue. It wasnt with the cherry tomatoes this padt year, which are STILL PRODUCING cherries in January :)
JoParrott
Richland, WA
(Zone 7b)

January 7, 2013
9:25 PM

Post #9378790

Some photos would help immensely.
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 8, 2013
8:58 AM

Post #9379045

JoParrott wrote:Some photos would help immensely.


Will look for the photos of the roof I have.

Did I mention most people here have advised that the strongest part of the roof is the perimeter? Wanted to be sure I included that info.
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 8, 2013
9:23 AM

Post #9379063

Photos of when it was unfinished (looks the same except now it doesnt have piles of wood and it being sealed this week)

ETF: the pics arent showing, on an iPad. Trying again.

ETA: its not showing. Trying one more time in a new post.

This message was edited Jan 8, 2013 9:25 AM
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 8, 2013
9:35 AM

Post #9379075

Trying again..

YES, I think Ive got it!

Area is a large square like space, around 130meters squared . Dont have a great pic of the whole area, those walls are some of the edges. Behind that black thing (a water tinaco) there is good shade as well most of the day, and about 3 feet of space between it and the wall.

TIA for any input.

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JoParrott
Richland, WA
(Zone 7b)

January 8, 2013
10:44 AM

Post #9379146

Looks like new construction- surely good support. I would be inclined to build several movable raised beds- maybe 3'x6' or so. That way you would have flexibility in case you weren't happy with the first location. With such a big perimeter, there shouldn't be any problem with putting the beds wherever you want! Looks like a really fun project. Keep us updated.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 8, 2013
3:23 PM

Post #9379386

What's an SIP?

- - -

My Home Depot had "concrete glue" in tubes that would fit in caulk guns. It could be used for gluing concrete, bric ks or paving stones. (Like pre-mixed mortar in a tube, that you can use whenever you want.)

To keep a raised bed from leaking soil, you could line it with heavy plastic (right between the soil and the planter walls and bottom). Protected from sun, you need not worry about UV.

A plus is that your RBs will not dry out as fast, especially at the corners. A minus is that it won't drain at all unless you cut a hole in the lowest corner. You might lay down just a little plastic in the corners or on the seams that leak worst.

I re-use the heavy plastic bags that soil amendments come in, and cut it into strips 2 feet wide.

- - -
If your leaking mud stays concentrated, just shovel it up once per month and demote it to your junkiest bed or hardiest plants. Or donate it to some ground-level bed.

If the mud drips and runs away, park a hay bale in its path. That bale should abosrb a fair amount of mud before it leaks through to the other side. Then you can turn it over. Or, if you sit on the bale a lot, retire the muddy bale into your compost heap or use it as mulch. I see this done by road construction crews that want to stop the mud from running down into their work zone.

- - -

I use concrete "paving stones", stood on end, for RB walls. I have access tgo thin long ones (3/4" x 8" x 16") and thick sqaure ones that are more stable (1" x 12" x 12"). The corners leak because I loean the pavers inwards a few degrees for stability. That leaves triangular gaps in the corners. I used to pplug those corners with peb bles or wood, but I saw that the leaking soil soon reached equiloibrium with a little pile of soil (clay) spilling out of some corners.

Where some bed's corners dried out too fast, I added a few square feet of heavy plastic around tho9se corners, below soil loevel. No more leaks.

These pavers are really easy to move around when I change the shape or size of a bed, or move the bed. 95% of the work is shoveling & wheel-barrowing the soil to the new location. 5% is moving the pavers and leaning them in to their new locations, then raking the soil back to support them.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA   Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA   Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA   Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA   
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amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 9, 2013
9:43 AM

Post #9380054

JoParrott wrote:Looks like new construction- surely good support. I would be inclined to build several movable raised beds- maybe 3'x6' or so. That way you would have flexibility in case you weren't happy with the first location. With such a big perimeter, there shouldn't be any problem with putting the beds wherever you want! Looks like a really fun project. Keep us updated.


Yes, we built our home this past fall. Still is missing somethings, and the roof needs to be sealed (would you believe it is transmitting water to the inside when it rains? Not "leaking" , more like moisture seapage.) which is an important step before I put any type of garden up there.

The 3x 6 sounds like a reasonable size. Any suggestions on materials?

I will for sure keep everyone updated, wont be making any progress until the roof is sealed but like to do my research ahead of time. Hoping to build the beds by March, heavy rains start in April and I would like to give seedlings a chance to strengthen a little before being hounded with rain!

Thank you for the input!
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 9, 2013
9:54 AM

Post #9380064

SIP is a Sub Irrigated planter... Some people call them self watering, which isnt 100% correct since you have to pour the water in, but people like them because they water the plant from the roots up. I have only used them to start seedlings in (in 2 liter bottles) and then eventually transplanted them to larger containers. I would like to try them on a larger scale this year.

Photos are from the internet and not mine- I believe they have credits printed on them.

First is a SIP made from a 2 liter soda bottle (has credits printed on it)

Second is a larger version, what I would like to replicate for some plants . No credit printed, it is from http://www.insideurbangreen.org

Both I found by googling "sub irrigated planter"

(BTW I am sure most of you know what these are but thought I would put pics for anyone looking at this thread in the future. SIPs are probably more "container gardeing" forum territory, but since it came up...)

This message was edited Jan 9, 2013 9:58 AM

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amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 9, 2013
10:15 AM

Post #9380088

Quoting:My Home Depot had "concrete glue" in tubes that would fit in caulk guns.

