Rooftop vegetable garden takes root

Fresh produce being raised on top of Jing'an buildings
Rooftop vegetable garden takes root
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Office workers pull up radishes on a garden on the top of the Kerry Everbright City in Jing’an District. 

Above the concrete jungle, rooftop gardens are emerging in Jing’an District, offering an escape from busy routines and a new way to use space in our densely-populated metropolis.

The Kerry Everbright City, a mixed-use complex near the Shanghai Railway Station, has turned three of its rooftops into vegetable gardens, covering almost 300 square meters.

Nearly 40 vegetables are planted there, including radishes, cucumber, lettuce and pumpkin.

Environmentally-friendly gardening techniques are also used. Rainwater is stored to irrigate plants and coffee grounds collected from the complex’s cafes are used as mulch.

Employees from the property’s management company and sanitation workers from the local Beizhan Subdistrict have also joined hands to make the gardens possible.

It’s a cooperation that offers office workers access to the natural world while sanitation workers, mostly migrants from rural areas, can put their agricultural skills to good use. Gardening experts are also invited to teach the group.

“We call the sanitation workers to help us pick mature vegetables, and then we share, cook and eat together,” said Huang Ning, assistant general manager of Kerry Properties Development (Shanghai) Co.

One of the workers, Zheng Weishun, said he’s happy working in the gardens.

“The vegetables taste much better than what we buy in wet markets because we don’t use pesticide. We don’t need to use it because we plant high, on the fifth floor,” he said.

Among other eco-friendly measures, the complex has installed solar panels on the rooftop to produce electricity. A biochemical treatment machine is also used to process nearly 300 kilograms of kitchen waste generated by the buildings’ tenants.

Officials are trying to promote such measures at other office buildings and retail malls in the district, according to district’s environmental protection authority. Only a few have been swayed, given that owners have to bear the costs of such efforts on their own.

“We have invested a lot of money in environmental protection. It depends on whether a company wants to take part in such efforts or not,” said Huang.

Yet, some in the district have joined the rooftop garden movement.

Food maker Guanshengyuan has a “sky farm” built on the top of its office building on Xinzha Road. A computer system monitors the garden.

Meanwhile, an area on the fourth floor of the Guihuayuan residential complex has been turned into a community garden, where families and neighbors are allocated raised beds.

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