Rooftop Gardening in Mazatlán

March 19, 2012

Before Paul and I moved to Mazatlán, we lived on ten acres in the country.  We loved to garden, and my vegetable patch was gigantic. (The picture link is during the winter, here’s one from summer) When we moved here we thought we’d be happy just growing ornamentals but as time went on we started to long to grow vegetables again.  With the birth of the Saturday organic market we realized the dreams could become reality.  Paul bought some heirloom tomato seeds and off we went!

Friends had talked about a friend of theirs who gardened on her roof.  In the back of my mind was always the thought that I would love to have a tour. At long last we got to know each other and I finally asked if she’d mind showing me her garden and I got a warm “Of course, I’d be happy to!” Hurray!

So yesterday in the early evening Paul and I and another friend headed over to Val and Roy’s place.  A couple of blocks off the ocean, most people would have been afraid of the salt air or the brisk breezes, but not these two. They remodeled their house with the garden in mind and you’ll see the built in concrete planters around the perimeter. Roy installed drip irrigation in the bottom of the planters (he brought the supplies from NOB) and has masterminded their rolling tinaco-cum-compost bin, too. He said they turn the water on to the drip irrigation for about 11 minutes a day.

Val’s soil is a mix of 1/3 garden center soil, 1/3 Super Abono Natural (she buys at Home Depot) and 1/3 peat moss.  She collects vegetable matter in a garbage can with a lid and rotates it into the tinaco compost bin when it needs more. Val used to collect horse manure for the garden, and now a baker friend saves eggshells for her which are dried and then used to top-dress the tomatoes.

They started out gardening with just some tubs on the ground (you’ll see the almost finished cucumbers in them) and are planning on getting some hard-walled baby pools for lettuce and shallow rooted plants.  They’ll lay a layer of rock or gravel on the roof and then put the pools down so that they can be perforated for drainage.

So now I’ll show you their garden. It is getting toward the end of the growing season here – the heat and humidity in the summer would be challenging for gardeners here. Val and Roy head North in May so they let it go over the summer and start fresh in the fall.

Roof garden
One side of the roof – against the far wall are tomatoes & zuchinni
Roof garden
On the right are lettuces with shade cloth covers, in the center are cucumbers that are almost done and just in front of the laundry are beans and carrots.
Roof garden
Dill weed. Can you see that the side that was under cover is a darker green than the dill weed just outside the cover?
Roof garden
Happy and healhy sprouts and full grown greens
roof garden
Lettuces with shade cloth
roof garden
This has seeds just coming up. The tiny soaker hoses are to keep the seeds moist while they germinate.
roof garden
Beans. The ones on the left are delicious black beans that when cooked turn bright green.
roof garden
Cucumbers and tomatoes grown on wires against the wall
Roof garden
These cucumbers are going to be pulled up. The tubs are an easy way to go.
roof garden compost
Small tinaco on a frame so it can be rolled to aerate.
roof13
This is 1/3 of the soil mix.
roof garden compost
Squash & Beans
roof garden
Tomatoes & Basil
roof garden
Herbs & nasturtiums

I hope you found this tour as inspirational as I did. In a future post I’ll show you changes we intend to make to our sunny patio space.Stay tuned!

More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in Mazatlán, México.

21 Comments
    1. Beautiful! I’ve been thinking of starting a small balcony garden here in Mexico City — our building won’t allow us to use the rooftop. Love the photos!

    1. Heirloom tomatoes. The one thing I would like to grow here. i will be interested in how they turn out for you.

    1. Superb rooftop usage! Makes me want to invest Ina greenhouse to grow stuff that I use to. Little too cold up here at 8500ft, perhaps with the green house…….
      Lettuce is the only abundant crop, next to potatoes and chiles we can grow here.

    1. Just goes to show that anything is possible in Mazatlan. Lovely use of space, I can see your place now…..by the way, lots of manure on the Isla.

      1. Marty, Yes, it is a very cool garden! Val says she thinks she wants to expand it, too!

        Dianne, It has really inspired me, and I hope more people will think of the potential on their rooftops. Friends are going to get their housekeeper involved and let her keep most of the produce.

        John, Yep! (Did you notice my “Stay Tuned?”)

        Laura, Anything is possible, as long as you have some sunshine to the balcony part of the day. By the way, thanks for the tweet, too!

        Steve, Val said that using the crumbled dried egg shells as top dressing for the tomatoes gives them more calcium, and that gives them more flavor.

        Tancho, Pátzcuaro at 8500 feet does give you some challenges, doesn’t it? I would love to grow some fingerling potatoes here but I bet that’s out of the question.

