Jay Sand, a home gardener in West Philadelphia, feeds his kids the freshest veggies on the block. The source? His own roof.
Sand and his wife decided to renovate their spacious Victorian fixer-upper from bottom to top, with one key addition: a rooftop vegetable garden. “We wanted the fun of the house to extend up to the roof,” explains Sand. Now the whole family can spend time together outside, while working the soil and experiencing the joys of fresh food.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Sand Family Rooftop Garden yesterday, where I saw for myself what joy the space brings to the family. Sand’s three girls (eight, five, and three years old) frolicked around the garden as they described their favorite use for mint and explained the importance of a self-watering planter system.
Sand had never heard of rooftop vegetable gardening when he first conceived of the project. He bought a book on container gardening, did some online research, and developed a rooftop prototype. The container design utilizes two plastic bins, one nested inside of the other. Overflow holes are drilled into both bins, and a flexible pipe leads from the surface of the soil to the base of the inner bin. The pipe is used to water the bins – at the base of the system. This type of container provides a reservoir for the growing vegetables, and Sand refills each reservoir once per week with a garden hose.
With 12 self-watering bins, Sand and his kids grow enough vegetables to snack on throughout the summer. Tomatoes, cucumbers, Brussel sprouts, and mint currently dominate the garden, and each year the family experiments with new crops.
Toward the end of my visit the girls shared a freshly-picked rooftop cucumber. They passed around the snack, each taking a bite, until the veggie was demolished. With the realization that the cucumber was gone, little Adaline, three, burst into tears screaming “Daddy, I want a cucumber!” The tot had developed such a deep connection to fresh vegetables that only the promise of more cucumbers could console her.
With a crop of young vegetable-loving kids, Sand certainly walks the talk of local, organic eating. What foods do your kids crave?