Rooftop Gardening Part 3: Make Your Garden Grow

tomato plants in our New York City office

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

You’ve positioned your containers. You’ve planted your seeds. Now what? Here are four troubleshooting tips to keep your urban garden growing throughout the season.

Problem: We keep forgetting to water.
Solution: Make a schedule and share the load.
In our office, we started by making a watering schedule. (Some of us even scheduled reminders in our Outlook calendars!) That way we know who’s responsible throughout the week and can keep track of missed days. And if someone’s having trouble getting the job done, the team can help pick up the slack. When someone on our team knows they’ll be out on their watering day, we send around emails and ask for backup. We also try to do our watering first thing (before things get hectic) or at the very end of the day (on the way out the door). Bonus: Those are also the best times for plants to soak up water.

Problem: It’s been too hot for some of these plants.
Solution: Give them an A/C break.
We’ve run into some trouble with all the heat waves affecting New York City and other parts of the country lately. Our leafy green crops (kale, chard, collards and arugula) just couldn’t take in enough water to make up for the crazy-high temperatures. We brought them inside and positioned each one right next to a window where they could still get plenty of sun but not have to bake on our 19th floor terrace. After a few days of cooler air and lots of water, we moved them back outside. If another heat wave rolls through we’ll bring them back in.

blossom end rot

Problem: Our plants have bugs/sickly leaves/bad fruit.
Solution: Hit up Google, and ask for help.
Most of the folks on our team are gardening novices. So when we noticed that our tomatoes were growing in with unhealthy, brown bottoms, we were thoroughly stumped. With our limited knowledge tapped, we hit up Google and found that they were likely suffering from something called blossom-end rot. But we still needed some good advice about what to do next — so we turned to Facebook. Fortunately, the kind community on our page was quick with some helpful hints such as adding eggshells to the soil, which we’re currently trying. We’re still waiting to see what will work best for our tomatoes, but in the meantime we’re glad to know there are such great resources out there!

Problem: Some of our fellow gardeners seem to have lost interest.
Solution: Remind everyone why gardens are so great.
After the initial setup, our garden seemed to go from a fun, group activity to just another task on the to-do list. (“Water the plants – check.”) We’ve tried to keep our coworkers engaged by sending out weekly email updates and photo albums. But the best way to get people excited about the garden is to remind them why we’re doing this in the first place. Whether it’s a basket of fresh herbs in the kitchen or a homemade frittata with garden-grown chard, there’s nothing like a harvest to reinvigorate a group of wily urban gardeners.

[1st image: Potted tomato plants. 2nd image: Blossom-end rot. Images source: TNC. ]

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. I guess its time to give it another try. See if my thumbs are any greener. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. This is a really good article it could really help

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