-this might be a good idea to help with leaks. Maybe I could "glue" the concrete blocks together at certain intervals so if I ever want to rearrange it would be easier? For example, glue a foot and a half squared worth together, and just stack those larger blocks together?


Quoting:Protected from sun, you need not worry about UV.

- Wow! I feel silly, of course the plastic shouldnt go bad as quick if it wont see the light of day! :)

Quoting: You might lay down just a little plastic in the corners or on the seams that leak the worse

- or on the seams of my foot and a half pieces mentioned above! Right? Or would that be too fussy?

Quoting:I re-use the heavy plastic bags that soil amendments come in, and cut it into strips 2 feet wide.

- great idea. The dog food we buy also comes in a very thick plastic bag, could give it a rinse and reuse that as well. Great way to upcycle.

Quoting:If your leaking mud stays concentrated, just shovel it up once per month and demote it to your junkiest bed or hardiest plants. Or donate it to some ground-level bed.

- good way to keep costs down. I wish there were ground level beds around here... People garden but no one I know has a ground level bed- most are in 5 gallon containers (recycled paint buckets to be specific) and on their roofs.

Quoting:If the mud drips and runs away, park a hay bale in its path. That bale should abosrb a fair amount of mud before it leaks through to the other side. Then you can turn it over. Or, if you sit on the bale a lot, retire the muddy bale into your compost heap or use it as mulch.

- ayyyyyyyy love this idea!!!! Use the hale bales in the rainy season, and then when it stops raining and cools down (ie, gets down to 65 and 35 at night) use it as mulch and hopefully insulate the plants a little better for an extended growing season!



Quoting:I use concrete "paving stones", stood on end, for RB walls. I have access tgo thin long ones (3/4" x 8" x 16") and thick sqaure ones that are more stable (1" x 12" x 12"). The corners leak because I loean the pavers inwards a few degrees for stability. That leaves triangular gaps in the corners. I used to pplug those corners with peb bles or wood, but I saw that the leaking soil soon reached equiloibrium with a little pile of soil (clay) spilling out of some corners.

Where some bed's corners dried out too fast, I added a few square feet of heavy plastic around tho9se corners, below soil loevel. No more leaks.

These pavers are really easy to move around when I change the shape or size of a bed, or move the bed. 95% of the work is shoveling & wheel-barrowing the soil to the new location. 5% is moving the pavers and leaning them in to their new locations, then raking the soil back to support them.

I have seen pics of your pavers and love the idea!! I havent seen the thicker ones before, that may be an option for me Here! One thing is for sure, if/when we move back to our house in the US, i am redoing the entire yard and utilizing this idea- we left it to the renters with those plastic flower bed dividers which have been there for years and dont effectively keep the grass from growing over the division. The leaning pavers is a eprfect solution!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 9, 2013
11:21 AM

Post #9380156

Have you ever considered doing strawbale gardening within raised bed frames? It might be lighter weight on the roof top, and, once the straw breaks down inside the frames, you could cover that with a layer of soil and plant into the beds.

Might give you a good comparison as to which method gave you the best yield...

Just a thought...

Linda

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 9, 2013
11:51 AM

Post #9380175

Thanks for the kind words!

>> SIP

Thanks! I have a plan for 2-liter bottles, but I'll still be wtaering t6hem from the top. Just a little reservoir at the bottom so they can go longer between waterings.

I agree that you don't want to glue togethr too big a section. I move mine all the time, so I haven't glued any yet. But my wall stones are 12" or 18" long.

Laying down plastic over every seam ought to keep that roof much cleaner. I can't think of a down side.

BTW, yours looks like a hot, relatively dry climate. If your walls are porous like brick or concrete, you may find that water wicks through them and evaporates surprisingly quickly. You might wind up lining the full loength of those walls with plastic! Just be sure to leave some planned drainage and air holes.

I love these pavers. They're not only easy to set up and move, but I think they are cheaper than wood.

BTW, they can be kept much neater than I keep them! If you walk around every so often with a 2x4 and a big hammer, you can "tap" them back into pretty alignment without breaking them.

Also, if you pick your angle of attack carefully, you can use a leaning pav er as a fulcrum when you go to turn or spade the bed. Done right, that takes most olf the strain off your back and arms. Done wor5ng, you tip the paver over, and then have to lift and lean it back into plac e.


I have heavy clay soil, so I often leave a few inches of soil in each corner LESS amended than the centers of beds. In effect, that mortars the corners, prevents leaking and makes the whole bed so solid that an earthquake might not budge it.

Oh, yes. When I screen stones and pebbles out of the clay I'm replacing or amending, I save some to go under the pavers to keep them level. I'm usually building walls on a slope, so I use those with some straight clay too act like concrete and form a level foundation for 2-3 pavers in a row, then "step" down to the next few pavers.

Sometimes I set a cedar board inside the bed, forming "terraces" a few feet wide and a few inches high, aligning with the "steps" in wall height. I'm a real nut for improving drainage as much as I can, and level soil in steps can be watered without runoff more easily than a sloping grade.
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 10, 2013
3:36 PM

Post #9381301

Gymgirl wrote:Have you ever considered doing strawbale gardening within raised bed frames? It might be lighter weight on the roof top, and, once the straw breaks down inside the frames, you could cover that with a layer of soil and plant into the beds.

Might give you a good comparison as to which method gave you the best yield...

