Roof Top Garden

Roof Top Garden

A whole new meaning to ‘Growing Up’ at Burlington City Hall

Follow along on our innovative new initiative to engage city staff in healthy habits while giving back to our community. The City of Burlington community garden co-ordinator will share updates on our roof-top garden adventure.

Here we grow again…no green space or green thumb required.
Green buildings.  Healthy workplace. Staff volunteerism. Burlington City Hall staff are growing these ideas and encouraging staff to grow food on the roof of Burlington City Hall. And it’s for all staff, at any level, from any department.   Staff told us they want to participate in something that is meaningful, convenient, with the bonus of allowing a healthy break from their desk and daily meetings.  Lucky for us, Burlington City Hall has a sunny, west facing 2ndfloor flat roof that provides the perfect site for a rooftop container garden.

Arial view of city hall roof showing the selected location.

Making it happen

You know what it’s like…you have a great idea, an innovative idea, but how does a new initiative such as a rooftop garden come together?  It started with a small group of people chatting, visiting potential sites. Our core team is the building facility manager, two sustainability coordinators, the community garden coordinator and the HR healthy workplace coordinator.  We flushed the idea out, problem solved, and presented to the powers that be to get approvals.  Funding for supplies will come from the HR healthy workplace budget and funding to run a water line up the roof stairwell from the building minor repairs budget.  The community garden coordinator already had a 22 unit rooftop container system being stored at various community gardens. Communication to staff to set up an initial information meeting was next.  Creative services designed and posted a web banner and staff notice on our intranet with an invitation to a meeting for interested staff. The community garden coordinator hosted a meeting at the end of February and received responses from over 40 interested staff.  A follow up  “What to Grow” meeting happened in March where the group made collective decisions about what they wanted to grow referencing a seasonal planting schedule.  Next it was time to start growing.  A seed sowing activity, open to any staff, took place in the open space of the main floor atrium.  Throughout March and April city hall staff will grow seedlings in their office windows or at home, and the rooftop container system will be delivered and set up on the 2ndfloor roof. In early May everyone will be asked to attend an on-site safety orientation.  From that point forward the seedlings can be transplanted and those involved will be able to visit the roof garden during their breaks.  The group decided to create a calendar where each person will pick at least one week to make sure the plants are watered and harvested.

Things we’ve considered:

  • Access to the stairwell with minimum disruption to normal office working environments
  • Fire escape training and safety set back from the roof edge
  • Least impact to the roof membrane from walking, container load and water pooling
  • Water line installation to the roof
  • Storage area for tools, first-aid kit and other supplies
  • Dealing with drying wind and heat conditions and access over weekends for watering
  • Communication updates to all staff and participants
  • Organizing food donation to local food banks and inviting any staff to donate excess from their home gardens
  • Providing tools, supports, resource materials, communication board and task log book
  • Sourcing larger deeper containers, compost, vermiculite, organic nutrients
  • Establishing a succession planting plan over the cool and hot months
  • Attracting pollinators to the rooftop

If you’d like more information to start a staff garden at your municipal facility, feel free to email me.

Next issue, we’ll share how spring planning has developed into summer planting.

Stay green and healthy, my friends,

Michelle Bennett
City of Burlington community garden co-ordinator

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