We've been blessed with access to a fantastic Green Roof space, above the Ada Slaight Hall at the Daniels Spectrum building. First, we picked up the garbage and incidental items that fell off Paintbox Condo balconies. Then we thought hmmm. What could we grow here, on the nice south-facing roof? There's just 6" of soil media. Green from April to December, living roofs survive on rainfall and act as insulation, heating the building in winter and cooling it in summer. Green roofs prevent water pollution, by managing stormwater and drawing it into plant life instead of sending it down into the sewers. The sedum, native to our region and able to withstand the green roof conditions, flowers beautifully around now.
We started to think big. What could we do on this 10,000 square foot green space? Chickens? Bees? Cutflowers? Vegetables? Fruits? We looked to other Green Roof projects, notably the Ryerson Urban Farm (is it called TMU Urban Farm now?) and to our contacts in the urban agriculture scene in Toronto. We received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to help us think through the steps we would need to take to create a social enterprise. The Green Roof to Garden Feasibility Study is linked below (PDF), so you can see for yourself what Raised Roots Consulting provided, and perhaps it will help you dream big too!
We decided, as an organization, that because of the uncertainty of COVID and the closure of a key partner (Paintbox Bistro) that we weren't ready to take on the full project of creating a social enterprise just yet. But we still love the rooftop and are learning what grows, and how much effort it takes. First, taking up the sedums is a lot of work because they are grown in a mat and installed like sod with a plastic mesh on the bottom. And we have to be super careful when digging not to puncture the liner below. We also have to be conscious of where the weight is on the roof, and because there's no fence, we can't yet have program participants on the roof, only our staff who are safety-trained and insured.
Rebecca Davis, our Urban Agriculture Specialist, says:
"We are growing many different plants to sell at the Cabbagetown Farmers Market and using the roof as a controlled study compared to our school gardens. Our school gardens tend to have interference from people, so the roof provides a space for the plants to grow unhindered. Some crops of interest is a variety of watermelon called moon & stars, several different varieties of peppers & tomatoes, a corn field & sunflower patch, sugar pie pumpkin, and cauliflowers. The cultivated area of the garden is 27 ft x 32 ft and is split up into 7 beds.
"We also have a large flower bed that focuses on native flowers to increase biodiversity and attract pollinators. A lot of the flowers are self-seeding annuals so hopefully next year the flower bed will be much more established. We had discussed integrating a honeybee hive on the roof since I have previous beekeeping experience, however to help our native pollinator friends we have decided to simply grow and watch for which pollinators visit our roof. By observing, we hope to discover how many and which pollinators visit, and how then a bee hive might affect them.
"I have just recently installed an irrigation system on the roof with drip tape to allow for a slower and deeper watering. The drip tape targets the soil and roots directly, leaving the leaves dry and therefore less prone to diseases such as mildew."
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