Living roof!

As part of our bee friendly yard, we are attempting to build a living roof on our garden shed/bee equipment house. The shed has been in place for 20 years and needed to be re-shingled. I was inspired by something I saw on one of Monty Don’s gardening shows and decided we’d build a living green roof instead.

After much discussion about the method we wanted to use to create a waterproof surface, we headed to the hardware store and bought metal roof panels. It’s not a large roof so the panels, ridge cap and appropriate fasteners was not hugely expensive. And it was literally a matter of hours to install the panels on the shed roof.

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The next step is going to be a bit trickier. We need to create a large box with some kind of grid system to hold soil and plants. And it can’t weigh a ton. Heavy lumber, deep planting medium, plants and water will be heavy. The challenge is how to minimize the weight but still get the planting environment we want.

Himself wants to install angle iron along the bottom of the roof. We can then create plant boxes and install them, move them, remove and replant them at will rather than be confined to a single permanent structure.

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The angle iron was installed and it’s the perfect way to go. We built 2’X2′ shallow boxes with garden cloth stapled to the bottom to form a porous plant box. We added several inches of soil and a variety of ground cover and low growing plants plus a few wild violets and hen & chicks.

The boxes rest against the angle iron and can be moved as needed. Two boxes up now with more to come.

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Several days have passed, we’ve had a bit of rain, and the first two plant boxes are doing well. Today I completed three more boxes and have finished the first row. It will be interesting to see what survives, what thrives and what doesn’t make it. I’ve planted a mix of mosses, succulents, wild violets, rockery plants and ground covers plus a few nasturtiums. I’m hoping for a cascade from those multi coloured nasturtiums and I’m guessing some of the succulents will hang down eventually as well. The other part of this experiment will be the surprise factor – those plants that arrive voluntarily, carried there by birds and the wind. The flowers on woolly thyme and creeping Jenny will attract bees as well and I expect these boxes to be a favourite hangout of the mason bees. Here’s hoping the curious crows and squirrels don’t do too much damage as well!

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