What’s growing in Dodge’s Green Roof Garden?

June 10, 2014

After a bitter cold and seemingly endless winter, the Dodge Foundation’s green roof is starting to bloom.

Several Dodge employees got their hands dirty about two weeks ago and planted vegetables, herbs and flowers in the eight planters on our rooftop here at 14 Maple Ave. in Morristown.

In its sixth season, the Green Roof Garden at Dodge offers multiple benefits. It provides staff healthy, fresh additions to our lunch plates and colorful and sweet-smelling flowers and herbs for office arrangements (bright purple chive flowers and oregano are featured right now!). The garden is a pit stop in downtown Morristown for daring pollinators to slurp nectar as they make their way to yards throughout town. And, along with the sedum, succulents and trees that cover our roof, it helps cut down on stormwater runoff and moderates heat in our building.

“It’s a peaceful place,” said Elaine Rastocky, Senior Program Associate for Education grants and Coordinator of Technical Assistance workshops. “At Dodge, we support local food movements and this is our miniature food movement in our own space.”

Rastocky is the green thumb who plans what we plant each year. Over the years, she has learned not to plant trellis cucumbers (the metal bins hold too much heat) and that it is important to rotate where vegetables and flowers are planted each season to improve soil health and trick bugs that overwinter in the containers.

“It’s part-planning, part-stumble-upon,” Rastocky says of her approach. “I try to make the bins beautiful and functional.”

This year, most of the vegetables were sourced from a plant sale to benefit Grow It Green Morristown (whose Urban Farm at Lafayette and Early Street Community Gardens are great places for gardeners to visit for inspiration and education). The chives, oregano, tarragon and dill — lots of dill! — made it through the winter, providing a burst of green to the roof right as spring arrived.

We added nutrients to our volcanic ash soil by taking advantage of the free mulch and compost offered by Morris County (thank you!).

Here’s a breakdown of what we planted this year:

Tomatoes (7 total): 1 beefsteak, 2 Early Girl, 1 red cherry, 1 Santa Fe Sweet Grape, 1 Black Plum, 1 Amanda Orange

Peppers (5 total): 2 Italian frying, 1 jalapeno, 1 red bell pepper, 1 California Wonder

Other: 2 bush pickle cucumbers, 4 Black Beauty eggplants

Herbs: Spearmint, tarragon, English thyme, purple sage, rosemary, Mediterranean oregano, Kent Beauty oregano, lavendar, sweet potato plants, parsley, dill, chives, purple basil, Thai basil, Genovese basil, Greek basil

Flowers: 8 marigolds, 8 State Fair zinnias, 8 Rocket snapdragons, 2 Castle yellow celosa, 1 Gerbera daisy

You can look back at our first year in gardening on our green roof in this blog post from 2009.

Here are some additional resources to learn about gardening and local food movements taking off in towns and cities throughout New Jersey:

You can also find the nearest farmers market to your home on the Jersey Fresh locator map.

Check back throughout the season for more pictures of the Green Roof Garden’s progress (and maybe some of our favorite recipes).

In the meantime, share what’s growing in your garden below in the comments section.

Photos: At top: Sandy Almassy waters tomatoes on planting day; Above left: Elaine Rastocky and Meghan Jambor plant herbs.