Planning time!

The Hive space has been lucky enough to have a really cool landlord who is open to the idea of planting on the roof, as long as we show him the plans before hand.  So we’ve been busy busy busy with planning, collecting information, getting input from all the members involved, and trying to recruit knowledgeable parties who would like to help out.  Due to the fact that none of us have ever done anything like this before, it’s been an interesting process, and one that I’m sure will get all the more interesting as time goes on.

Well, here in Brooklyn, the frost free date is April 10th.  Since that’s about a week away, we’re kind of stressing about getting the garden installed in time; but then zen kicks in, and we remember that everything always seems to work out around here, and even if we end up installing the garden a week or two late, it’s no biggie.  So here’s where we’re at right now:

The roof

We are hoping to get an engineer analyze the structural stability and possible damage to the membrane, either already existent, or what we should do to avoid damage upon installation.

In terms of placement of the garden, we were thinking the front half, anything beyond the skylight, would be used for rain catchment, since there are no walls in that half of the interior, making that half very unstable, and the actual garden itself would be placed roughly even with the skylight and back, where walls do exist inside.  A schematic of the proposed plan I’ve drawn up will be posted soon.


We’ve been blessed enough to have a small yard area, with a wonderful patio and two beds, one large and one small:

There’s an old abandoned store front directly behind us.  We had jokingly been wondering if it would be possible to turn it into a cafe.  We’ll see.

We have since tidied things up, and intend on making them even more tidy in the near future.  The plants that you can barely see in these pictures are a Euonymus vine, english ivy, and sophora japonica.  I’m pushing to have them all removed and turned into mulch, since they’re not very useful and in quite bad shape due to neglectful pruning, not to mention that I know we could plant some much more useful and beautiful native fruit and nut bearing plants.  Also, the soil could use some sort of organic matter covering as well as amendment.  Speaking of the soil, we are having a soil test done to check for nutrient levels, organic matter content, pH, and most importantly, possible contaminants.  It’s an urban site, so we’re expecting the worst.  But no need to worry, members of our group are big into bio- and myco-remediation, so in the event we do find contaminants, it will be exciting to see nature work her magic at making the soil safe again.

We also hope to build a deck with stairs to gain better access to the roof.  As you can see, there is no real stairs to get up, just a small and very unstable ladder.


As mentioned, we were thinking of using the front half of the roof for water catchment.  How we were thinking of doing this is rigging up a tarp (eventually a more sturdy tin roof sort of arrangement, perhaps with green roof planting for filtration ), angled slightly, with a diversion pipe attached which would then be directed into the backyard into rain barrels.  We currently have at least 4 rain barrels that we have been assured of, 3-5 donated by a private party and one through the city rain barrel program:

In terms of getting the water onto the roof, we are going to be testing out a pump system to pump the water up.  Eventually, we would like to have the pump powered by a small solar panel, but until we can afford that, we’ll have to settle for on the grid electric.

The water will then be pumped into our sub-irrigated planters.  It’s still up in the air whether we will be linking them together in a giant chain watered planter system, or if we will be manually watering them.  Like most everything else, we’ll likely start out simple, and get more complex when we have the time and money.  Which brings us to our next aspect of the garden.


We intend on using a special planter called sub-irrigated planters, or SIPs for short.  Here’s a picture of one, showing it’s insides and how they work:

This is a schematic view of an earthbox, a commercial version of what we intend on making ourselves from salvaged and bought materials.  All you need to make one yourself is a plastic bin, which can be anything from plastic tubs to peanut oil jugs to regular 5 gallon buckets, and anything in between, something to make a water reservoir, a tube to fill the reservoir, which can be made out of various salvaged materials, soil, and something to fertilize the soil, which can be either commercial organic fertilizer, compost or manure,  which should be mixed in at the beginning, or compost tea, which can be added to the water reservoir, but will have to be continuously added throughout the season to keep feeding.  We intend on using a mix of both compost/manure mixed in and compost tea feeding throughout the season.

Here’s a picture of a home made, super simple version of a SIP, courtesy of Bob Hyland of Inside Urban Green:

And here’s another pretty similar model, currently installed and in use at PS 39 in park slope thanks to Freida Lim, who has worked closely with Bob in the past.  Notice the re-purposed pallets used to make the raised bin holders:

Instead of bottles for the reservoirs, they used perforated irrigation piping, giving it a much more neat look, and probably better overall functionality:

What we plan on using for our reservoir, at least at first, is plant flats.  My job is getting rid of hundreds of them, so we have access to a steady and free supply:


We have lots of plants on the way, both already started, and still in their seed packets.  We’ve been lucky enough to have some friends donate some seeds to Isaac, and Jason is looking into getting a whole bunch donated as well.  We do have a pretty substantial seed reserve already though, ordered from Fedco seeds.  53 varieties in total.  Here’s some pictures of what we have started already:


Front – Anise Hyssop, Back – Wild Bergamot

Ho Chi Minh Peppers


The whole setup:


So that’s where we’re at currently.  Stay tuned for more updates as things start to warm up!


– Rob


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