Garden on the roof

Rooftop gardens are good for cities; so is keeping cars from parking in the bike lane

Green your roof.

Green your roof.

Rooftop gardens
I’ve been fascinated with the concept of rooftop gardens for some time. I’ve mentioned Annie Novak’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn, N.Y., in this space before, and there are countless other venues around the world where people are gardening on the roof—for food or aesthetically pleasing green space—particularly in urban areas.

During a recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit one of my brothers, I passed trendy Emeryville home-furnishings store West Elm and was pleased to see that it has a “green roof”—an expanse of meadow-like grasses growing on its entire roof.

“Green roofs involve growing plants on rooftops, thus replacing the vegetated footprint that was destroyed when the building was constructed,” goes the logic behind such roofs, according to Michigan State University’s Green Roof Research Program. “Establishing plant material on rooftops provides numerous ecological and economic benefits including storm-water management, energy conservation, mitigation of the urban heat-island effect, increased longevity of roofing membranes, as well as providing a more aesthetically pleasing environment to work and live.” (See for more.)

An article I read while I was in the Bay Area, in the San Francisco Chronicle (, just happened to be on rooftop gardening. Writer Sophie Brickman took a look at several produce-growing rooftop gardens—one that supplies fresh fruit for the kitchen at the Fairmont hotel, one that belongs to Mission District restaurant Flour + Water (which includes an old foosball table repurposed as an herb garden), Glide Memorial Church’s burlap-lined, milk-crate-container garden, and the Chron’s own high-in-the-sky garden that makes use of galvanized steel livestock troughs as planters.

Rooftop gardens are increasingly “popping up in the Bay Area,” said Brickman. Besides offering fresh produce, other pluses of gardening on the roof include ample sunlight and lack of garden pests—“most soil pests won’t make it up there,” offered Brickman, “unless they’re smart enough to take the elevator.”

Mayor Zuokas gets tough on bike-lane obstructors.

My new hero:
Arturas Zuokas, an avid bicycle rider who is also the mayor of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Zuokas is featured in a new YouTube video in which he runs over a Mercedes Benz illegally parked in a city bike lane with an armored personnel carrier (see photo).

“In the past few days, expensive cars have been illegally parked in almost this exact place—a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari,” Zuokas says in the video (which has English subtitles). “What should the city do about drivers who think that they are above the law? It seems that a tank is the best solution.”

After he crushes the car, he says, “That’s what will happen if you park your car illegally!”

“Mayor Zuokas wanted his message to be loud and clear that the city will not tolerate brazen and disrespectful behavior by drivers who disobey parking rules,” his spokeswoman, Irma Juskenaite, was quoted as saying in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. “The mayor hopes that he will not have to repeat his performance to have drivers heed his message, although he says that he is prepared to do so.”