Up On the Roof

I work as a writer and editor at a large university. My office is on the top floor of a six-story building, which sports a generous, sun-drenched rooftop patio overlooking our forested back campus and the city skyline in the distance. Recently some of my colleagues and I began to notice a lot of scurrying in and out of a vacant room near the patio. It was actually two members of the building’s maintenance crew. Curiosity finally got the better of us, so we inquired. It turned out that they had an arboretum going in the room’s large, light-filled windows — orchids and houseplants of all sorts being rooted and nurtured.

My colleague and I got to thinking. Surely these two green-thumb types wouldn’t mind if we added a few growing things to the rooftop patio, would they? So she casually asked them one day — would we get in trouble if we just put a few pots out there? One look gave us our answer: in fact, she would be the person we would get in trouble with.

Then she promised to water things while we were away. That was all we needed to hear.

First, we brought in a bush tomato plant. Then we scrounged a few more big pots and added a pepper plant and a Thai basil. The basil was a little tender for that windy rooftop, so I let it hang out in my office for a couple of weeks before moving it to the patio.

Not a week after we had put the first two pots out, a heavy nighttime hailstorm broke the main stem of the tomato in two, and the largest leaves on the pepper were severely damaged. I took the top half of the broken tomato plant home and rooted it, and it’s now growing at home in a container. But in the full sun of the patio, both plants recovered, in spite of a little July heat scorching. The basil did well, too.

So what the heck. we added an eggplant and a summer squash vine. Then one day, a cabbage plant mysteriously appeared in a pot next to the pepper. I suspect the building maintenance crew.

It’s not easy to casually drag giant pots full of soil and plants through the lobby of a tall building, onto an elevator, and across a common area to a patio. So my colleague and I have an arrangement. I call her from my car as I am approaching the building with the plants. She meets me out front with the office hand truck. We unload the goods, and she takes them up on the lift while I park. In spite of our best efforts, we always seem to attract attention and a few laughs.

Other people on our floor have watched our little guerrilla garden with curiosity, then later with delight as some tomatoes popped out, followed by peppers and eggplant. Everyone wants to try the basil. The squash isn’t thriving, but to my surprise, the cabbage is looking quite happy.

I think we will set up a crock pot and make soup for lunch one day in the next few weeks. Either that or a pop-up produce stand in front of the building.

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5 Comments

Filed under Community and Citizenship, Gardening

5 responses to “Up On the Roof

  1. “guerilla garden”– I love it! :)

  2. Love the idea of gardening on the rooftops. I’ve thought about it so many times at the apartment I live in, but they keep the door locked up nowadays. :(

  3. My husband and I have been talking about a back-patio herb garden for YEARS. We’re not gardeners by nature, hence it has never happened. But your story has inspired me – if you all can get it going in a place of business, surely we can do so on our back porch!

  4. Elizabeth E.

    This is simply wonderful! I love the fruits-of-the-garden lunch idea. Invite me over?

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