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Construct a Green Roof

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 20 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Gardening Plants Flowers Roof

If you have the spirit of a true gardener, you might want to consider having a green roof on your garden shed. When you construct a green roof, you transform a plain, functional surface into a living texture that is both beautiful and beneficial. This extra expanse of flowers and plants will enhance your landscaping and provide many benefits at the same time.

What Is a Green Roof?

A green roof is a layer of vegetation installed on top of a conventional roof surface. In a normal garden building setup, the green roof consists of few centimetres of substrate (up to about 10 cm maximum) topped with vegetation that is low growing, hardy and drought resistant.

People choose to construct a green roof for many reasons. For some, it is the beauty and character that living roofs add to any style of landscape architecture. Others feel a duty to replace the vegetation area lost to the foundation of the garden building. And for still others, it is simply a recognition of the many benefits offered by living roofs.

The Benefits of a Green Roof

A green roof provides excellent insulation, reducing the energy needed to heat and cool your garden building. It also gives you great sound insulation. You might be surprised to learn that a living roof typically lasts longer than traditional roofing materials. In fact, a green roof can provide greater protection than a normal roof in windy and exposed areas. On a grander scale, your green roof contributes to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Living roofs have gained so much popularity that many garden building manufacturers now offer green roof options. At the very least, garden buildings come pre-engineered to support the weight of a living roof. However, if you already have a perfectly good garden building, don't despair. It's easy to add a living roof and a bit of interest to your gardening landscape architecture.

Constructing a Green Roof

If you want to construct a green roof, it's best to start with a flat roof, or up to a maximum pitch of nine degrees. This will reduce the need for some kind of retention hardware to keep the green roof from sliding off. The green roof is put on in layers. First you need to apply some waterproofing and insulation. A drainage layer is added next, followed by the substrate (what the plants grow in). Finally, you add the plants.

You can plant seeds or cuttings, or actually add young plants with roots. The best choice is plants that can withstand a harsh environment and don't require a lot of maintenance. (In other words, you want to avoid the need to mow your roof.) The most common plant used to construct a green roof is sedum. Not only are they drought resistant and self-generating, they bloom in shades of white, yellow, pink and purple.

The easiest way to construct a green roof is to buy a ready-made mat. This "pre-fabricated" green roof is grown elsewhere. All you have to do is roll it out and enjoy.

Deciding to construct a green roof provides benefits for everyone. You save money with reduced energy costs. Your neighbours benefit from reduced rainwater runoff. Local wildlife are given a new habitat and food source. And the rest of us benefit from a tiny but measurable reduction in carbon dioxide. All from your little garden shed!

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