Growing Food

Boxes and Pots on the roof and deck


What grows well in smallish boxes?

Ideas for Boxes and Pots

Wooden Barrels - on the front deck. Lots of room to grow a small tree or bush. Rember to think about whether you need to move ballast to compensate for a big barrel of soil! And drill some holes in the bottom for drainage!

The much maligned 'Roses and Castles' buckets and water cans are a perennial favourite, and it's good to put them to a practical use!

Growing upwards

Remember that you have the fore and aft bulkheads (that's front and back cabin walls to you and me) - you can hang baskets off them, or attach a trellis to allow climbing plants and others, like tomatoes to grow up them.

Keeping your plantpots moist while you're away

Going away for a few days? Don't worry about your plants getting thirsty - all you need is a small water bottle. Simply fill the bottle with water, replace the cap and make tiny holes in the cap and the sides of the bottle. Then place the bottle, cap up, in the dirt to water the plants while you're away

Sprouting Seeds

Sprouting seeds is an incredibly easy way to get serious amounts of vitamins, even in winter, and are very tasty. They don't take up much space, and can be grown indoors.

You can get packs of ready mixed seeds at health food stores, but these are often overpackaged and overpriced. Many independent health food stores sell seeds and legumes loose and very cheaply.

Alfalfa, chickpeas, mung beans and green lentils are particularly easy to grow. All you need is a jam jar with a lid (just put on top to keep the dust out, don't screw it down!). Soak overnight, then pour off the excess water. Rinse twice daily and eat when the seeds are sprouting - the taste really is amazing, and you can cook them in stir fries and the like

Sometimes it gets too cold in winter and the sprouts will go mouldy before they get a chance to grow. Short of heating more you'll just have to wait until spring :-(

Plants are Highly Nutritional

Plants can be nutured either in farms, garden or backyard using pots. It brightens ones day if your surrounded by beautiful plants how much more edible ones. A-Z Fruits and Vegetables Health Benefits

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This is great! I'm not

This is great! I'm not interested with plants but this made feel like having a small backyard and plant some growing plants.

Cut and Come again Salad Leaves

Two or three wide tubs - about 8" deep is OK. About an inch of gravel from wherever you can find excess gravel (the sides of roads is a good spot.) Top up with reasonable soil (An old growbag? A bit each from several molehills?) Scatter seeds on top, water well and feed as for tomatoes. You can make your own jollop from comfrey leaves. Start picking the leaves as soon as the plants look like they'll stand it. If they have 4-6 leaves at least an inch long they won't mind loosing 1-2 each. Use scissors or sharp finger nails so you don't drag the plant out of the soil. Especially scissors once the plants get a bit older and woody-stemmed. Use some light cloth to cover over each tub - clothes pegs to hold it down. This deters windborn weed seeds and insect pests and protects from wind. It also gives a bit of shade if your tubs are on the roof and its really sunny (and you've forgotten to water them again - like me.) You will also get a lot of people asking you what you're growing under the cloths and when you smile and say 'just salad' they will wink at you and you will get kudos for growing something interesting - even though you're not. 8-D Try to keep them well watered - if they dry out too much they'll think there's a drought and go to seed in the hope that the seeds will survive. If your tubs haven't got drain holes don't make them in the base but about and inch or so up the sides - this will give a reservoir of water in the base of the tub and encourage the roots to grow down - which is apparently a good thing. What else? The cloths will also help protect from a late frost and since the roof of a boat gets pretty warm in the sun the seeds will get some bottom heat too. I sow the seeds closer together than I should and don't bother with thinning out - not sure if there is any benefit or dissadvantage in this - they seem to grow anyway. You'll get a lot of leaves - keep picking as this encourages the plants to keep growing - hope you like salad!

I have also been thinking

I have also been thinking that those heaps of weeds could be put to good use. I've already tossed some sprouting old potatoes into the nettles. It'll be interesting to see if there is any crop next year. I have been collecting seeds for years now. I will definately start planting leftovers where ever I go :-)
The map idea would be great!!

Honesty lots?

We have all seen honesty boxes along roadsides. Containing farm produce, used books and stuff. Pick out what you want, stick a few bob in a tin. So here's a thought, that I sadly don't have the know how to make real. Or don't even know if it's a good idea or not. But definatly worth mentioning.

