The Starrett-Lehigh Building Rooftop Garden Installation
Damsel Garden is proud to be growing with the Starrett-Lehigh community in Manhattan. It was healthy food that first brought us together three years ago when I worked with Stewardship Farm to bring shares of organic vegetables to Starrett-Lehigh through the farm’s partnership with building tenant The Center for Social Innovation. Thanks to the sustainably minded leadership at Starrett-Lehigh, the idea was sown to plant out the 10th floor with an edible and pollinator garden providing habitat and nourishment for a host of beneficial insects and birds. It’s been a dream project to design and in 2019 we are entering our third growing season together. The garden is an exceptional amenity for the building’s tenants who get a chance to slow down and connect with nature by growing food, flowers and herbs. The installation has been a true community effort! Monarch butterflies, lady bugs, dragonflies and hundreds of bees are spotted daily during the growing season. The garden produces salad greens, herbs, squash, tomatoes, flowers and more. In its first season in 2016, we grew more than 50 crops from watermelon to mouse melons. The new vegetation helps to cool down the roof, too.
The garden’s shed is a very special structure, built in 2017 by the creative team of Ralph Lauren who have their studio at Starrett-Lehigh. Not wanting to toss out a reusable resource, the building saved the old timbers from the recently replaced water towers. The result, a new mini barn clad in old growth western red cedar with rich gray patina. It’s a stunner. Old windows from the building were salvaged and added so there is plenty of light to work inside when you need a break from the rain or heat. The shed got even more adorable with a green roof installation by Brooklyn Grange. The extensive living roof they installed absorbs water which would normally be lost down a drain pipe and out to the Hudson River. Green roof systems help catch water and protect the roof membrane, providing further insulation which helps save on energy bills. The shed is our permaculture center piece, and we look forward to having increased habitat for insects and birds and a place to work, grow and continue the conversation for more greening initiatives. By the end of summer there’s a mini meadow of wildflowers and sedums flourishing. And the view from the garden which overlooks the Hudson River? Spectacular!