Just a thought...

Linda

Linda,
I will google the strawbale gardening... Had never thought of that. thank you for the suggestions, let me research what exactly that entails before replying in depth! I have never really heard of doing that in raised beds, this will be my first year with a large sized garden (well, "large" for me means more than 5 plants ! LOL) so I have a lot to learn.


Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 11, 2013
12:17 AM

Post #9381693

There's a whole forum here on straw bale gardening. The discussion threads go up to about #40? It is a VERY popular topic!

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 11, 2013
3:59 PM

Post #9382281

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/f/strawbale/all/

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 11, 2013
5:00 PM

Post #9382323

Thanks, Rick!
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 12, 2013
9:49 AM

Post #9382772

RickCorey_WA wrote:Thanks for the kind words!

>> SIP

Thanks! I have a plan for 2-liter bottles, but I'll still be wtaering t6hem from the top. Just a little reservoir at the bottom so they can go longer between waterings.


BTW, yours looks like a hot, relatively dry climate. If your walls are porous like brick or concrete, you may find that water wicks through them and evaporates surprisingly quickly. You might wind up lining the full loength of those walls with plastic! Just be sure to leave some planned drainage and air holes.

I love these pavers. They're not only easy to set up and move, but I think they are cheaper than wood.

BTW, they can be kept much neater than I keep them! If you walk around every so often with a 2x4 and a big hammer, you can "tap" them back into pretty alignment ...


That sounds like a genius idea, using the 2 liter SIP setups to go longer between waterings. I think I may put the most water needy plants in those kind of setups, so if we want to go for a long weekend (for example, we are planning next month to go to Michocan Mexico, where the Monarch butterflies end their long journey from Canada every year! I have never been!) , I wont return to dead plants.

Our climate here between april and September is wet and warm - e have daily downpours! Mst people have mold growing in their roof, around all their plants - so I am kinda worried about having so much plant life on the roof - dont want mold on my roof or making its way into my home! But I think the plastic lining thing will help, hopefully!

Thank you so much for all your input, appreciate it!! Will keep this thread updated with developments :)
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 12, 2013
9:51 AM

Post #9382777

Gymgirl wrote:There's a whole forum here on straw bale gardening. The discussion threads go up to about #40? It is a VERY popular topic!


Aaahhh! Thanks Linda and Rick!
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

January 12, 2013
10:02 AM

Post #9382786

I see a few issues here, and may have some answers.

1) Rooftop gardening needs to be at least somewhat concentrated. Square foot or similar is a good way to look at it. Make each square foot productive in some way with the least amount of space devoted to walkways.
Grow UP not so much OUT. Use a trellis for vines. Beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons, tomatoes and others. For the larger squash and melons use nylon stockings to support the ripening fruit. I use a 6" x 6" welded wire mesh. It is used to reinforce concrete. Easy to reach through it, sturdy to hold up at the end of the season when I pull off the old plants, and can be made into circles if you want, though I use them as flat trellises.
2) Make the long direction of the beds north and south. That way there is enough space (walkways) on both sides of the plants, east and west, so they get more sun.
3) I would suggest wood beds if you need to add more beds. Use the concrete blocks you have, but you can make longer beds with less wasted space out of wood. Many people can reach out 24" pretty comfortably, so a 4' wide bed, accessible on both sides is a good place to start. Test your reach to be sure. By using lumber that is 2" x 12" you can make the beds deeper, add much, compost... and your beds do not need to be full to the top. If the soil mix is 8" and the beds have sides that are a foot high, then when you turn the soil it will not fall out. You can attach brackets to the wood, then insert short pieces of pipe (say... 1" PVC or other pipe). Then stick smaller pipe in there to support a trellis or arches over the beds for shade when the plants are young.
I have no idea what sort of really sturdy plastic boxes might be available in Mexico (or even here in EEUU!) But you might try some of the shallow plastic storage boxes. They are not UV stablilized, and will sag with the weight of the soil. I would call them one-season beds. But if you can get them cheap enough you could sure test out some ideas about layout and methods.
4) You can line the beds with plastic if you need that much water retention, but I would suggest you also think about a porous material. Something like a fine mesh that will keep most of the dirt in, but allow water to escape. How about window screen? A finer mesh would be some polyester fabric. Maybe old bed sheets. Not cotton, it rots too fast.
5) For a lighter weight soil I would use more organic matter, perlite or other light materials. But these materials do not hold as much water as clay or silt soil. IME compost does hold plenty of moisture, though. Perhaps practice with a few pots (or buckets) of different materials and see what is best. With those high walls your garden is probably not as exposed to wind as a more open rooftop might be.
6) Think VERY carefully about what you put next to the walls. Little children can use whatever you put there as a ladder, and defeat the purpose of those walls. With this in mind I would keep a 3' walkway all around the outside, and set up whatever you want away from the walls.
7) There are paint like products that can be used for sealing concrete, both blocks and poured in place concrete. However, if you think you will want to move the blocks later just use plastic sheeting or mesh screening. I am not sure if the sealer is available in Mexico. The company named Herco makes one. It is a 2-part product a lot like roofing sealant, but it is safe for ponds with fish, so is also safe for vegetable beds. I have used it. They changed the formula. The old formula worked pretty well, but the company wanted to be more green, and the process they used to make it included some toxins. So they changed the formula to a more green process, and now it is not so good for ponds. Leaks. This ought not to be a problem for a vegetable box, though! These products are very expensive.
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 12, 2013
9:26 PM

Post #9383291

Diana_K wrote:I see a few issues here, and may have some answers.

