About us

What is Alternatives?

Alternatives is an international solidarity and development non-governmental organization. Since its foundation in 1994, it has undertaken a wide variety of projects aiming to foster social justice, participatory democracy and equal relations, as well as the protection of the environment. These projects occur at home in Quebec and around the world. The Rooftop Garden Project is one of Alternatives’ main local projects concentrating on the development of urban agriculture in Montreal and around the world.

What is the Rooftop Garden Project?

Founded in 2003, the Rooftop Garden Project is one of the main projects at Alternatives, an international solidarity and development non-governmental organization in Montreal, Canada. The project began as local attempt to grow healthy organic food in a city setting and has since expanded to involve widespread urban agriculture initiatives in Montreal and other locations. Since its foundation, the Rooftop Garden Project has produced its own growing containers (with a water reservoir at the bottom), has delivered countless horticulture and food system sustainability workshops in communities, and has worked with hundreds of partners make the city a little greener.

What if I don't have an accessible roof?

No problem! Just because we’re called the Rooftop Garden Project does NOT mean our gardens are exclusively on roofs. Our specially-made gardening containers are suitable for balconies, terraces, parking lots, pretty much anywhere there’s empty land and sunlight! Just make sure you have permission to garden in a certain area before starting.

Do you offer workshops? How much do they cost?

Yes, we offer workshops and a wide variety of other activities throughout the gardening season. Stay tuned to the News section of our website or like us on Facebook. We ask for a donation of $5 per workshop, or $20 if you plan to use and keep our materials.

I missed your workshops. Will they be offered again?

Each of our horticultural workshops are offered multiple times during the spring to assist you with your garden’s setup. If you cannot attend, please contact us and we can provide you with helpful information. We will make efforts to accommodate requests for additional workshop dates but cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide them at alternate times and locations.

I need help with my garden. What can you tell me?

Check out our Resources section. Through our partnership with the City of Côte Saint-Luc, we have produced several helpful resource sheets that provide basic information on many aspects of gardening. You'll also find more encompassing practical guides. Chances are, you’ll find all the help you need in our resources section! If you still have questions, please contact us.

Can I go see some of your gardens?

Yes and no. We encourage you to go visit the gardens we have helped to construct through our various partnerships over the years, but some of them are in private areas that are inaccessible to the public. Others are in public areas and are easily visited. We recommend that you call ahead to ask if you can see a garden. Urban Agriculture Montreal also provides an interactive map with different gardens (including some of the ones we helped with!) in the Montreal area. Check it out and plan your visit accordingly.

I want to get involved. How do I do that?

Thank you for your interest! Please consult the Jobs and Internships page to see of any upcoming opportunities. Check out the Jobs and Intenships page on Alternatives’ website as well to learn of other opportunities. We are also always on the lookout for volunteers to help us with a variety of tasks—gardening, providing workshops, recuperating material, translation, you name it! If you are interested in helping please contact us!

Alternatives Containers

What kind of soil should I use? Does it matter?

It’s very important to use only the recommended types of soils (growing mix, aka potting soil, flower box mix). Other types of soil tend to compact, thus restricting water flow within the system and ultimately jeopardizing the container’s growing capacity. The growing mix is stuffed into the submerged strips (the small empty spaces adjacent to the water reservoir) while the overlying soil will be a 50-50 mixture of growing mix and compost.

Where should I put my containers?

Conduct a proper site assessment and determine how much sunlight and wind your potential garden area will receive on a daily basis. Also consider access to water and general accessibility of your containers. Always check with a structural engineer to ensure that your roof or balcony can safely bear the load of a garden.

What kind of plants can I grow in my container?

Almost anything! Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and all sorts of other large plants work well in this self-watering system. Make sure to provide stakes, climbing trellises (i.e. a fence), etc as required for your plants. The container does not provide sufficient space for large-rooted crops such as carrots and potatoes. Be sure to check our companionship grid to see what can go together!

Where can I buy them?

Test of where can I buy them

How do your containers work?

Our containers are equipped with a 14 L water reservoir that sits at the bottom of the container underneath the soil. By filling the submerged strips (small air spaces adjacent to the reservoir) with growing mix, there is a point of water-soil contact that allows water to rise through the soil like a sponge. This process is known as irrigation by capillarity and is far less water-intensive than conventional gardening.

Do I water my container garden as I would a normal garden?

No. Fill the tube with water until it starts to leak out the small drainage hole. This means that your reservoir is full and you do not need to water it again for 2-3 days. It is not necessary to water your container garden from the top as it already contains a sufficient amount of water in its system. The only exceptions to this are when starting your garden (the soils must be moist when initially put in) and in case the soils dry out during drought.

Container logistics

Where can I buy containers?

The containers are available at our offices: 3720 Park Ave, Suite 300 in Montreal (corner Des Pins). We are open between 10 AM and 5 PM Monday to Friday.

How much do they cost?

The container comes as a kit (including the container itself, the filling tube, and the two folded panels that form the false bottom). The entire kit costs $40 and there is no tax.

Can I pay by credit card?

No, we do not accept credit or debit cards. You can pay by cash or a cheque made payable to Alternatives.

Do you sell other gardening supplies?

No, we only sell the container kits. However, we are happy to direct you to other locations that can provide what you’re looking for. Click here to see a few small businesses in the Montreal area that may have what you’re looking for.

I don't live in Montreal. Can I still buy containers?

Unfortunately, our containers are not sold in stores and are only available at our offices. If you live too far away, we will do our best to find a way to get the containers to you. Please contact us for more information.