Desiree Herrera

[Editor’s note: The following guest post is written by Adrienne Egolf, marketing specialist for The Nature Conservancy in New York. This is the first post in a series about urban gardening.]

What do you get when you take a scrappy bunch of conservationists and stick them on the 19th floor of a high-rise building in Midtown Manhattan? You get a real-life experiment in urban conservation! Our team in the New York City office has started a rooftop garden. We’re going to keep you updated throughout the summer on how their garden grows — and share tips to help you start your own plot of edible crops in the workplace. Like The Nature Conservancy in New York on Facebook to see up-to-date photos of the garden!

To start things off, we talked to Desiree Herrera, LEAF Program Coordinator, and rooftop-garden trailblazer.


Q: How did this whole thing get started?

Desiree Herrera: Our office is one of the only Conservancy offices in a city like New York, and we rarely get to “see what we do.” So when our office was relocated from the 16th to 19th floor, we were informed that we had a terrace to go out on that received direct sunlight. I thought to myself, what can we use this for? We’ve been talking a lot about urban conservation and greening cities lately, so I decided to see who would be interested in gardening as an office.

Q: Was the office excited about the idea right away?

Herrera: Urban rooftop gardening is a very Conservancy thing to do — but I still had no idea what to expect when I sent out a mass e-mail about the garden to my coworkers. I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback. Because there is not a lot of green space in the majority of the staff’s urban homes, people were excited about the opportunity. I think my colleagues were also enthused by the idea of a group project that would foster cooperative learning about urban conservation, which is something that’s quickly become a focus for us here in New York.

Q: What types of plants are featured in the garden?

Herrera: We’ve planted chard, collards, onions, rosemary, basil, parsley, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, rocket (a type of green), and kale. My favorites are the heirloom tomatoes, because each plant is different. I’ve planted heirloom tomatoes from Ethiopia, Italy and Cuba, so we’re going to see a real variety.

Q: So far, how has your garden affected the work day in your office?

Herrera: Here at The Nature Conservancy everyone is very focused on his or her work, and the garden provides a nice conservation-related break. People go out to look at the plants and water them on their lunch breaks. Instead of eating in front of a computer we can enjoy lunch outside in the presence of greenery. Plus, we hope to see tangible food benefits!

Q: What challenges do you anticipate during this project?                        

Herrera: I actually believe rooftop gardening is going to be easier than street-level gardening, as there is a lot of bright sunlight. Also, because we are so high up we avoid pests like squirrels and deer. I imagine it is easier to control temperature and soil concentration in a rooftop garden. The setup was surprisingly simple (more on that later). However, the garden is in its early stages and we may need to confront new challenges farther down the road. Stay tuned!

[Desiree Herrera, LEAF Program Coordinator. Image source: TNC]

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  1. Hello,
    I used to work as an intern at TNC’s office in Southern Brazil. I love the blog.
    I am planning to have a little home garden in the new place we’re renting. I would like to know what you guys recommend for a mostly shaded and hot place.

  2. Hi Danielle, Try adding simple pavers to create a sense of destination. Adorn the ground with a mass of hostas and other foliage plants. Garden path ideas are great for open spaces.

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