1) Rooftop gardening needs to be at least somewhat concentrated. Square foot or similar is a good way to look at it. Make each square foot productive in some way with the least amount of space devoted to walkways.
Grow UP not so much OUT. Use a trellis for vines. Beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, melons, tomatoes and others. For the larger squash and melons use nylon stockings to support the ripening fruit. I use a 6" x 6" welded wire mesh. It is used to reinforce concrete. Easy to reach through it, sturdy to hold up at the end of the season when I pull off the old plants, and can be made into circles if you want, though I use them as flat trellises.

My intended plants areseveral variety of tomatoes, peppers , herbs, greens - so hopefully I will just have to stair the tomatoes and the ret not worry about? I opted to not grow any heavy vining veggies this first year - mainly foe this reason! Very good points.

Quoting:2) Make the long direction of the beds north and south. That way there is enough space (walkways) on both sides of the plants, east and west, so they get more sun.


This may be a dumb question, but how many hours a day is recommended for tomatoes, peppers and greens? My MILs plants on her roof (and the ones I grew up there this past yr) got almost 10 hours of sun a day- is that enough?

Quoting:3) I would suggest wood beds if you need to add more beds. Use the concrete blocks you have, but you can make longer beds with less wasted space out of wood. Many people can reach out 24" pretty comfortably, so a 4' wide bed, accessible on both sides is a good place to start. Test your reach to be sure. By using lumber that is 2" x 12" you can make the beds deeper, add much, compost... and your beds do not need to be full to the top. If the soil mix is 8" and the beds have sides that are a foot high, then when you turn the soil it will not fall out. You can attach brackets to the wood, then insert short pieces of pipe (say... 1" PVC or other pipe). Then stick smaller pipe in there to support a trellis or arches over the beds for shade when the plants are young.
I have no idea what sort of really sturdy plastic boxes might be available in Mexico (or even here in EEUU!) But you might try some of the shallow plastic storage boxes. They are not UV stablilized, and will sag with the weight of the soil. I would call them one-season beds. But if you can get them cheap enough you could sure test out some ideas about layout and methods.

Today I was discussing with the husband the leftover materials we have, as he wants to clean up the construction site . I discovered we have some of those 2x 12 boards you mentioned - and was wondering if I could use them but nit use all 12 inches. You have answered my question!! Now- does it matter if it has dried concrete from building on it? If its dry, it shouldnt affect the plant life, correct?

Plastic is RIDICULOUSLY overpriced here. Something I could buy at a dollar store in EEUU is literally 8-10 dollars. Ugh. S I wont be buying any new plastic for this project, but do have some we packed our stuff in that may get upcycled. Didnt think about the UV rays though... Hmmmm very good point!

Quoting:4) You can line the beds with plastic if you need that much water retention, but I would suggest you also think about a porous material. Something like a fine mesh that will keep most of the dirt in, but allow water to escape. How about window screen? A finer mesh would be some polyester fabric. Maybe old bed sheets. Not cotton, it rots too fast.

I am not worried about water retention, it rains alot alot alot here during the main growing season - and I have some peat moss leftover from this yr that I want to use up and it also retains water- correct? Polyester fabric I haveplenty of - sewing is my first love, er... Hobby. I may or may not have brought more fabric with me here to mexico than I brought myself clothing. Lets pretend that I didnt just admit that. ;)

Quoting:5) For a lighter weight soil I would use more organic matter, perlite or other light materials. But these materials do not hold as much water as clay or silt soil. IME compost does hold plenty of moisture, though. Perhaps practice with a few pots (or buckets) of different materials and see what is best. With those high walls your garden is probably not as exposed to wind as a more open rooftop might be.

Im thinking peat moss, sheep manure (it comes dried at home depot) and a little bit of dirt, while my compost pile ripens. Then I will replace the sheep manure with the homemade compsot I think. Except we dont have much "briwn matter" to compost - no leaves or glass clippings here!


***** ipad dying, posting before battery dead, more tomorrow. Thank you!!!






6) Think VERY carefully about what you put next to the walls. Little children can use whatever you put there as a ladder, and defeat the purpose of those walls. With this in mind I would keep a 3' walkway all around the outside, and set up whatever you want away from the walls.
7) There are paint like products that can be used for sealing concrete, both blocks and poured in place concrete. However, if you think you will want to move the blocks later just use plastic sheeting or mesh screening. I am not sure if the sealer is available in Mexico. The company named Herco makes one. It is a 2-part product a lot like roofing sealant, but it is safe for ponds with fish, so is also safe for vegetable beds. I have used it. They changed the formula. The old formula worked pretty well, but the company wanted to be more green, and the process they used to make it included some toxins. So they changed the formula to a more green process, and now it is not so good for ponds. Leaks. This ought not to be a problem for a vegetable box, though! These products are very expensive. [/quote]



This message was edited Jan 14, 2013 8:01 PM

This message was edited Jan 14, 2013 8:04 PM

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 14, 2013
3:55 PM

Post #9385040

Diana_K makes many good points.

Wood walls are almost certainly lighter than concrete pavers.

If you have a lot of rain, plastic lining will tend to hold in even MORE water, so you may need improved drainage. A porous lining that holds soil ijn but lets water out might be desirable.