        Contessa, I would love some manure… but can you just see me hauling buckets to and fro on a panga? That would be funny. But you have started me thinking….

    1. How interesting to find you and your roof garden…. I wish I knew how to plant and keep all this… this is an excellent promotion for our city…. thank you…I

    1. My congratulations on a beautiful and well thought out project. We are doing a similar thing here in Merida, Yucatan – see http://www.Yucatanliving.com – Roof Top Gardening. We have been doing the gardening on our roof top for almost a year and have made many modifictions and changes as we go. Here there is virtually no soil worth using and what you can get is loaded with nematodes so we are using potting soil from Canada and Perlite and spagnum moss. We have incorporated the “Earthbox” system ( a 4″ tank of water under a fibreglass shelf holding up 2″ of spaganum moss and 8″ of potting soil) into our planters which look very much like yours. We are very happy with the system as you seem to be with your drip irrigation.
      We have a group of gardeners who meet and discuss problems and opportunities of gardening in this tropical area of Yucatan. Right now we are concerned with hot weather gardening and what we can plant. We have been depending a lot on what we can learn from the Univ. of Florida and the vegetable gardening in South Florida.
      It would be interesting if we could set up a line of communications with you folks in Matzatlan and exchange ideas.
      All the best,
      Roberto

    1. NO.WAY.

      we must be linked by some freakish telepathic gardening sense! I have spent rhe last week and a half scouring the web for info on rooftop gardening. Sounds like your friends are roughly following the “square foot gardening” concept (even if they dont call it that!) i LOVE all thphotos, and thank you for exact info on where I can buy the mixture for soil!

      Now tell me you are composting in preparation for your own rooftop garden and I will officially play the “twilight” theme song 😉

    1. Just another thing I miss about Mazatlan; the innovative and foreward thinking people that do things like this. I am just flummoxed at how well thought out and lush this has turned out for Roy and Val. Kudos galore and hopefully, this blog will be inspiration for many others to do the same. The old “eat locally, eat from one’s OWN garden” and be well, rings true. (of course, with the new farmer’s market on Saturday, there is more of a choice now)

    1. It sounded like you suddenly had a garden … but I looked back thru your gardening posts and didn’t see all the prep work that went into that. Especially the design and building of those raised beds. If you have any links I’d like to see them. Very nice job

      1. Ana, Thanks for commenting, but the roof garden is Val and Roy’s. They gave us a tour.

        Roberto, Val and Roy should be very proud, and I hope to have my own vegetable garden soon. I will be checking out your gardening page and look forward to communicating further!

        Tricia, Funny, I know! I AM composting and we have tomatoes, melons, and a bunch of herbs underway. I plan on buying some more pots and and using the baby pool we have next fall when it is lettuce season.

        Zoe, Yes, Roy and Val have a great garden, I loved to see it.

        Sparks, No, the garden belongs to friends Val and Roy. They remodeled their house with the garden in mind and had all those planters installed during the reno.

    1. Wow! You’re water in Mazatlan must be much better than mine in Chapala or Barra de Navidad. The lime in the Chapala water would close up that irrigation system in one season. The sand in the water in Barra would block it up in a couple of hours. Que lastima!

    1. We find that our water must come from a pozo and we have a filter on the line. The irrigation system is working very well. (no pun intended)

      1. Kathy & Roberto, I think our water in Maz is pretty good – we used to have to clean our filter all the time but when we go to clean it after even 6 months lately there is little dirt and sediment.

    1. Nancy it is not the dirt that gets us. It is the chlorine and other chemicals in the water here. There is nothing like clean rain water or well water.
      Roberto

    1. Nancy,
      Im back with another comment!

      You guys have melons underway, wow!! I l o v e melons (canteloupe) and want to grow them here in our garden (mexico city). Did you start yours from seed or did you buy a plant/seedling? I wish I could find a nursery here in Mexico City. I know our weather conditions are different , but still am interested in your already atarted garden nonetheless 😉

      Also, since I havent found a nursery yet, is there “garden center soil” at Home Depot that I can use for our garden? I have seen the Super Abono Natural there (is that compost or fertilizer?) , havent looked close enough to see if they have peat moss. I would love any help on this, I have always had a dark dark green thumb (meaning I only grow plants that dont die easily), but always helped my Dad with his garden (he did most , but I remember everything he did) . Hoping he left his green thumb to me when he passed on 🙂

      I have plans to visit Xochimilco here soon for plants but not sure if they sell the soil I would need too. I bought some random bags of “good dirt” at the mercado, but who knows what was in them so I just used them in somepot for herbs and my new bouganvillea

      Would love a post on your garden, what you have started! Thanks Nancy, your posts are always so helpful 🙂

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