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We plan to have a terrace garden on the second floor of our new...

Vandana Narain

Posted: Mar 16, 2007 at 1355 hrs IST The ground floor of our house is already ready and the first and second floors are at the planning stage. Please advise us on how to get a terrace garden made, and what kind of plants can be grown there. Also, guide us on what plants to grow on the balcony of our other house. This is a shaded balcony where we plan to have a lot of plants and a sitting area under a pergola.
-Anjum Irani, New Delhi.

The first and foremost step involved in making a terrace garden is identifying the area or part of the terrace where you plan to have the terrace or roof garden as per your plan. The terrace slab or the roof of the first floor in your case will then either be sunk in the identified area by about a foot and a half to two feet, or the roof slab can remain as it is and one can have a garden, which is stepped up by a few steps. This is done in order to take care of the various layers of filling that go in below the garden cover. At this stage a structural engineer should be consulted to guide one about the extra strengthening of the slab that will be required in this particular area of the roof slab.

The second step is to waterproof the slab in slope in order to prevent seepages to the floor below. It is better to do a chemical-based waterproofing than a membrane-based one. After the waterproofing the final layer of concreting will be done. Once the slab is strengthened and waterproofed it is the stage to consult a landscape architect. Some good nurseries also have their team of gardeners headed by a landscape architect who can take up the contract for the job. Over the slab the drainage section will be laid with the perforated pipes.

Next comes the layer of aggregates with gravel, brickbats and sand. A filter fabric follows this, which is basically a thick sheet of geo membrane on which a stone grid is laid and then a net spread on it. This is done to hold the earth in place when it is laid and also to ensure that the draining system is not clogged by silt, thus preventing draining and soil erosion. Since an artificial layer of earth is created in roof gardens it erodes and washes away every time it is watered, the membrane stops this from happening.

bonsai plants as these take less space and look
good as well
Now comes the layer of earth or soil mixed with manure. The layer of earth or soil will be about six or nine inches deep. Once the earth is laid it is time to lay the grass. Depending on your level of patience you can either sow grass seeds or roll out the grass carpet. In case you choose the latter it will take a fortnight for the grass to set and the entire process takes up to Rs. 110 per square feet.

Before planting any flowers or plants it is necessary to access the direction of sun on your terrace. On the sunny side one can plant the hardy plants, which can take the bright sun and go for the ones that prefer the shade on the non-sunny side. The most important thing to keep in mind is to select plants with shallow or short roots for planting on the terrace or else there is a danger of the structural damage to the building. Also keep in mind that the chosen plants do not require too much watering since there are limited outlets for the water to drain out.

Cacti varieties will do well on terraces since they are low on maintenance. Plants with deeper roots will do well in planters or big pots. Short trees can also be planted in big pots or planters such as peach, lime, orange or karipatta. Various flowering shrubs can also be planted in consultation with your gardener or landscape consultant. If space permits a gravel path or a rock garden can be created to further beautify your terrace garden. The best time to get a terrace garden made is between February and March, so that by the time the monsoons come in, the earth would have settled down and the garden would be in place.

Regarding keeping plants in the balcony, since it receives little or no sun I would advice you to go in for non-flowering plants. Hardy plants do well such as varieties of palms, cane bamboo, phycus, croton, chlorophytum, drycena, defenbacia, money plants, etc. Cacti variety of plants can also be kept. You can even hang baskets in the balcony. Money plant, jade and chlorophytum do well in baskets. A few bonsai plants can also be kept since they take up less space and look good as well.

The author is an architect
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