Gardening on the Tarling West Estate


Anthony Iles of Tarling West Estate Tenants & Residents Association writes:

In the last couple of years, we’ve established a fantastic, active gardening group that’s done some great stuff greening the Tarling West Estate.

The Garden group:

  • Builds, plants, sows and maintains the community garden at the Resident’s Hall.
  • Applies for grants to improve the environment on the estate.
  • Looks for space on the estate which could be greener and environmentally richer.
  • Encourages wildlife on the estate.
  • Encourages other residents to get active, do healthy exercise and meet in a welcoming social atmosphere together.
  • Shares skills and knowledge around gardening, swaps and shares seeds, locally grown food and gardening equipment and works with residents to develop ideas for improving the estate.

Here’s a bit of the history….

2017-2018: a Gardening Group forms

Residenct working in community garden2017-2018 was a great period for gardening on the Tarling West Estate. Residents planted bulbs on brownfield areas of beside the estate road during the cold winter in November 2017. These flowered in Spring 2018. Since then we have been planning more ambitious projects: two successful grant applications, a Tower Habitats biodiversity grant from the Tower Hill Trust and one from the Can Do grant programme, allowed us to improve opportunities for gardening and biodiversity in the Residents Hall garden and on our estate.

In preparation for the installation of raised beds, a long border and a shed for storing gardening equipment, residents carried out extensive weeding and pruning in the Residents Hall. The Gardening Group replaced a diseased cherry tree with a “James Grieve” apple tree in April 2018, began a herb garden and sowed a substantial crop of tomato plants. Using oak railway sleepers we built two deep beds and a long border to plant summer and winter vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit trees.

March 2019: a wild flower meadow is sown

Wild flower meadow, Tarling WEst EstateA meadow of over 30 wild flower species known to attract bees were sown along a narrow stretch of waste land up against the railway arches between Cornwall Street and Chapman Street, directly in front of Richard Neale House (photo left).




Spring 2019: building the Khodu Palace

Community gardenIn Spring, with assistance from a Tower Hamlets Homes “Inspiring Communities” grant, work began on a trapezoid planter with a pergola above it, in it we planted a khodu (or bottle gourd), a variety of edible gourd native to Bangladesh.




Spring-Summer 2019: lots and lots of planting

PumpkinBetween April and July 2019 we added, to the long bed: thyme, oregano, sorrel, rosemary, chilli, foxgloves, snapdragons, Heuchera, curry plant, parsley, bay, African marigolds, jasmine and nasturtiums. Climbing and trailing plants including Lobelia, Bacopa and passionflower were added to hanging baskets or the bed and trained to cover the fence alongside Cable Street.

Around the apple tree and walnut tree, a number of wild flower species were selectively allowed to run wild, and pigface, Lobelia, assorted succulents, a peach-coloured rose, asters, lavender, snapdragons, foxgloves, Spanish vetchling and a gooseberry bush were all planted to complement and build up the chaotic rockery.

We ensured the long planter by the ramp and hall double doors would provide a constant food harvest by rotating crops. Cavallo nero was harvested throughout winter 2018-19, and the bed filled with tomatoes, pumpkin (photo left), spring onions and dwarf peas in March/April 2019. As the onions and peas died back in mid-summer, a winter crop of cabbage and leeks was planted.

June 2019: bird boxes added to the estate

Bee boxSix bird boxes, including sparrow terraces and hole-fronted nest boxes were placed on trees on the estate with the help of the Council’s Biodiversity Officer and Tower Hamlets Homes caretakers to encourage House Sparrows and other birds to nest in the area. We also made some bee hotels from offcuts of wood from the build (see photo left).



July 2019: we’ve got a shed!

We now have a secure, dry shelter for a lot of the garden equipment we built up over the first two years.

Looking ahead to 2020: new opportunities

Community gardenWith a community garden now established at the Residents’ Hall, we look forward to building and developing this space further and involving more residents in the Garden Group.

In addition, two opportunities have arisen by which residents stand to gain substantial green space on their previously congested and barren estate. First, an opportunity has arisen, through a new Traffic Management Order, to reduce excess parking and traffic access on the estate. Secondly, we are negotiating for a small area of land adjacent to Shadwell Station, which was formerly part of the estate and is now owned by Transport for London, to be returned to green space managed by the TRA.

Surrounding our estate there are significant community gardens: an orchard and wild flower meadow in Swedenborg Gardens; a residents box planter scheme in Shadwell Gardens Estate; allotments at Cable Street Community Gardens and an RHS award-winning residents community garden and allotments under Winterton House, next to Watney Market. We work with friends from these other gardens, sharing our skills, resources and new ideas.

All residents are welcome to join the Garden Group. To find out more about its activities please just pop in at the garden, e-mail the Tarling West Garden Group, have a look at our blog, or come to one of the TRA’s meetings.

All photos by Tarling West TRA – click to enlarge


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