The Challenges of Sowing Seeds in a Boat

Those who know us in real life, or those who have read my About Me page will be aware that we live on a boat. It’s a 60ft widebeam style narrowboat, and it poses a few challenges when sowing seeds ready for the allotment. Our mooring is aligned north to south, which means our windows face east and west, and because it’s a boat we have no window sills on which to stand pots and seed trays. Space is also at a premium and last year we discovered that our one usable worktop under our galley window doesn’t provide enough light to give seeds a decent start. It collects the weak afternoon sun, and as a result our seeds grew leggy and sickly.

This year I’ve cleared a shelf under an east facing window in our cabin to try seed growing again. I’ve used books to bolster the height of the shelf as it’s a few inches below the bottom of the window, and I’ve lined two boxes with tin foil to stand seed trays in with the aim of capturing light as it comes through the window and reflecting it down onto the seeds.


The lack of light and space are not the only issues when starting seeds off at home when your home is a boat. Keeping seeds at a constant temperature brings its own challenges. Our boat is heated via a multifuel stove that feeds radiators via a back-boiler. This means at night, when we sleep and the stove is left on tickover, the temperature decreases. It’s not a massive drop, but during the particularly cold and snowy spells we reached lows of 12 degrees C inside the saloon, and on the one occasion the fire went out, the temperature dropped to 8C. Thankfully that was a one off, and hopefully the pepper seeds I planted won’t hold it against us, but to compensate, we’ve set up a seed station on the trunk we keep our firewood in. It’s nicely positioned beside the stove  and generally stays around a toasty 20C.


It’s shady here though, even with tin foil tacked to the trunk lid and behind the tray, so we move our tray of tomato and pepper seeds here overnight to try and keep them as warm as possible, and return them to the light box in the cabin during the day. The tray contains Tomatoes – Koralik, Sweet Million F1, and Balconi Red, and peppers – Sweet Sunshine F1, Sweet Romano Mixed, and Hotscotch.  The Sweet Million F1 were the first to spring to life, closely followed by Balconi Red. The Koralik started to sprout two days ago. The Sweet Romano Mixed is just beginning to tickle the top of the soil. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the other peppers do the same. They were all sown on 5th March. I have a tray of Echinacea purpurea Magnus in the lightbox in the bedroom and after a long wait of three weeks, and just as I was giving up hope, they started to put down roots. They’re still very delicate, and we’re still a long way off knowing whether the light boxes and stove-side position work, but so far the results appear positive.


There are some advantages to gardening at home, and it’s not just the lovely Thames scenery. I often have this little helper to make sure I’m doing things correctly:


Clearly she wasn’t very impressed with my blueberry repotting skills (and my rather bent fork)…


8 thoughts on “The Challenges of Sowing Seeds in a Boat

    1. Haha, thanks! Boat and flat builders just don’t take our allotment needs in to account. I demand all future builds come with mini greenhouses… Attached to the outside. Somehow. Erm… 😂


  1. Hi, my mom used to cover her seeds with clear plastic to give them extra heat, kinda like a sauna effect, just a thought. Looks like your doing everything you can to give them a good start. Lolly looks happy. Hope all that snow is gone.. Its been in the 80’s here, I am out watering my snapdragons and herbs a couple times a week. XXkat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great idea! I’m thinking maybe putting the seeds in clear polythene bags for the same effect. Hmm, might try it on some globe artichoke seeds I have.
      The snow has gone, although we’re due another cold snap at the start of April. Looks like the snow might be further north. I’m very jealous of your warmth and flowers! Things are just beginning to wake up here. Feels like a very late start to the season. Xx


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