So, what if; some one would set up a page helping CC'ers, moorers without land, or just anyone on the move around the canals to find, harvest and grow vegetables they can not fit on their roof, mooring or lives for some reason? This could be done by some kind of semi organized gerilla gardening, seed bombing open source like "honesty lot" system. A google map called "The British Waterways Open Gardens" or something. Find a pin on the map along your route, marking where people have planted something before. Pick something, do a bit of weeding, plant something, tell everyone what, when and where you planted it by by adding a comment to an exixsting pin. Not necessarily on the same spot. If you choose to plant your "dept" in a new spot and adding a lot to the system. Mark it with a new pin and a picture, so that others can find it and plant new things. I'm sure that there are pieces of wasteland along the canals that could be planted full with crops to be shared that way. I have seen gardens work the same way on waste land in cities. So why not along the towpaths?

The map could also be used to share the whereabouts of that huge plum tree you never could pick clean, sloe bushes spotted to early in the year, or any other forage spots. Ok, I planted the first seed. Maybe it will grow into something.....

Seeds and Plants

Some things I have tried that may be of interest.

Seeds - my first point for bought seed is Garden Organic. But check out other commercial suppliers too: most of the big name suppliers have organic options listed now.

Collect your own seeds - I collected my own seed for the first time last year (2008) by letting one or two plants that were running to seed run on. Onion and Leek seeds that I harvested have germinated OK this year, also Broad Beans.

Share your seeds - Most seeds have a limited shelf life and between myself and my friends and neighbours we always end up cultivating more plants than we need or have space for. Unless you have access to an allotment space, for most things when you buy seeds you will get more seeds than you can use. I offered my excess seeds up on Freecycle last year and plenty of takers. If you ask around you will also find other growers with excess plants and seeds and most people are happy to exchange or donate excess to another gardener.

Cultivate from existing plants - I'm experimenting with cuttings and things that I have got to take so far include lavender, horseradish and raspberry's. Most mints and lemon balm are notorious with gardeners as spreading and root cuttings and splittings usually take - I grow mine in pots. Hoping to try more drying and storage of herbs this year. Do check if you are taking seed and cutting from the wild that its legal cos a few things are protected. I always try to propogate strawberry runners. I pin the base of the buds on the runner into a pot of compost and keep watering. As the year goes by the runner will either wither naturally or when you are confident the bud has set roots you can just cut.

Check out dwarf varieties - This year I've tried some dwarf variety green beans, runner beans and tomatoes and the plants are more compact and space efficient so far. They are going well in pots but really benefit from a boost from good quality commercial organic feeds. I have also gone strictly for the stubby varties of carrots and these go much better in my tubs and pots than traditional varieties that seem to do better with a good depth of soil.

I always source a few things that need an early start from the garden centre in pots in the Spring. Now sure you have to balance the impact that these have by being cultivated in a commercial heated green house before they come to you versus whether you have somewhere warm enough to start them early. However good commercially cultivated plants seem to give better yields that what I have started from seed. So if you have limited space think about it?

growing food

I've not been very successful at growing food on my roof so far :(
It seems a lot easier if you're living on a fixed mooring and can have lots of tallish stuff sprouting happily up there. I found it really limiting as I move around the country and have to get through tunnels and low bridges etc. Most I've managed is herbs and a few tumbling tomatoes. I want a moveable allotment- wail!!!

Moveable allottments :)

a boater friend used to fantasise about nicking a floating jetty and towing it along behind him for his garden... or filling a skip with soil and towing that... from a more realistic viewpoint, another friend did well with growing potatoes in sacks full of soil - just add soil as they grow. Of course you need deck space for that, but not much. He did have a cruiser deck.

a third friend has this vision: allotments and squatted and owned and rented little bits of canal side land all over the country, registered on this website, so as you boat around the country, you can plant seeds in one, weed at the next one you moor near, harvest at another...

============= I live on my narrowboat with my cat, Bella.

That sounds like a wonderful

That sounds like a wonderful idea, we're not quite on the water yet, but are planning on being constant cruisers... we've been thinking that we're going to plant bits and pieces along the headgerows etc and mark on our map where they are... travelling back along that way months later to see what's grown!

food afloat

I love this idea - have been thinking about it myself for ages, and have even given it a name (in my head) - the edge collective - the idea comes from the permaculture principle, edge, that the greatest diversity and abundance is where things meet - at the edges - my thoughts were that given the transience of our lifestyles, one of the ways of making squatting/agreeing little boaters gardens sustainable would be to work with settled like minded people in the local areas - so that there's always somebody about to maintain a plot, but the boaters among us could move from one to another, carrying skills and ideas, seeds, tools etc along with us.. this way we hopefully get the best of both worlds. I also had it in my head to apply the same principle to other land/resource based activities - agreeing for example the management of coppice where it is close to the waterways to try to get a culture of sustainable firewood going, also planting of linear orchards in strips along the waterways, (hedge collective) I could go on for ages about the wider benefits of these sorts of things, but i'll leave it there for now.... thanks :-)