Some of our volunteers have a beautiful idea to create floating gardens in the Gowanus Canal, which could serve a number of purposes. To name a few:

1) Habitat creation

2) Water filtration and oxygenation

3) Provocative design project

We’ll see how the gardens fare, but the project is an intriguing one. Some of the concepts that we’ve explored are creating gardens that create floating plant masses, shellfish gardens, fish boxes, and algae substrates. We’ll post some of the sketch iterations later, but here are some shots of our first site mockups.

The frayed rope provides a substrate that oyster spat can colonize.

Orange construction netting encloses buoyant object, which floats on the water’s surface. Algae and shellfish can grab onto the netting to begin colonizing the buoy. The frayed rope “tail” dangles freely in the water and provides a surface which is suitable for colonization by juvenile oyster spat.

Mussels are secured to a floating burlap ball.

The mussel ball is assembled by wrapping a floatable section of wood in burlap, which is slotted to provide homes for mussels. The mussels are then inserted into the slits and the entire assemblage is carefully wrapped in twine to bind it all together. The ball floats in the water, turning and rotating under the tide’s influence, providing a suitable habitat for mussels.

A tire is filled with floatable materials and tested for buoyancy in the Canal.

We filled a tire with sealed plastic bottles and spray-foam insulation and tested the prototype to see if it would float. The orange netting in the bottom of the tire is used to hold mulch and organic soil substitutes as a planting medium.

The tire garden prototype succeeded!

The plant is unlikely to survive because it is not an ideal species but it was the most suitable plant we had on hand: Chasmanthium latifolium Sea Oats. Ideally, we will try a native marsh grass that is much more salt and wet site tolerant, as these plants will have to withstand constant exposure to wet conditions. Still, the fact that the garden floats and looks moderately attractive is some cause for celebration.

* These experiments have been made possible because of generous material donations from our friends and partners at Film Biz Recycling. This project is also a collaboration with the Gowanus Dredgers, Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and the Brooklyn New School.