Drainage can be improved with anything coarse, like grit or crushed rock, as long as it doesn't have a lot of dust or fine sand. I like bark shreds & bark nuggets (pine bark or evergreen bark).

If there is a walkway between your beds and the roof wall, you can access the beds from both sides. Whatever your reach is, that means you can make the bed twice as wide for the same amount of back strain. Don't forget that you not only must be able to reach tomatoes at waist or chest height, you must be able to weed accurately at soil level.

Too bad you can't start small with just 1-2 beds. See what works best, find the problems, then build most of your beds with the benefit of experience. In software development, we call it "throw away the first version".
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 14, 2013
8:12 PM

Post #9385387

Ok, sorry about my absence. My charger got borrowed and wasnt returend... For two days!?

@Diana_Ks suggestions-
Re: children and roof safety. - wow. Its a really good thing you mentioned this - I had this slightly nagging paranoia in the back of my head that the girls (mostly the younger one, it sounds like you knowone like her!) may one day get it in their head to climb up on the raised beds to say hi to people walking by! (their father and grandfather work on the level below and they can see them from our roof) ... It was bothering me , even though this past year they have been great on my MILs roof (which has plants all around the perimeter) - doesnt mean one day they wont be tempted.

On an extremely off topic note, I have been pondering doing what some people do here - pour concrete around their perimeter wall and then pouring broken glass or other sharp objects in the wet concrete . People do it to keep others out - I want to do it to keep little people IN :) ;)

And lastly re:pond and garden sealant - i will look into that certainely if I can not find a more economical solution.part of the gardening is that I want to save us some money (especially on some of those specialty greens that not very many people eat here) , the other part being of course I love playing with dirt and always have - no way to pass on that love to the girls if I dont have a garden!

This message was edited Jan 14, 2013 8:14 PM
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 14, 2013
8:30 PM

Post #9385418

RickCorey_WA wrote:

If you have a lot of rain, plastic lining will tend to hold in even MORE water, so you may need improved drainage. A porous lining that holds soil ijn but lets water out might be desirable.

Drainage can be improved with anything coarse, like grit or crushed rock, as long as it doesn't have a lot of dust or fine sand. I like bark shreds & bark nuggets (pine bark or evergreen bark).


I am actually worried about the amount of rain. People may not believe it - after all, I live in Mexico! Isnt it a desert here? NO. Wrong. Tons and tons of tons of rain in the summer. My MIL has cacti that grow in the crevices of her roof that I had to pull up like weeds. They grow in .5cm of dirt. Its crazy! And I did see mold on her roof, around plant pots that the dirt poured out of like mud :/ so I am trying to avoid that situation, but I also dont want the plants to die from growing in a mini BOG.

I had a new idea today, kind of similar to the "sack garden" concept. The tortilla place closest to us has sacks that are a woven plastic type polyester (their corn comes in the bag before they grind it to make the tortillas.) they said they would give me the bags for 2 pesos each (nothing is free in Mexico). Very large sacks, larger than a 5 gallon bucket at least. I was thinking of lining each 5 gallon bucket with a sack before filling it with dirt. That would keep dirt in, but let water out, correct? I could also cut a couple up for the corners of the raised beds if necessary.

Quoting:If there is a walkway between your beds and the roof wall, you can access the beds from both sides. Whatever your reach is, that means you can make the bed twice as wide for the same amount of back strain. Don't forget that you not only must be able to reach tomatoes at waist or chest height, you must be able to weed accurately at soil level.
another reason not to put the pots and raised beds right up against the wall!

Quoting:Too bad you can't start small with just 1-2 beds. See what works best, find the problems, then build most of your beds with the benefit of experience. In software development, we call it "throw away the first version".

You are absolutely right.

I CAN do that, and frankly am starting to think I SHOULD . I know how/what works for the strictly container gardening- am thinking about using as many pots and recycled objects as I have (probably enough for 15 plants) . But as far as the raised beds? This will be my first season using them anywhere, let alone on a roof in a city I have only lived for a year! Just today I moved half of my cherry plants (on MILs roof) because they were getting too much sun and I realized they would have been doing better on the other wall. At least with the 5 gallon buckets, if I make a realization like that halfway through the season, I can just move the buckets. Will still be doing raised beds - but maybe just 2 medium sized ones for now.

Plus, lets not even think about how many cubic feet of dirt/peat/compost I would need to buy, in one season... Yikes!

Thanks again for all your input Rick, truly invaluable.

PS ETA: i just read in another thread you go by Corey, not Rick! Forgive me, I didnt know :)

This message was edited Jan 14, 2013 9:03 PM
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

January 14, 2013
9:38 PM

Post #9385465

Concrete stuck to the used lumber should not be a problem in the situation you describe.

Concrete is highly alkaline, but the more acid is in the soil (organic matter, peat moss, compost) and the more water to wash it away (lets hear it for lots of rain!!!) the less of the minerals stay in the soil.
I sure would not worry about recycling wood under these conditions.

At 8-$10 per plastic box, I also would not even try it. I KNOW they will crack from the UV very soon.
Use them indoors, or in complete shade to store things that need to stay dry. Do not expose them to the sun.

