With the help of a U of S campus group, Saskatoon’s apartment dwellers may soon get more than a good view from their rooftops.
The group, called Rooted, was created to promote food security and community building efforts in Saskatoon. One goal of Rooted is to find city space not currently being used and turn it into productive land.
This year, Rooted has been working on a rooftop gardening project in the Broadway area. Rooted held an open house on Aug. 30 to show off the innovative project and, they hope, inspire others to follow suit next summer.
The project provides a social space for residents of the Pinnacle apartment building on Victoria Avenue and much of the produce grown is then donated to charitable causes.
The rooftop garden was a collaboration between one of the building’s residents and Rooted.
“I went to a community association meeting and by chance they were there,” said Steve Thair, who lives in the Pinnacle building.
Thair, who works as a real estate appraiser, realized his building was suitable for a rooftop garden and immediately showed it to Rooted.
Ideally, a building should have a water source and a safety wall on the roof to facilitate a garden, especially if gardeners want to purchase insurance.
Thair says Rooted was able to “seed” the project, but after bringing up the planters and all the soil, residents had no problem taking control.
With the innovative watering system being used in the rooftop garden, residents need only about half as much water as would normally be required.
The system is borrowed from the McGill community garden. The planters being used have a water reservoir that sits beneath the soil, with a tube running up through the soil for the water to be poured in. This allows the plants to get the water where they need it, at the roots, and cuts down on water evaporation through the topsoil.
Growing in planters allows residents to grow plants that require hotter weather, such as melons and eggplant, since planters retain more heat than a typical soil plot.
For Thair, the produce is just a minor benefit of having the garden.
“For me this is about building community more than growing food,” he said.
Thair says that many of the residents feel the same way.
“When I presented this to the condo association it was really important that some of the produce go to charity.”
Some food has gone to Interval House, a temporary shelter for women and their children who require emergency accommodation, and some to Child Hunger and Education Program, says Thair.
The building’s residents may not be intent on keeping all the produce, but according to Shaun Abbs, a founding member of Rooted, they sure know a lot about gardening.
“We’ve been tapping that resource,” he said.
Rooted is committed to handing down the practical, hands-on knowledge involved in growing food from older to younger generations.
Considering how many children were up on the roof, running around, curiously examining the plants and munching the produce, they just may be on the right track.
But according to Abbs, a well-developed rooftop garden is more than just a social investment.
Having a rooftop garden as the feature of a building can raise its value, he says. If the roof is dense enough with planters, it can help deal with water runoff and keep the building cooler by absorbing the sunlight that hits the roof.
Rooted also has a collection of planters on the patio of Louis’ Pub, growing tomatoes and herbs.
“We were able to get a bit of money from the USSU, which was awesome,” said Jessie Best, chairperson of Rooted.
The group is currently trying to secure more funding so they can expand their operations. And, with their rooftop gardening project at least, they have sparked major interest.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Thair. “I think as many safe roofs as we can find we should be able to fill up.”
photo Raisa Pezderic