DIY: Rooftop Garden

On my first visit to see our current apartment, our landlord was escorting us to the laundry room when I noticed a very large deck coming off the apartment. When I asked where it connected, he said that it didn’t. The past owner had used it, but because the floor of the deck was higher than the inside, they had sealed it off to prevent leaks.

The Deck

Pretty barren, and in definite need of some sweeping, the deck was large enough to have a lot of possibilities.


This is my fiance and my first place of our own, so we were exciting to add some personal touches. A huge consideration for me was having different types of sitting areas, because I have a blog about dinner parties and entertain at least once a week. So, after we got our furniture settled and boxes unpacked, it was time to go to work on the outside space.

Part One: How to Get There

First things first: you can only get out on our deck from the window. There used to be a door, and as you can see below, it has been rather hilariously patched closed on the outside.

outdoor window

Before we could even dream of having guests on the patio, we needed a safe way to get in and out. The window is pretty high, so a simple stepping stool wasn’t going to cut it.

Thankfully, we have some tall stools that went with the counter in my fiance’s old place. We no longer have an overhanging counter like that, so voila! A way to climb through the window.

Part Two: Making Planters

Once we had the logistics figured out, it was time to plan the patio. My fiance was already going on about how he wanted plants. Since I was not very fond of having tons of pots filled with dirt on our white carpet, the plants would definitely be living on the deck.

A friend of mine recently built raised bed planters at her house with some redwood she found on Craig’s List. I check with my parents, who live nearby, and they had some extra wood we could use. With some judicious planning, cutting, and nailing, we were in business!


With the wood I had, I was able to put together a 25″x30″x3.5″ planter for herbs and a 20″x45″x7″ planter for vegetables. I had some wood left over, but I wanted to see how much space the plants actually used before building another one.

planter base

Part Three: Picking Out Plants

The plants themselves were actually rather time consuming to pick out. I wanted herbs and vegetables that I could use for cooking, and my fiance wanted some trees or larger flowering plants. Since the main way we get things on the deck was through the window (and we have a compact car), this seriously limited what kind of potted plants we could get.

I also never realized how expensive trees or large plants are! The hibiscus that we ended up choosing was nearly forty dollars, and that was on the low end for potted plants. The smaller vegetables and herbs were all $3-$5, so there was a pretty large price jump between the potted items and the small pre-grown plants for planters.

I picked up six herbs (peppermint, chocolate mint, sage, Italian basil, cilantro, and rosemary) and six vegetables (two tomatoes, two peppers, and two zucchini). Even though I thought my two planters were pretty small, we still have lots of room left in both planters.


Part Four: Setting up Seating

We were able to get some used plastic patio chairs and make a table out of storage bins covered with a table cloth. It would be nice to have a cafe table, but we weren’t sure how to get it on the roof, so this will have to do for now.

finished productThe Finished Product

We had a garden party over the weekend and everyone really enjoyed sitting outside. A rooftop patio is a wonderful, secluded outdoor space for relaxed breakfasts, reading or sipping cold beverages with friends.

We can’t wait till the next weekend we are home to have people over again!

Tips for Building Your Own Rooftop Garden

  • Craig’s List is a great place to find wood and patio furniture if you are low on funds. It is also much cheaper to grow plants from seed, but they will require more attention and need to be planted early in the season.
  • Get your wood at Home Depot if you are not handy with a saw. You can give them measurements and they will cut it to size for you. Then, you only need to nail the pieces together. It will cut your building time down by 75%.
  • Keep in mind the size of your car before going to the nursery. We planned to get fruit trees and didn’t realize we couldn’t fit them in the car till we got there.
  • Make sure your furniture is light. Even if you don’t have to throw your chairs up to the roof from ground level, like we did, your downstairs neighbors won’t appreciate if their roof cracks because you stuck a huge, heavy wood table up there.
  • Consider the yield of each plant before you get it. As soon as she saw my garden, my green-thumbed friend said I was going to have a hard time eating all the zucchini from two plants. I’m new to gardening, so I would be thrilled to have a single tomato or zucchini. I had never consider the possibility of my little garden making more than we would eat!

A small balcony or even a large window ledge can fit quite a few plants. Do you have some outdoor space for a garden?