Somewhere along the way we have been led to believe it is possible to plant a garden that will take care of itself. With ploys of xeriscaping, automatic irrigation systems, and plants cultivated specifically to be slow growing, disease proof, and pest resistant, we have convinced ourselves that we can set it and forget it. As a horticulturist of over 12 years, I can tell you that such a garden simply does not exist. To put it in perspective, think about your family pet- perhaps it’s a Chihuahua that gets a bath 3 times a week, dresses up in leopard print with chiffon ruffles, and eats out of a glass goblet. Well, plants are living things too, and though they may not wag their tail and bark, they want just as much care and attention.
Even on rooftops in Manhattan maintenance is a critical component of the long term success of a garden. With container gardening, maintenance becomes even more important. Not only are the effects of the surrounding environment exaggerated to plants growing in planters, but containerized plants really stand out like art on a pedestal. In New York City, where space is nonexistent and weight limits are restricted, every plant we put in a garden must perform at its best. Regular pruning, fertilizing, soil replacement, and pest management are the fundamentals of rooftop garden maintenance.
Weeding should not be forgotten either. I have come across more Coronilla varia L. (Crown Vetch) than I care to see in the past few weeks. I have never seen this weed on rooftops before this season, but it seems to be cropping up everywhere. If you see this in your garden get out the shovel and some gloves. You’ve got to pull out every last root of this invasive intruder to ensure the success of your other plants. The bottom line is if you don’t have a gardener, you should find one to consult with even if you don’t want to commit to a routine care program. Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design offers gardening consultations and flexible garden maintenance programs for rooftop and terrace gardens in Manhattan. http://www.jeffreyerb.com/services.html