Advice for planting a green roof

Advice and useful tips to help take your garden to new heights by planting a green roof. 


Usually we pay no attention to roofs – unless they are extraordinary (like the onion domes of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow or the one where Dick Van Dyke and his posse of camp chimney sweeps cavorted in Mary Poppins). Instead we take them for granted most of the time and all we ask is that they keep the rain off our heads. However, roofs do not have to be joyless, grey things for they can be also full of life and excitement if they transmogrify into green roofs. 


Five things you need to know before getting started

1. Green roofs are not roof gardens. Green roofs are a more sustainable, attractive alternative to asphalt.

2. It doesn't have to be enormous – a bin store, a shed or a bike shelter will do if your home only has steeply pitched roofs.

3. Green roofs are considerably more sensible that green walls, which are temperamental as they depend on timers and exact watering for their survival. A green roof is a simple thing that lives on the rain that falls and the sun that shines.

4. Green roofs are heavy. Seek advice from a structural engineer who can advise you as to whether your roof is strong enough to support the extra weight.

5. Drainage is very important so make sure the soil you use is light, ideally with a free-draining substance and efficient gutters and drain pipes. 


Where to buy and find out more

• Green Roof Guide
Information and advice on installing green roofs. 

• Habitat Aid
Supplies native wildflower plug plants and seed.

• Living Roofs
Independent organisation promoting green roofs.

• Oxford Green Roofs 
Designs and builds green roofs.

• Sedum Green Roof
Supplies green-roof systems.

• Wildflower Turf 
Supplies ready-planted wildflower turf.


Further reading

Small Green Roofs
by Nigel Dunnett and Dusty Gedge (Timber Press, 2011).

Creating My Green Roof: A guide to planning, installing, and maintaining a beautiful, energy-saving green roof
by Dave Hilary (Createspace, 2015).

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls
by Nigel Dunnett and Noël Kingsbury (Timber Press, 2008).


Words James Alexander-Sinclair

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