Boating and gardening; a twin passion?

Are you creating a floating garden on your boat? Here's some handy safety tips from Debbi in our boating team.

A narrowboat roof garden of herbs, salad and flowers A narrowboat roof garden

For keen gardeners, May has been an extremely busy month of seed sowing, potting on, weeding and watering. It’s also a very busy month out on the waterways with the main summer season getting into full swing. It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that May has been a month for numerous boat festivals and gatherings from Crick to Moira, Gloucester Tall Ships and many more. May is also the month of the Chelsea Flower Show and this year it was the launch of our very first Boats in Bloom competition.


My own intentions of getting my own boat in bloom have been delayed by painting the roof of our narrowboat, engine maintenance and the competing demands of allotment and garden. There never seems to be enough time at weekends to do everything. When I finally found some time Sunday last I discovered I had insufficient compost to fill all my pots and the garden centres had already closed for the day.

If you are still planning your Boats in Bloom display here’s a few things to think about before you cruise with a floating garden.

Boats blooming safely

Keep your sightlines clear

Make sure the person steering the boat can see clearly over and around any pots and containers, and that crew of the boat can easily see the helmsperson when required. This also applies to any hoods, canopies and wheelhouses.

Be aware of how much weight you are putting on the roof

Too much stuff, especially heavy stuff on the roof can affect the stability of your craft in the water, heightening the risk of rolling and capsizing.

Avoid trip hazards

Keep gunwales, doors and steps clear and ensure the helmsperson has enough room to move safely while at the tiller or wheel.

Take care that your ropes don’t snag

Ensure that your ropes, especially your centre rope if you use one, don't snag on anything or pull anything off your boat into the water.

Prevent your garden becoming a hazard to navigation

Ensure your container garden is secure and be aware of your air draft and profile to ensure your floating garden fits safely through the bridges and tunnels on your route. A boat recently got stuck in a tunnel for 20 hours because they got jammed up by a floating log. Anything that falls into the water in a tunnel or a bridge hole can cause a serious problem for navigation.

With care and consideration, growing things on your boat need not be a safety issue but more one of the challenge of growing things in a relatively small space and deciding on edibles or ornamental or a canny combination of both.

Good enough to eat!

I think we can probably all take some inspiration out of Avalon Two’s floating garden pictured above. I was lucky enough to meet these lovely people on the towpath while volunteering for the Trust looking out for boats worthy of a Boats in Bloom Certificate. Avalon Two have nasturtiums and violas, chives, lettuce, mint and parsley and more, but all of it edible.

Get involved

You can volunteer too to hand out Boats in Bloom certificates or you can help us by uploading your favourite pictures and nominating your favourite boats and canal side gardens in bloom via our website.

At least I've done my canal side garden bit by getting the hanging baskets up for the summer for all to enjoy.

Happy gardening and happy boating!

Hanging baskets of flowers in a canal side garden


Last date edited: 24 May 2017

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The boating team blog

Our boating team bring you news of their work across our network, as well as the stories of boaters they meet

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