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Rooftop Harvest

Self-Watering Containers
Ensure Success for Brooklyn Gardener

Peter Bergold
Peter Bergold has packed the roof of his townhouse with a variety of containers, including Self-Watering Planters.
Peter Bergold loves to cook. Like any good cook, he's always on the lookout for interesting new ingredients. Four years ago, he was paging through some seed catalogs, and was surprised by how many varieties of vegetables and herbs were not available in local markets. So for the first time in his life, he decided to start a vegetable garden. The only problem was, Peter and his family lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn with very little planting space. "My wife loves growing flowers in what little space we have, but even there, the plants don't get much sun," says Peter. His solution was simple: Go to the roof.

The roof of his townhouse provided ample space, lots of sunlight, and easy access for his new container garden. The first year, his vegetables grew fine in regular pots. Buoyed with success, Peter decided to invest in more containers. "I decided to try the Self-Watering Planters," he said. He immediately noticed a big difference. "The plants were 100 percent larger, and the yield much greater in the self-watering containers," says Peter.

"Living in Brooklyn is like living a mile out in the ocean. It's warmer here than even in Manhattan," says Peter. This gives him almost a nine-month growing season. His rooftop container garden provides a harvest of fresh vegetables and herbs from April until Thanksgiving. Each year, Peter adds a few more self-watering containers. He's now growing tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs, lettuce, spinach, and kale. "I'm even trying succession cropping, planting kale after the lettuce harvest is finished," he says.

The only real problem so far has been watering. "The first few years we had to haul buckets of water from the bathroom onto the roof, "he says. Two years ago, during a particularly hot summer heat wave, the kids finally rebelled and Peter decided to install a water spigot on the roof. Easy access to water and self-watering containers made for worry-free plant maintenance. "The self-watering containers hold 10 gallons of water each. That's usually enough to last at least a few days, even when the plants are huge and there's a midsummer heat wave," says Peter.

The only pests that have bothered Peter's rooftop garden are squirrels. "They seem to know just when the tomatoes are ripe," he says. His solution has been to prune any overhanging tree limbs so the squirrels can't make it onto the roof. It seems to have worked.

Peter likes to start many of his own vegetable seedlings indoors. "Most nurseries don't have vegetable transplants ready to sell by the time I'm ready to garden," says Peter. "Plus I like trying new varieties," he says. 'Golden Tangerine,' a low-acid tomato, is a recent favorite.

One Gardener's Supply Company product that helps him get a good start is the APS seedstarter. He also uses Plant Health Care fertilizer and Professional Germinating Mix to ensure that his seedlings are strong and healthy. Peter really appreciates the design of the APS. "I work in a biology lab and the APS growing trays are similar to some of the research equipment I use. I appreciate the workmanship," he says.

Peter sees his small rooftop garden as part of a bigger picture. "The more green things you grow, the better it is for the environment," says Peter. "Brooklyn is cooler than Manhattan because we have more trees," he says. With his rooftop container garden, Peter is doing his part to make the city greener while enjoying the fruits of his labor at the dinner table.

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