Best Veggies for Rooftop Gardens...and More! |
Anne Roberts Gardens rooftop-gardens-1

Best Veggies for Rooftop Gardens…and More!

Rooftop gardens aren’t just perfect for flowers and breezy, open-air sanctuaries. Uhuh.

Fresh herbs and vegetables from your garden are one of summer’s favorite delights. And just because you live in the city, there’s no need to forego some homegrown goodness. But before you put your crops in, we’ll give you a few pointers on veggies that are particularly well suited to highrise areas and rooftops – and what to look out for when you are choosing your plants, containers and rooftop locations.

Considerations for Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop gardens are a plus for the environment on several levels. But, they also are a little different from a ground-level garden. When planting on a rooftop, you need to consider:

1. WIND. Rooftop gardens tend to get quite a bit more breeze than a ground-level garden, and strong gusts can be particularly hard on tender-stemmed plants. Because of this, we recommend that you select plants that are sturdy enough to withstand the wind and/or place your vegetables in somewhat sheltered areas.

2. HEAT. Rooftop gardens tend to receive more intense and more unfiltered light than most ground-level gardens. In addition, the surface of the roof itself can generate a lot of heat, depending on its construction. Because intense sunlight and heat can dry out your plants, you can offset the problem by:

  • Choosing plants that aren’t overly sensitive to heat.
  • Providing a canopy of filtered light (such as a sail shade) for your vegetables and herbs.
  • Providing a solid growing base that will promote water retention. We recommend a lightweight soil amended with vermiculite. You can also set up a rain barrel system, a drip hose or irrigation system to help with watering.
  • Covering your plants at the base with 2-3″ of mulch to help the soil retain water.


There are lots of things to you can use for container gardening on a rooftop. Here are a few examples:

Pots: When shopping for pots, remember that lightweight containers are far easier to move than heavy ceramic ones. As well, try to look for pots with a hole in the bottom to allow for drainage. If you can’t find one with a drainage hole, you can either use a drill to create a hole or try lining the bottom of the planter with pebbles or small stones for an in-container drainage system.

Green Walls  & Vertical Planters: Don’t forget that you can assemble some kind of green wall for growing plants and herbs—especially lightweight items like lettuce. You can construct a green wall in a variety of clever ways. An online search can provide some inspiration if you’re feeling crafty. You can also purchase green wall setups (here’s one example, but styles and prices can vary widely), or you can have a custom one built and installed by a landscape contractor. There are scads of ideas online to get your imagination going.

Hanging Baskets (round or vertical)

Window Boxes

Anne Roberts Gardens rooftop-gardens-2-1
A vertical garden is also known as a green wall.


Unless you have a wide span for planting, try selecting compact varieties of vegetables. These smaller plants may also be called dwarf or patio varieties.

We recommend trying:

  1. Smaller tomato plants
  2. Peppers
  3. Zucchini
  4. Herbs
  5. Onions
  6. Potatoes
  7. Carrots
  8. Lettuce

If you have any recommendations for rooftop vegetable or herb plantings, we invite you to share your successes on our Facebook page.

Need help planning and installing your rooftop garden? We’re happy to consult with you and to offer an estimate. Contact us here.

About The Author

Anne Roberts
Anne Roberts
Chicago Landscaper, Master Gardener, Green Roof Specialist & Degreed Horticulturist at Anne Roberts Gardens

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