One of my favorite books I read during the years we only anticipated cruising was Ken Neumeyer’s Sailing the Farm. Long out of print (but downloadable online!), the contents live somewhere between back-to-the-land movements and the anti-establishment ideals of the late 60s counterculture. It’s packed full of ideas for growing your own food aboard and foraging from the ocean, and how to survive as your own floating island, living outside the constraints of conventional society. At the time, the yard around our house produced everything from pumpkins and tomatoes to strawberries and herbs, and I loved the idea I could keep a portion of our family’s diet coming from the work of our own hands after we moved aboard.
|Lettuce growing on Laureen and Jason’s cat|
That ideal did not take into account the practical reality of an itinerant cruising life. Coming across the Pacific, we hopped countries at intervals from a few weeks to a few months. Foreign quarantine officials generally don’t take kindly to you bringing live plants in, so there was never time for growing anything of our own beyond sprouts. Saltwater spray isn’t kind to growing plants either.
Spending extended time in one country changes all that. Last year, we had an amazing community garden nearby to literally and figuratively feed us. Now it’s time to bring it home: I’m ready to start boat gardening. It’s just a question of what, and where.
There are spectacular examples of boatsteading, like the hydroponic system used by the Plastiki expedition. I need something a little more achievable than that (I’m not up to welding), and my friend Laureen has a spectacular setup for growing plants on her catamaran that looks like the trick.
If I can work out the right space for this, I think it’s a great model. She’s got an old over-the-door shoe rack and recycles plastic bottles into self-watering pots for plants. Water is wicked up from the base, making efficient use of precious fresh water. There’s a good, more detailed DIY for making self-watering pots like these on this instructables page (sourced via the now-defunct Green is Universal blog). Achievable, yes!
Thanks to the Merlin kids for providing a little scale here.
And then… there’s the appeal of something I can start by just buying and hanging up, like this cool find at last weekend’s market.
Tubes of UV-resistant plastic (insert a groan…but I think the plastic here is probably unavoidable), filled with a lightweight growing mix. Seedlings are inserted in slits through the sides. She had samples growing everything from herbs to tomatoes.
Jamie likes to remind me how I seemed to kill potted herbs in Mexico. … so boat gardening had been off the agenda for a while. But I’ve had a little basil friend for almost two months ago. A cheap, overplanted supermarket pot that’s so root bound it shouldn’t have lasted more than a few weeks. We’re still eating from it…I’ll take that as a sign. Time to start gardening again.