Gardening on a Houseboat

By Heather Rhoades | July 24, 2019
Image by Heather Rhoades
by Heather Rhoades
July 24, 2019

There are many people who dream of living on a houseboat. What is there not to like? Houseboat living affords you easy access to the sun and the water in an unusual but romantic setting. But, as any gardener who has ever given real thought to becoming a houseboat resident can tell you, what a houseboat does not provide you with is a plot of land where you can tend to your plants. The lack of land can be a deterrent to many gardeners who may be considering living on a houseboat.

Molly, houseboat gardener

But, as the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. We were in San Diego when we met Molly and her dog Luna, who live on a houseboat on the San Diego Bay. Molly is an avid gardener who has not let her houseboat lifestyle get in the way of her gardening hobby.

“As much as I love living on a boat, I still like to play in the dirt,” Molly explained, “I wanted something low maintenance like the rest of my lifestyle, so I thought that succulents were the way to go.”

Molly has had no problem growing plants on a houseboat. The small patio that caps one end of Molly’s houseboat is full of interesting succulents and other highly drought tolerant plants spilling over from cute and colorful planters.

So what are Molly’s tips for having a thriving houseboat garden?

  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money – Many of Molly’s plants have been started from pups or cuttings that she was either given or that she scavenged from the surrounding area on walks. Succulents root easily from cuttings and recover quickly from having a cutting removed. So if you have a friend who has a succulent plant that you would like as well, don’t be afraid to ask.
heart shaped rocks
  • Small spaces need more accents – Molly’s houseboat garden is small but still full of the whimsy and color gardeners love to put in their gardens. Small space gardens like hers can benefit from a little more surprise packed into it. For example, Molly has collected several heart-shaped rocks over the years and puts them on display in her garden. The feature is small in size but big on visual impact.
  •  Choose low water need plants – Gardens on a houseboat will need to be in containers, which need more frequent watering than traditional gardens. And many houseboats also run their water off a tank so water usage must be conservative. Even if your houseboat is on a permanent water line, you may not want to spend large amounts of time keeping up with the water needs of a garden on a houseboat. Low water plants, like succulents and cacti, will keep your garden looking lovely without you having to lug water to it constantly.
  • Remember to wash your plants – When you live on a houseboat, there is a good chance that you live in an area that may have a large concentration of small engines running or passing nearby or you may live near a sandy area that can be kicked up when it is windy. This can create a little more dust in the air than in a more traditional garden. Give the plants on your houseboat a monthly rinse off to help them process the energy they need from the sunshine more efficiently.
houseboat plants

What does Molly like best about gardening on a houseboat? “I love that so many of the succulents remind me of things that grow under the sea.” She loves that her garden reflects the nature of the water she lives on.

So, if you have ever considered starting a garden on your houseboat, give it a try. A small houseboat garden can still bring a lot of joy and beauty to a gardener’s life and become a place of refuge and contemplation.

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