I am not sure why you are using 5 gallon buckets as plant containers.
a) Plastic rots in the sun
b) 5 gallon buckets can hold other things, or can be a portable chair.
c) a lot of wasted space between each bucket.
Think about setting 4 buckets next to each other, then mentally build a box around them. Which has more room for the roots to spread out? 4 buckets or a box that takes up the same area? How much use would you be getting from the voids between the buckets?
d) drainage problems

The mesh the corn comes in sounds like a perfect material for a couple of uses:
a) Line the joints in the beds/boxes to keep the soil in but allow the water to drain out.
b) use them for temporary shade when you have planted new plants that need to get used to the sun.

I am not sure how much sun (hours) plants need in Mexico.
Here, in my part of zone 9b, I have enough problems growing the heat loving plants (larger squash, melons...) in the hottest spot in my garden. The fruits won't ripen anywhere else. And all those jumbo varieties of tomato! Forget it.

If you can find some climate records compare them to highest and lowest temperatures in the USDA climate zones, and see where you might fall.
I would suspect that parts of Florida will be closest, since you describe summer rain.
If this is so, then I see the main problem will be shading the plants that do not like that much sun, rather than getting enough sun for the heat loving plants. Even the heat loving plants will be fine in less than a full day of sun, and 10 hours sounds like plenty. Many vegetable gardens near me, but in slightly warmer towns, are in a bit of shade either early morning or late afternoon.
Most of the greens like lettuce, spinach and pretty much all the kale/cabbage family will bolt to seed in the long days and the heat. If you can grow these in the shade through the summer you will be lucky. Better to try these in the milder seasons.

I know that Mexico has quite some varied climates. I especially like visiting botanical gardens around here and seeing the wonderful plants that grow from the cloud forests! Some of them have really unique adaptations.
But hot and dry? Well, along the border, yes. But farther south... I can sure see why drainage is more important for your rooftop garden than retaining water!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 15, 2013
8:37 AM

Post #9385815

I beg to differ here, but, only from my 6 years of personal experience successfully growing veggies in 5-gallon eBuckets (self-watering vessels utilizing an inverted colander to create a built-in reservoir in the bottom of the buckets...)

Diana_K wrote:I am not sure why you are using 5 gallon buckets as plant containers...

Because, when your husband forbids you from building raised beds on his precious St. Augustine yard carpet in a very huge yard, and you really, truly, want to grow something, you find another way to do it...

Diana_K wrote:Plastic rots in the sun

a) SOME plastic becomes brittle from exposure to the sun. 5-gallon buckets do not rot in the sun. I used eBuckets from 2006 until 2011, and never had a single one to rot in the sun, or become brittle...

Diana_K wrote:5 gallon buckets can hold other things, or can be a portable chair.

b) They can also be self-watering planters with built in reservoirs which facilitate the plant's growth, especially when you can't, don't want to, or, otherwise forget about watering...

Diana_K wrote:...a lot of wasted space between each bucket...Think about setting 4 buckets next to each other, then mentally build a box around them. Which has more room for the roots to spread out? 4 buckets or a box that takes up the same area? How much use would you be getting from the voids between the buckets?


c) Depends on how you use that space. My water-hogging brassicas (fall/winter veggies) appreciate having that reservoir in the eBucket, so they can drink at will during the day, since I don't have a watering system in place...

And, since I get the benefit of examining whole root systems at the end of each season, I've observed that most of the brassicas roots extend downward, and not laterally (which is what the tomato root systems do). Actually, tomatoes planted in a WIDER, yet shallower, vessel (15" minimum depth) will grow and produce quite nicely...bell peppers, and all of the cucurbits???(sp) (the spring/summer water hogs), benefit greatly from having the reservoirs, too.

Diana_K wrote:...drainage problems...

d) Not necessarily true. Even if you use a 5-gallon free-draining bucket with no reservoir, you can drill enough holes in the bottom and 1/4" - 1/2" up around the sides and have excellent drainage. And, there are taller, 6.5 gallon buckets (pool chlorine buckets are what I used most -- and, no, the residual chlorine did not affect my vegetables...) that give you even more soil depth for deeper root systems...

Here's the link to read about gardening in 5-gallon eBuckets. Keep in mind, the discussion about designin a one-bucket self-watering system started back in 2009, and much discussion was held in conceptualizing and developing the overturned colander system, brainstormed by Molamola and Gessieviolet (research and development).

Since I had been banned from building a garden in my yard, and needed a way to grow stuff, I was desperate to try. So, I shot off like a bat out of H _ _ l, built the design, and began using it in my very first gardening adventure. I became so skilled at how these worked, that I was given the unofficial title of "Ebucket Queen".

You can grow lots of stuff, almost anything, in a bucket, especially one with a reservoir for the plants...

Linda

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1011889/

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Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 15, 2013
8:44 AM

Post #9385826

Couple more pic...

#1 Eggplant, Black Beauty, about 11" tall, sitting on top of the eBucket...
#2 Cabbages in my eBucket patch. I had a concrete pad set in a corner of the yard, and just lined the buckets up there. I loved that I could just hose it off at the end of a work session!
#3 Very first thing I grew in an eBucket, complete by accident, cause I planted this cabbage at the wrong time and nursed it through our scorching Texas summer and into the next year. It grew for 9 months!
#4 That same cabbage the evening it split from some heavy rainstorms earlier that morning. Sweetest cabbage I've ever eaten in my life, no joke!

Hugs!

Linda

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amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 15, 2013
9:14 AM

Post #9385860

Diana_K wrote:Concrete stuck to the used lumber should not be a problem in the situation you describe.

