Keeping it fresh

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Whether it’s coriander (cilantro) in your Pho, mint in your mojito or Pimms, or parsley in your salad or with your fish, doesn’t it just taste so much better freshly picked!?

doesn’t it just taste so much better freshly picked!?

Coming from the Cotswolds, England, a part of the World where growing your own fruit and vegetables is about as common as eating noodles to a China man, I crave home made produce. Living on a boat has meant we finally have the space, and more importantly the light and environment for growing our own. We started off with flower pots filled with various herbs, but quite quickly it was becoming difficult to manage the numerous plants around the boat – remembering to water them in particular. We decided to build our own garden. To be more specific, a vertical garden.

Cambodia school garden

Inspired by vertical gardens at a school in Cambodia

The idea came to me during an inspirational business trip to Cambodia, during which we took a day out of work to build some “vertical gardens” at a school. The produce from the gardens would be harvested to provide the kids with fresh produce for the school lunches. School lunches are one of the key elements in Cambodia that help ensure the kids parents send them to school everyday.  The Cambodia vertical gardens, as they were called, were built out of ordinary piping with pieces cut out for plants. Pebbles were laid in the base to help with drainage and then soil filled on top. Burlap cloth was tied at both ends to stop the soil draining out with the water. These little gardens not only looked great but were also very effective, producing food all year round. I came back to Hong Kong fully planning to build my own vertical garden on the deck of our houseboat.

Of course though, as work and other commitments took over as soon as I returned, the vertical garden was put on the back-burner. That was until my clever wife spotted a GS Planter garden rack in a shop. A ready-made vertical garden. Splendid!

The GS Planter garden, is a “self-watering green wall” and has some great design features. For a start it was super easy to assemble. It comes in various sizes but we went for a six rack set up with four plant “pods” on each level. That’s 24 in total. Each rack of four slots onto the metal stand very easily and the whole thing feels very sturdy. We tied the stand to a wall to ensure it doesn’t topple when the boat is rocking; I suppose it could be screwed to a wall too for even greater rigidity.

The individual black pods can be removed and dropped back into place with complete ease, making re-potting or changing the order of your plants a piece of cake.  Into the pods must first be added a bag each of gravel for drainage (provided with the kit). On top will go rich soil bought separately and then into the soil the seeds or the plants – simple as that.

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The key feature of the green wall though, is it’s “self-watering” capabilities. In each planter at the top is a rubber stopper which can be removed from the top level and into which water can be poured. The water will feed not only the top row of pods, but the entire wall. Genius!

And then on the side of each row (you choose which side), you insert the water level gauge. You can then keep an eye on water levels throughout the system. And when you’re away for a few days, you can top up the whole thing, safe in the knowledge that your plants will stay nourished for several days.

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Now I don’t know how one of these set ups would work on sailing yacht; I would think you’d need to have a boat of considerable size to find a spot for a rack as big as this. They do come in smaller sizes though. Probably you’d need to take it easy on the soil height in each pod to avoid spillage when in a swell. Or perhaps a bit of burlap cloth could be placed over the soil, with holes for the plant to grow out of. That might help keep it all together.

If anyone has had any success with one of these, or something similar on an active boat, please do let us know, and share with us any tips you may have.

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