When you run out of ground space for growing, why not take to the water?

The heart of our gardening endeavours is now our Floating Allotment, which was established in 2009 with the help of Shoreditch Trust and Capital Growth. Here we grow salads, vegetables, fruit, and herbs for our own use. Produce is also used for food offered on our Pop Up Cafes and Open Days. We create our own compost and don’t use any pesticides, making all produce truly organic. The allotment was home to a flock of domestic ducks too, recently lost to a fox. We hope to reestablish the ducks at the earliest opportunity, as they supplied us with eggs, frequently used for Open Day cakes, and were very popular with visitors. We believe the allotment barge to be a true community asset and a local attraction into the bargain, being popular with towpath users and local residents alike.

This floating garden also provides a habitat for bees, butterflies, ladybirds, lacewings, dragonflies, mayflies, and other insects vital for the waterside food chain, as well as offering perching space, cover and food for song and other birds, in line with CHUG wildlife objectives.

This year the seedlings for the allotment were supplied through a couple of grants: our ‘Constant Garden’ sees us growing a variety of edibles: Potatoes, lettuces, cabbages, beetroot, spinach, leeks, wild rocket, chard, onions, carrots, peas, celery, cauliflower, and a series of herbs. Planting, pruning, watering, weeding, and general care is organised through our Garden Group.

Quoted from the CHUG website

Admirably showing how it’s done, Kingsland Basin’s floating allotment barge in east London, produces a variety of organic edibles from rhubarb, rocket and potatoes to runner beans, tomatoes, globe artichokes and even two kinds of gooseberries — green and red. Alpine strawberries run riot and next year, the apple and pear trees should start fruiting.

“We rotate the veg annually as you would on any allotment,” says Valerie Easty, a lawyer by day and a keen allotment gardener on evenings and weekends.

Easty, like all the other six or seven regular participants, lives on a boat and is part of CHUG — Canals in Hackney Users Group — an independently run community marina that has been so sensitively run for 25 years it has turned the Basin into a haven for wildlife. The floating allotment is run by CHUG and the Shoreditch Trust charity.

British Waterways — now Canal Rivers Trust — had the idea of turning several redundant working barges into edible gardens,” explains Easty. “The Trust funded the transformation of this one, and British Waterways filled it with soil, providing a working area of about 50ft by 12ft 6ins. The soil was dense clay and builders’ rubble and though some people thought it wouldn’t work because the soil would become waterlogged, or the nutrients would leach into the canal, we thought differently. Because we’ve all lived on the canal for a long time, we know the canal water is an amazing fertiliser. And the water drains out of the soil, into the hull and on into the canal.”

The floating allotment has few limitations, says Easty, but because it caters for more than one family, planting needs to be sensible. “If we grow 14 beetroots, that’s just one per household, the same with carrots. So we focus on cut-and-come again produce, such as salad leaves, spinach and raspberries. Instead of cabbage, we’ll have brussels sprouts; instead of cauliflower, we’ll have broccoli.

Previously the veg, fruit and herbs were raised in rows; now they’re in blocks, with a central path of wooden planks recycled from a former pontoon, so they can be reached more easily. A compost bin is compulsory in every allotment, and the CHUG gardeners have made the most of theirs, by bringing in a bag of worms, so that now the worms not only help break down the compost, but, established right through the beds, they help distribute it down through the clay soil, too.

They have also applied to the Woodland Trust for a community pack of 150 trees to make an edible hedgerow on the towpath. “Because of recent building work a number of trees were pulled out, so we’ve lost a lot of bird life,” she says.

I believe that the Kingsland approach is a wonderful example to us all of just what can be done whe we work together, surely in their endeavors the future lies?

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