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Ashley Mann spent three years living full time in a 38-foot, 5th-wheel RV with her husband Josiah and their cat, Kitty. Her favorite thing about RV life is the challenge of finding the perfect way to organize a space, and she loves seeing all the creative and clever ways people come up with to customize their RVs.
Full-time RVing doesn't mean you have to give up your love of gardening! Here are some ideas for an RV garden full of herbs, vegetables, and other plants while living and traveling in a camper.
Can you have a garden in your RV?
There are plenty of challenges to growing a garden in your RV, though keeping plants alive even while you travel is possible. Be cognizant of your RV's temperature as you travel, choose sturdy plants, and consider what is considered legal and safe to travel with.
Some states regulate the transportation of plants and require that you declare any plants you bring across their borders to prevent plant pests and diseases from being spread to the state. For example, California's rules are particularly strict.
Skipping the soil is just one way you can be creative with growing an RV garden.
1. Soil-free gardening
Although you may still be subject to border control scrutiny, you can avoid the risk of soil contamination altogether by growing plants hydroponically.
AeroGarden hydroponic planters include built-in grow lights and come in a variety of colors and sizes. There are also several alternative brands available that offer a similar concept.
- INDOOR GARDENING MADE EASY: Enjoy abundant harvests year round with the AeroGarden Harvest, an indoor hydroponic gardening system that grows your favorite vegetables, herbs, or flowers in water without the mess of soil
This Environet Hydroponic Kit is specifically for growing herbs.
- Kit Includes: 3 net pot(with wick), 3 preseeded grow plug and 3 mason jar. Plant food is not included in this kit due to regulations. Recommend liquid plant food for vegetables available on Amazon.
You could even try making something similar yourself, as shown in this tutorial. To keep jars from falling over while your RV is moving, a small wood post with a hanger like this one for sale on Etsy could be mounted somewhere secure.
2. Container Gardens
If you travel in climates where the temperatures stay above freezing and are not frequently traveling between states with strict plant transportation rules, you can easily grow plants outdoors in containers.
This RV owner brings this thriving herb garden with her wherever she goes and sets it outside in a sunny spot at each location. Small pots or planters can be stored in a truck bed or the shower during transport. Self-watering containers are a good choice for transporting with less mess.
3. Growing Plants Inside an RV
For RV owners who want or need to keep their plants indoors, a shelf like this one can provide a place to set plants next to a sunny window where they can get plenty of natural light. This shelf was made from a 1″ x 6″ piece of lumber painted and mounted using drywall anchors and shelf brackets.
Here is a similar garden shelf, with the added great idea of using ribbon to keep the mason jars from sliding off during travel:
4. Adding Plant Shelves to Windows
A suction cup shelf is an option that wouldn't require drilling holes in the wall and would allow plants to be moved to a different window depending on the direction of the sun. If you're skeptical that it will hold, you can even add extra support.
- Strong Hold – With powerful double-ridged suction cups. Sticks well to smooth surfaces. these looking floating window shelves can Holds up to 10 lbs.
You could also accomplish the same thing with a planter that sticks directly to the window.
6. Hanging Plants on Walls
The owners of this RV replaced their wall-mounted TV with plants. (Check out their blog to follow their adventures traveling the country with 5 cats, a dog, and a chicken!)
More RV owners are starting to incorporate small plants like this into their decor.
Kevin and Mandy of the blog 188sqft had a whole wall of cacti and succulents in their first camper:
7. Setting Plants on a Motorhome Dash
In a motorhome, the dashboard makes a wonderful sunny place to set plants while the vehicle is parked. You can see more pictures of this dashboard display on the owner's blog.
If you're finding it hard to provide indoor plants with a spot next to a window, you might supplement natural light with a small LED grow light, or stick to growing herbs, vegetables, and houseplants that don't require as much light.
8. Growing Vegetables
Perhaps one of these ideas can help solve the problems of weight and ease of transportation RV owners face when trying to grow larger quantities of plants or vegetables while moving from place to place.
A few grow bags might be a good idea for someone who plans to stay in the same place for several months, as they can be moved if needed and don't take up much space when not in use. I have also purchased cheap reusable shopping bags to use as planters.
- [BREATHABILITY]: Allows roots to breathe and grow healthier! It creates improved overall root structure and prevents roots from circling to its death AKA root bound or pot bound.
For RV owners who are very serious about growing their food, a garden tower might be a good option. As a bonus, it has a built-in system for composting food waste which provides direct nutrients to the plants. There's also a much cheaper version on Amazon, though it doesn't have all of the features of the Garden Tower.
- ROTATES: The rotating Garden Tower 2 is a composter that grows 50 plants in 4 square feet nearly anywhere.
- EASY MOVE - Comes with four high-weight-bearing wheels.
Here's one RV owner's mobile gardening idea:
If the idea seems messy or if you're wondering if you would have to keep the door open all the time, maybe a shoe organizer herb garden could be hung on the outside of the RV and moved to the shower during transportation?
Note: Many cheap shoe organizers are made with non-woven fabric backing, which can break down over a summer of exposure to sunlight and water. Here's one made entirely of PVC plastic that might be ideal for filling with wet soil if some drainage holes were poked in the bottom of each pocket.
9. Non-Traveling Gardens
For many full-time RVers, you may spend a whole season in a single area. In this case, as long as it's okay with your campground, you can have your outdoor garden. Many RVers use plants for decoration and ambiance on their RV patio, like this desert-inspired patio:
If you're in an area with wildlife, you may consider adding fencing around your plants.
Gardening in an RV
Growing an RV garden isn't the same as growing plants in your backyard, but it is possible. Try out some of the above strategies and let us know what you grow!