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September 23, 2012 / landscapeiskingston

Floating allotment barge wins green award

An old barge on an east London canal has been turned into an edible Eden by local gardeners.

Kingsland Basin’s floating allotment barge is ran by CHUG – Canals in Hackney Users Group – and the Shoreditch Trust charity. Photographs by Paul Debois

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

Canals in Hackney Users’ Group (CHUG) — an independently run community marina that has been sensitively run for 25 years – has turned the Basin into a haven for wildlife. The floating allotment is run by CHUG and the Shoreditch Trust charity. The award was granted to CHUG’s allotment boat, which was given to the charity in September 2009 by the local organisations Shoreditch Trust and Capital Growth, with support from Waterways Forward partnerCanal and River Trust  – and the Mayor of London.

British Waterways — now Canal Rivers Trust — had the idea of turning several redundant working barges into edible gardens.  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.  Because the gardeners all lived on the canal for a long time, they knew the canal could act as a fertiliser. And the water drains out of the soil, into the hull and on into the canal.

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.

Original text: Pattie Barron, Homes & Property, 14 September 2012

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