A little over a year ago and after several years of living in a rather nomadic way, home for my family and I finally became a 61ft narrowboat. Our reasoning behind this was simple: we wanted to live a smaller, simpler, freer life, more in tune with nature.
I love waking up to the sound of birdsong and knowing what the weather is doing before I even open the curtains and I relish the quieter existence we have living along the towpath. Even in a city it provides a place where you are able to retreat back from the hustle and bustle and recline into a slower pace. The bigger picture does involve finding ourselves some land in which to put down some more permanent roots, but until that day comes travelling around in our home on water provides just about all we need. However, one thing it does not provide is a large piece of earth from which to grow food and as our journey towards a more planet-friendly lifestyle has long included growing some of our own, it is now necessary to start thinking creatively. Last weekend the journey into applying some permaculture practices to the roof of my home began.
Visiting our local hardware store for some 'on boat' repairs we spied a box of random pieces of wood and pallets looking forlorn and unwanted at the front door. We asked a member of staff if they needed a new home and were told to help ourselves if we could make use of anything. Being boaties, we thought at the very least we could burn such material, but in the end we were actually able to utilise it in a much more useful way by making the odds and ends into a couple of planters. A few screws here, a few taps there with the hammer, a lining of plastic spiked with holes for drainage and the start of our rooftop garden was created – for free. I guess the first thing I have learned is that if you don't ask you don't get and when I see the price of planters in the garden centre, it seems almost criminal not to make your own.
The next step was to fill the planters with soil. I wanted to create a soil as natural as possible, taking on board the preparations I have read about in permaculture books. My finished layering system went like this:
Collected natural soil
Mulch (collected leaves found in forested areas on the towpath)
These planters are only 10cm deep so I just chucked a small layer of each material in. I have no idea if this is going to work well, but the early signs are good. I sprinkled a few leftover radish seeds in one of the planters and they are already taking shape! And now my salad collection seeds have arrived from the Real Seed Catalogue today I plan to make another two planters and start sowing with gay abandon!
I want to create planters as close to a natural system as they can be, and consequently I think I will sow seeds randomly perhaps even mixing edible seeds with wild flower seeds?
Of course, any tips you lovely permaculture readers can offer or share, with regards to what to grow and how to grow in small spaces, would be wonderful. I would love to connect with a few other 'tiny gardeners' and together prove that you do not need acres of land to grow at least some of your own food. Please post comments directly below on this website for all to share.
Watch this space!
Alice Griffin likes to write, garden and get crafty from her narrowboat, which currently cruises at 4mph up and down the Grand Union Canal.
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