As New York City continues razing its community gardens, the city of Chicago is raising its gardens to the roof. Chicago is living up to its motto, City in a Garden (Urbs in Horto), with its Urban Heat Island Initiative Pilot Project, whose aim is to determine the effectiveness of rooftop gardens on lowering summertime temperatures, reducing air pollution, and conserving energy.
On the roof of Chicago's city hall, 20,000 native plants and trees will create a living laboratory for monitoring heat reduction and air-quality improvement. Some of the plants to be used include aster, blue stem grass, purple salvia, and crabapple and hawthorn trees. Wards throughout Chicago also will have rooftop garden demonstration projects, installed and maintained by the city. Private property owners may apply to the city for grant money to create their own paradise perches.
The city's Department of Environment plans to publish a booklet on designing and maintaining rooftop gardens, and it will make the test program's results available to interested agencies and individuals. For more information, contact the Chicago Department of Environment at (312) 744-7606.
General information about rooftop gardening can be found in Rooftop Garden: From Concept to Construction, published by the city of San Francisco. This 44-page guide includes useful information to help readers learn about why and how to build a rooftop garden. For a copy, send $7 to SFB, 41 Sutter St., #709, San Francisco, CA 94104.
Lisa Winkler is a former assistant editor at the National Gardening Association.