Concrete is highly alkaline, but the more acid is in the soil (organic matter, peat moss, compost) and the more water to wash it away (lets hear it for lots of rain!!!) the less of the minerals stay in the soil.
I sure would not worry about recycling wood under these conditions.


Perfect! I didnt even think about the chemical make up of concrete. Also, it will have rained on the wood a little bit by the time I get the box(es) built.

Quoting:At 8-$10 per plastic box, I also would not even try it. I KNOW they will crack from the UV very soon.
Use them indoors, or in complete shade to store things that need to stay dry. Do not expose them to the sun.


I refuse to by plastic containers here at all costs. Out of principal! That isnt worth 10 dollars! Ripoff!

Quoting:I am not sure why you are using 5 gallon buckets as plant containers.
a) Plastic rots in the sun
b) 5 gallon buckets can hold other things, or can be a portable chair.
c) a lot of wasted space between each bucket.
Think about setting 4 buckets next to each other, then mentally build a box around them. Which has more room for the roots to spread out? 4 buckets or a box that takes up the same area? How much use would you be getting from the voids between the buckets?
d) drainage problems


I want to try because the containers I had this past summer did work quite well, didnt cost anything and produced veggies and herbs quite well. Mostly I want to try a mix of container and raised bed because I want to figure out what works for us the best - and almost every home here has flowers, cacti or veggies growing on their roof in the same 5 gallon buckets. Millions of people cant be wrong! I do want to do raised beds as well, as I imagine there are quite a few positives to using the beds over containers. And vice versa. It will be an experiment!

Quoting:The mesh the corn comes in sounds like a perfect material for a couple of uses:
a) Line the joints in the beds/boxes to keep the soil in but allow the water to drain out.
b) use them for temporary shade when you have planted new plants that need to get used to the sun.

Maybe for my greens especially? Good idea.

Quoting:I am not sure how much sun (hours) plants need in Mexico.
Here, in my part of zone 9b, I have enough problems growing the heat loving plants (larger squash, melons...) in the hottest spot in my garden. The fruits won't ripen anywhere else. And all those jumbo varieties of tomato! Forget it.

If you can find some climate records compare them to highest and lowest temperatures in the USDA climate zones, and see where you might fall.
I would suspect that parts of Florida will be closest, since you describe summer rain.
If this is so, then I see the main problem will be shading the plants that do not like that much sun, rather than getting enough sun for the heat loving plants. Even the heat loving plants will be fine in less than a full day of sun, and 10 hours sounds like plenty. Many vegetable gardens near me, but in slightly warmer towns, are in a bit of shade either early morning or late afternoon.
Most of the greens like lettuce, spinach and pretty much all the kale/cabbage family will bolt to seed in the long days and the heat. If you can grow these in the shade through the summer you will be lucky. Better to try these in the milder seasons.

We are zone 10a here. I meant post that in the OP, must have left that out!

I am crossing my fingers that I will have a short mild season in November and December this coming year. Yesterday it was around 78 degrees - but last year at this time was in the 60s ! So no way of guessing about the mild season, but cross your fingers for me because I want some greens! There is a blog I read about a rooftop garden in Mazatlan (much hotter and drier than here!) and they had greens under a shade cloth on their roof in the summer. I don't know them personally and dont know how the greens tasted in such heat... Hoping that if I try during the mild season I will get lucky.

Also have been researching growing greens inside -possible? We have a staircase that leads to the roof that would be quite a bit cooler than being "outside" but is open to the roof - ie gets sunlight (but not as much as the roof) . Wndering if that could be an option for some greens?

Quoting:I know that Mexico has quite some varied climates. I especially like visiting botanical gardens around here and seeing the wonderful plants that grow from the cloud forests! Some of them have really unique adaptations.
But hot and dry? Well, along the border, yes. But farther south... I can sure see why drainage is more important for your rooftop garden than retaining water!


I was born in Southern Cali, and have pics of me as a baby at a botanical garden! Love that about cali, so many interesting places to visit. You must love living there. :) You are so right about the variety of climates here in Mexico. Even more odd to me, it is all squished together (feels like it to me, after growing up in the US midwest) - you can go from desert flatlands to green mountains to ocean scenes to sprawling farmlands in 6 hours. Fun place to visit if you ever get a chance!




This message was edited Jan 15, 2013 9:22 AM

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 15, 2013
12:06 PM

Post #9386081

Hey, you can call me almost anything! I do like "Corey" better, since there are so many "Rick"s.

You use 5 gallon containers, but NOT plastic ones? Cool! What do you have?

I saw some big metal wastebaskets thrown into our metal-recycling dumpster at work and lusted greatly after them. However, that dumpster is really deep, and I'm afraid that even if I managed to climb in, I might not be able to climb out. Plus, management might get paid by the metal-recyclers.

The Seed Snatchin', Dumpster-Diving Divas of legend used to bring footstools and accomplices to help them get back out.

Weezingreen's 'Seed Snatchin' saga Part 1:
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/463059/

. . . Part 2 . . . More Seed Snatchin' Part II > http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/465112/
. . . Part 3 . . . Yet More Seed Snatching III > http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/467512/
. . . Part 4 . . . Seed Snatchin' Part IV > http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/468970/
. . . Part 5 . . . Seed Snatchin' Part IV > http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/471815/


>> sacks that are a woven plastic type polyester
>> keep dirt in, but let water out,

That sounds great to me. A filter cloth!

