tiny garden: rooftop pollinators.

July 5, 2021

We’re back in Brooklyn after a few days away. Before we left I filled glass bottles with water and jammed them upside down into the freshly saturated soil of my rooftop pots. My hope was that once the soil needed it, the bottled up water would be there as a tiny additional offering of hydration, which seemed reasonably better than no offering at all. Had I looked at the forecast, I might not have bothered with the bottles. After days of relentless heat, our little corner was drenched by rain for four days running and where I was afraid I’d see shriveled up plants, I found a still-lush corner on an otherwise blazing roof.

Every time I bring home another pot of something or other to keep alive on our arid rooftop, I feel like I’m taking a tiny leap of slightly harebrained faith. I hope that with enough care and nurturing the new little plant will stay alive and that in exchange for cool drinks of water and gentle pulling off of spent blooms, we’ll have a bit of color and something tasty for humans or pollinators or with any luck, both. It’s not always clear how fruitful or long lasting these garden experiments will be, but when we came back today we found a black swallowtail caterpillar on our flat-leaf parsley. It’s just one native pollinator on one small parsley, but it feels reasonably better than no pollinator at all.

For the curious:

Our copper watering can was a gift from Bloomist. Our pots are a motley array of found and gifted and purchased planters; lots more like them at GRDN here in Brooklyn and online at Bloomist. Most of our plants were purchased locally at Gowanus Nursery.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply Sam July 5, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    lovely sill, Erin! could you share your trick with the glass bottles to keep the plants well-watered?

    • Reply Katie July 6, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      second this request!

  • Reply Alex July 5, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    gorgeous! i’m starting my own hot fire escape garden this week. I was wondering what pollinating flowers you’ve found to do well? Googling ‘fire escape garden’ returns few results– although I did read some of your old articles on the remodelista site!

  • Reply Denise July 5, 2021 at 11:59 pm


  • Reply Terry July 6, 2021 at 12:06 am

    Growing plants, especially food, is good for the soul.

  • Reply cathy July 6, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    You have such a cute garden! Do you happen to have a source for the grey pot in the first photo? Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 6, 2021 at 4:13 pm

      It was a present from my mom from GRDN.

      • Reply cathy July 6, 2021 at 11:47 pm


  • Reply Carina July 7, 2021 at 2:05 am

    Dear Erin,
    as I read your post I thought immediately of The Tiny Canal Cottage’s Lettuce Grow Farm Stands https://www.tinycanalcottage.com/blog/2020/6/23/small-space-gardening-to-manage-anxiety
    Perhaps that is something for you too!
    Love your posts!

  • Reply Tony W July 7, 2021 at 10:34 am

    There was a lot of rain those days. Luckily the plants did not float away. The burst of color looks great. I have been looking into fragrant plants local to the area.

  • Reply Erin Boyle July 7, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Sam and Katie! It’s really not more complicated than I described above! Just fill up a bottle with water and jam it upside down into well-watered soil. As the water dries out and is able to take on more moisture, the bottle will empty into it! It’s not a totally foolproof solution, but a little something in times of need!

    • Reply Katie July 8, 2021 at 10:58 am

      Thanks! I will try this technique in a couple of weeks!


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