Rooftops: A Gardening Frontier

This week we profile two rooftop gardeners who are revolutionizing the urban landscape

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

Annie Novak became acquainted with SSE while employed at The New York Botanical Gardens. Annie has worked with GrowNYC and Greenmarket, Slow Food USA, and Just Food, advocating for the expansion of urban agriculture. She now runs Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn ( and has recently teamed up with Madewell (a division of J. Crew) to offer gardening workshops at their stores across the country.  Yes, you read correctly, gardening workshops in a clothing store.

Annie says she takes a long view of agriculture and enjoys working with savvy urban gardeners, being with children, celebrating food, and acknowledging the legacy of plants.  A passionate educator, Annie teaches workshops across the country, and has spoken at conferences both nationally and internationally on the connections between people, food, ecology, and the benefits of urban agriculture.

Annie can’t help but chant the virtues of gardening: “Number-one hobby, gets people outdoors, provides them with food, creates happiness, and biologically connects one to the soil. It’s the culture in Agri(culture).”

Annie Novak is the author of the forthcoming book “The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform your Roof into a Garden or Farm” from  Ten Speed Press.


The Corner Market

According to Chuck Cole, there is a leather sofa that invites customers to just hang out at The Corner Market in Dallas. Chuck wants to exude the feeling of comfort.

But there is certainly no sitting around for this owner/farmer/engineer/chef.  A stunning garden sits above the 2000-square foot space that houses his café, deli, and floral market. The rooftop is full of high-producing garden vegetables, flowers, herbs, and blueberry plants. “At The Corner Market we wanted to offer an explosion of ‘fresh,’” says Chuck. “Peppers have produced through December and I can get 20 pounds of tomatoes per vine. When we want fresh herbs we just get what we need.”

According to Chuck, “Once it’s established it’s not a lot of work.”

Chuck gives tours by invitation, sometimes talking to engineering students about the efficiencies of rooftop gardens.  Reclaimed cypress wood is used to create planting boxes where the soil is full of worms. Roof drains and water from the air conditioning units feed into barrels for later use. The Corner Market enjoys a 10% reduction in energy usage due to the insulation the rooftop garden provides.  Solar panels are installed on the rooftop.  Bees also find a home above the restaurant.

Chuck said, “The moral of the story is that just about anyone can do these things.  Try it!”

Chuck mentions that before catching a flight for a holiday event, the only thing he grabbed to read was the Seed Savers Exchange catalog.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.