The Sky Garden is a volunteer-run rooftop vegetable garden at the University of Toronto. This garden showcases our light-weight model and serves as a teaching space for urban agriculture workshops. Run by volunteers with the aim of increasing local, organic food availability for the student community, the Sky Garden uses a network of lightweight, semi-hydroponic containers and a drip irrigation system to grow around 500lbs of vegetables each season.
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We offer tours of the garden during the growing from May until October. Please email us to book a tour, along with any other inquiries.
The Sky Garden began with a small pilot garden in 2009, consisting of standard nursery pots that were all hand-watered. With seed money from a Live Green Toronto grant in 2010, we were able to expand enormously to around 100 specialized semi-hydroponic containers, made by a company called BioTop, as well as a drip irrigation system on a timer with the capacity to dose organic fertilizer. As the garden grew, so too did volunteer involvement, to the point where now about a dozen weekly volunteers work on the garden and a great many more help out by starting seedlings at home in the spring and coming out to major planting and clean up days. These volunteers are provided with free, hands-on urban agriculture education and experience, and the garden in return gets new crops to grow and new ideas for what a rooftop garden can be. We’ve even added a hive of honeybees on the rooftop with our garden.
Our aim with the Sky Garden has been to perfect a “farm on a rooftop” style of green roof, as opposed to traditional, installed, patio green roofs. We’ve chosen a lightweight, semi-hydroponic system for this model with the aim of coming up with a design that would work on virtually any existing rooftop, without the need for any sweeping structural changes. This model is very effective, and we’ve been carefully perfecting it through experimentation with different methods and crops. The result has been a model for a food-producing green roof that is easily transposable to almost any other rooftop.
The Sky Garden includes almost every sort of vegetable – a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, basil and herbs, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, lettuce, squash and pumpkins, beans, and peppers both sweet and hot. Throughout the summer and fall this harvest goes in weekly donations to the University of Toronto food bank, benefiting students who might not otherwise have access to healthy local foods. Volunteers are also welcome to take home vegetables from the garden, and we frequently donate to the Hot Yam, a student-run vegan lunch project.
The harvest we get from the garden goes beyond just vegetables and herbs – the garden is a fertile ground for hands-on education and learning about all aspects of horticulture, particularly methods that work in a city. In addition to the volunteers’ hands-on learning experience, we conduct regular workshops with the Sky Garden as our teaching space. Workshop participants have had the chance to take part in urban beekeeping on our rooftop, helped to build a solar food dehydrator, and learned how to collect and store viable seeds to take home for their own gardens.