>> how many cubic feet of dirt/peat/compost I would need to buy,

I worried about how much weight you will be adding! If a gallon of water weighs around 8.3 pounds, and there are 7.5 cubic feet per gallon, that's 62 pounds per cubic foot. Wet soil is much heavier than water, call it 110 pounds per cubic foot (I cheated and looked up a civil engineering estimate. Totally waterlogged soil might be even heavier!)

1.8 metric tons per cubic meter. Good luck!
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

January 15, 2013
12:55 PM

Post #9386131

Linda, thanks for all the detailed information on your eBuckets experience. Have looked over links to your tutorials on other threads and LOVE seeing the pics of all your successes. Very cool stuff, appreciate all the help I can get!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 15, 2013
1:59 PM

Post #9386264

You're very welcome!
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

May 6, 2013
9:47 PM

Post #9511333

Just wanted to come back and give an update (no photos yet, sorry!)

Our roof has been beautifully sealed and it 100% water seepage proof!

Have started a small variety of my VIP plant choices inside under grow lights-
+Basil (lemon, thai, sweet)
+Peppers (lots of bell, jalapenos and starvos)
+Tomatos (yellow pear and red cherry)
+Dill


Have decided after all that starting with what I know will work is the best bet this year, especially after Corey frightened me with his math skills on the weight per cubic meter! Yes, I want a garden, no I dont want the roof to collapse. And while it is supported enough to build another level (a third story) , I dont want to be the one who breaks the camels back so to speak. So small scale container gardening it will be! Will try out a variety of set ups, referencing this thread alot and hoping to build me MIL her own raised bed (she has some ground level real estate , no weight issues there! Just dog issues ;) )

Haven't googled enough about growing greens inside, am really craving some kale and spinach and swiss chard and and and but no reason to waste seeds and time if it wont work out :(

Thanks again everyone for your suggestions - and the husband and I are already saving to make the roof perimeter wall taller, these weeds, er... These girls wont stop growing and we just cant risk a 2 story fall. There is nothing around the edges now and they cant climb the wall alone (yet) .
amxntransplant
Mexico City
Mexico

May 6, 2013
9:51 PM

Post #9511337

Our red, sealed, leak proof roof! The prettiest part of the house :) (only sorta joking. I like being outdoors, we have no yard.)

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 8, 2013
4:38 PM

Post #9513720

It looks pretty now, and will look gorgeous if you grow things with vines there! Yard-long beans? Snow peas and snap peas in the cooler seasons? Or even flowers ...

If it's totally waterproof, you could run a hose to some tiny irrigation sprinkler-jets or misters, and I bet that would make it cooler.

I'm very sorry if I scared you off with "1.8 metric tons per cubic meter"!

If you suggest some measurements, I'll estimate the weight in kilos or metirc tons, using density estimates that I looked up.

I hoe you start with some small or shallow or narrow planters or pots. Perhaps start near the edges. The roof is strongest at the edges, and right over the columns or joists (supporting beams). And if you increase its size each year, you should see sagging long before any collapsing!

lonejack
Longview, WA
(Zone 8b)

June 25, 2013
11:02 PM

Post #9573515

Hi amxntransplant and friends.
Have You thought about ferrocement? It is a building form that uses a wire frame
with cement or plaster applied to the outside.
Here is a link of some containers built of ferro cement.
http://www.flyingconcrete.com/garden.htm
LucasSawman
Sydney
Australia

September 21, 2013
2:13 AM

Post #9665782

Use coco peat blocks. It will help you to lay down base of the roof. It will hep you to save water and promote healthy growth. Here are more tips for you- http://landscapeandgardenblog.wordpress.com/

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

September 23, 2013
4:31 PM

Post #9668292

Do merchants who sell coco coir 'down under' advertise that it has been tested for salt?

Around here, some studies with seedlings started in pure coir has stunted yellow seedlings. THEN they tested it, and found a ton of salt in that batch.

When we buy bark mulch, they say to check whether it was "ponded" in slat or brackish water.

But I've never seen a bag of mulch or coir labelled to say that it had a toxic salt content, or to certify that it didn't.

dirt_digger
Longwood, FL
(Zone 9b)

September 24, 2013
12:12 PM

Post #9669120

'Pure coir'? Does that mean they did not use a mix? If you followed the link, it suggests coir as an amendment. That is how I use it and I love it, especially for seed starting. I bought mine as a big compressed block certified organic.

The Dirt Doctor, out of Texas, does not recommend using pine bark : 'Pine bark is not good for plant growth. As it breaks down it forms some natural chemicals such as phenols and turpines that inhibit plant growth. It has been established in university tests that it does not support many of the beneficial microbes that prevent disease.'

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

September 24, 2013
5:45 PM

Post #9669399

>> It has been established in university tests that it does not support many of the beneficial microbes that prevent disease.'

That would be serious.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

September 25, 2013
3:04 PM

Post #9670142

ALL grown in pine bark fines, peat, and perlite...no disease...

This message was edited Sep 25, 2013 5:06 PM

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Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

September 25, 2013
3:06 PM

Post #9670145

one more...

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

September 25, 2013
5:14 PM

Post #9670242

I use a lot of pine bark in containers too. If I had a bigger budget, I'd use more in my raised beds.

Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 5b)

October 6, 2013
5:05 PM

Post #9679664

Gymgirl, your container garden is spectacular. I would never have thought that that combination of 'soil' would produce such huge healthy yield. I have the perlite and peat but then compost for the top several inches of my raised beds.

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