The rooftop garden has ultimately served many roles, and with several goals in mind. While growing organic, luscious vegetables and herbs for the Wabash dining center to use has been a priority, there are some not-readily-visible benefits of this garden that tie in with sustainability for Roosevelt and beyond.
• Food Security- Generally speaking, rooftop gardens can provide food security in urban environments, and while our grown produce goes to the dining center, the garden out in Schaumburg tends to donate a portion of the grown produce to local food pantries at the end of the growing season.
• Urban Sustainability- The rooftop garden also really exemplifies the sustainable idea of a productive garden in an urban environment. Chicago has several examples of sustainable gardens such as, but certainly not limited to: The Plant (www.plantchicago.com), Chicago Urban Lights Farm (www.chicagolights.org), Eden Place (www.edenplacenaturecenter.org), Growing Power (growingpower.org), and many, many more.
• Biodiversity, Rainwater, and Heat- Our campus rooftop garden also supports biodiversity (many different insects have been seen mingling with the plant life); absorbs rainwater, which reduces rooftop rainwater runoff; and with the input of Wabash green roof space on floors 6, 16, 31, and 32, the fifth floor garden also helps reduce the heat island effect, which is very common in Chicago.
• Irrigation- a huge takeaway that we got this summer is in knowing what can grow without irrigation in the garden. Irrigation can be summed up by simply stating “the artificial application of water to land or soil for plant growth, re-vegetation, and more”. This is a system that uses piped water (unless the use of rain barrels is used). While drip irrigation is extremely beneficial in that it does not waste water (i.e. the water does not evaporate) it is still an artificial process. This past summer, however, the rooftop garden hardly had to be watered at all, as it just guzzled up rain water!
To reemphasize, this year has helped us to see what plants can grow in this particular garden setting, and those which cannot due to soil, light, and water requirements that not present on the rooftop. While approximately 33 pounds of produce were harvested June through September, we plan to up production next Spring using the knowledge we have from this past year! Due to the focus on next Spring, we currently do not have any plans for cool weather production, although this is something we look forward to doing in the future.
If you are at all interested in getting involved with the garden next Spring, please feel free to contact me, Rebecca Quesnell, at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Physical Resources Department in Wabash B16.
To check out any previous posts on the Wabash rooftop garden, check out the following links: https://rooseveltgreencampus.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/wabash-rooftop-garden-efforts/