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Inspiring Rooftop and Small Space Gardens

Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada learns about rooftop gardening and different ways to grow plants in raised beds.


  1. Before starting any type of rooftop garden, consult a structural engineer to figure out if additional weight is safe.
  2. Align seeds in long rows of enhanced shale soil mix, about 10-12 inches high.
  3. Use drip irrigation, so the water goes directly into the root system.
  4. For raised beds installed in a yard, use untreated 2’x10’ lumber like fir, cedar, or redwood.
  5. Cut the lumber to desired length and use a drill/driver and wood screws to fasten the sides together into a rectangle. The bed’s width should not exceed four feet, but the length can be customized.
  6. Fill the raised bed with planting soil and plants of your choice.
  7. To create the feeding trough raised bed, use a drill/driver and a ½-inch drill bit to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
  8. Put down a layer of landscaping fabric on the bottom and then fill the bottom third with packing peanuts to lessen the weight of the container.
  9. Fill the remaining two-thirds of the trough with planting soil and plants of your choice.
  10. To create a milk crate raised bed, cut out 1’x1’ landscaping fabric and layer it into the crate, or use a prefabricated five-gallon grow bag.
  11. Fill the milk crate with planting soil and plant of your choice. Larger crops like peppers and tomatoes should have one plant per container, while smaller crops like lettuce can be planted up to four in one container.