I won the battle to grow my own food — even though I live on a boat

Guest post by Bex

Herb pot

I’ve always loved food: I was taught to bake from a young age and can whip up a mean Sunday roast or Victoria sponge. I come from a farming family so I’ve always felt aware of where food comes from.

I’ve lived in many different places, moving roughly once every six months for the past ten years. I’ve tried to grow what I can in these places, but it’s hard when you know you won’t be there for long before packing up and moving on. I’ve always had a pot or three of herbs on the windowsill, though.

Front of the boat

My boyfriend and I bought a boat in 2008 and it was the first time since I was a kid that I’ve settled for a bit and put down some roots — as much as you can when your house floats. I gathered a variety of pots from proper planters to buckets and planted them up with herbs, beetroot, onions and salad leaves. We also planted some round carrots as they worked a lot better for the space we had than traditional shaped carrots.

Unfortunately after a very dry summer and a duck nesting in my onions (which I really didn’t mind as she was very sweet) we realized most things will not grow too well on the hot metal roof of the boat.

We looked around for other options. I was starting to eye up peoples’ front lawns and getting envious of perfectly manicured country cottage vegetable plots in the village. Some of them have chickens and pigs. I’d love chickens and pigs!

When my Granddad died we tried to take on his old veg patch but with both me and my boyfriend working full time and my Grandma’s house being an hour’s drive away this didn’t work either. My visits to my Grandma were spent trying to dig up potatoes through thigh high weeds instead of spending some quality time with my Grandma.

During this time I’d been aware of the website Land Share. People with plots of land can list their land, and others wanting to grow their own can search for land or offer their services. I’d looked at the site occasionally, but it seemed hopeless… then I finally spotted a post that seemed ideal. It was a chance for us to have a plot in a new allotment field. Allotments rarely come up around here. Council waiting lists can be into the hundreds and people can wait for years. This was a private allotment though — so no waiting list!

Around the same time my boyfriend brought home the newsletter from our favorite farm shop advertising growing space. This was the place I’d seen on the land share site! It was meant to be!

First carrot!

We are just coming up to our first year of having the allotment. It’s been hard at times, like when we’re short on time and the British weather is doing its thing. We took on the allotment quite late in the year, so just to get something growing we bought plugs from the garden center. This was how we found out we shared our field with deer. They ate almost a complete row of cabbage overnight! We’ve also had to contend with small birds eating berries, pigeons stealing seedlings, and badgers rooting up veg. Despite all this we’ve not done too badly this year — though our neighbors have given us allotment envy!

Happy bf!

We’ve grown several varieties of potatoes thanks to a potato fair at a nearby nursery. We still have purple and red carrots in the ground and striped beetroot was a great hit. I think I have a thing for weird looking vegetables: they certainly brighten up a plate! I found us fruit bushes from an organic fruit farm in the Welsh Valleys. The black currants even gave us a pretty good crop this year.

Crown Prince Squash

I’ve got very excited about having the space to grow my favorite Crown Prince squash. Last year I paid £10 for one squash, so to grow my own is fantastic. We didn’t grow nearly enough peas or beans this summer, and we need to plant things with better succession over several weeks as we don’t have a freezer or a particularly large fridge so we can’t really store stuff. We need to be more organized next year, that’s for sure!

Purple basil

I’m so happy we’ve finally got our growing space and I’m looking forward to the next year ahead, being more organized, and trying out even more weird vegetables.

Comments on I won the battle to grow my own food — even though I live on a boat

  1. Awesome! I’m already debating between gtting a community garden plot or doing CSA next year (I’m not a great gardener, but not sure I could eat a whole half-CSA share by myself).

    Could we also hear more about living on a boat? Please, pretty please? 🙂

    • I’m not sure how big a half-CSA would be but the patch we have could easily feed a family. We have use about 3/4’s of ours so far. We have given some produce away to the parents and my parents have helped us out for a day. Do you have any friends that might be interested in coming in on a patch and sharing the rewards?

      I will put something together about the boat soon. If Cat can cope with my terrible use of the English language twice. 😉

    • Unfortunately that would have been a rather short article. Total fail. 🙁 Just planning moving the last of the herbs up to the allotment this week. Apart from the lavender and mint in the Easter island heads they seem quite happy its a bit more sheltered where they are.

  2. Great artical! I was a littel confused by the title as well. But none the less, this was AWESOME! I wanted to live on a boat when I was younger! Still think I may someday before I retire. And congrats on your growing space! Wishes for a bounty this year!

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