How to Design Your Own Roof Garden


Gardening is a fun part of a self-sustainable lifestyle. Not everyone has access to suitable ground for a garden. One method of creating a garden without ground is to set up a roof garden. The first steps in creating a roof garden are the design. There are certain key steps to be taken when designing a roof garden.

Step 1

Contact local zoning officials to determine the size and scope of the roof garden allowed, if at all. They may provide information on weight limits, structural modifications and other information you may not have considered. Special preparations may be required depending on your location and regulations.

Step 2

Hire a contractor to look at the rooftop before beginning any design. It would be a waste of time to design a roof garden if the contractor determines the roof is unsuitable for the garden. Find out what the contractor would do to make the roof suitable if needed; then determine if it is worth proceeding further. You may be faced with weight or size limits as well as potential stress points where sections cannot be utilized without more support.

Step 3

Draw out the basic design of the layers required to build the roof garden on graph paper. You will need several layers between the roof and the vegetation used for the garden. Plan on waterproofing the roof plus a protective layer between the waterproofing and the root system above. A moisture blanket will also be needed to retain water in the system as well as a drainage medium above it.

Step 4

Research materials with an eye toward minimal weight added to the roof. Look at materials made of plastic, fiberglass and foam. Research the potential use of Styrofoam packing peanuts for the drainage layer. Get a measurement of the available roof area to determine the amount of material needed; this will help determine the cost estimate of the design.

Step 5

Incorporate windbreaks into the design of the roof garden. The windbreaks are necessary because rooftops are windier than normal garden areas. Trellises and latticework are good options. Anything that disrupts or slows down the flow of wind will be more effective than solid material that stops the flow of wind. Solid windbreaks will be knocked down, torn or increase the effect of wind sheers increasing the wind speed around them.

Step 6

Plan the water delivery method for the garden. Research the possible methods with an eye toward efficiency and consistency; water storage systems or automated watering systems will work for this type of garden. Drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting via 55-gallon drums are potential ideas.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape


  • Gardening Know How: Creating Your Own Rooftop Garden
  • "Grow Vegetables:"; Alan Buckingham and Jo Whittingham; 2008
  • National Research Council Canada: Energy Efficiency and Environmental Benefits of Rooftop Gardens
  • The Environment Site: Building a Roof Garden
Keywords: rooftop garden design, rooftop gardening, alternative garden spaces

About this Author

Jack S. Waverly is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles relating to business, finance, travel, history and health. His current focus is on pets, gardens, personal finance and business management. Waverly has been writing online content professionally since 2007 for various providers and websites.