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Small Space Solutions: Windowboxes

June 18th, 2009 : Melissa Bateson

windowbox-view

Finding it hard to cope with a lack of outdoor gardening space?  Small container planting, especially in windows can easily help!   A window box could add a whole new dimension to your home.  It’s unbelievable how different my interior feels when I open the curtains to see an abundance of green and bright colors!

To get started, take into consideration:
What direction your windows face/how much light will shine on that area
-Eastern facing windows get morning and early mid day sun (part sun plants)
-Southern facing windows get full days sun — best for bright bold (full sun plants)
-Western facing windows get late day sun — (part-full sun plants)
-Northern facing windows may get early morning and very late day sun (shade/part shade plants)

Next, the container- I have these dinky plastic 24” window boxes in two southern facing windows.  They have worked out for the past 5 years even with perennials surviving the winter and a clematis vine that has thrived for 4 years- It’s really unbelievable.  Because it gets all-day sun and is protected a bit by my house frame, the lack of insulation of the root systems is no problem.  You can use clusters of pots in a window cage as an alternative to a full box.  This works well if you have one of those big belly metal bars over your windows.

ironwindowbox

Don’t be afraid to hang little pots up high on those gates; use the full window!

Place a box on your ledge — be sure to secure the box so it doesn’t tumble off the sill.  Otherwise a set of mounting brackets onto the facade under the window sill can hold your window box in place.  Check with your landlord first; maybe he or she can install the box for you.  Landlords really should be happy to do this- seeing as how it is a capital improvement and all!  Containers come in every sort of material — plastic, terra cotta, zinc, fiberglass (bad for the environment), wood…it’s mostly about what you like and what will work in your kind of window.

And now the fun part – the plant material!

Before you go the farmers market, look at the box you have and the colors inside and out of the window.  (Garden gossip: Rumor has it that Barbara Streisand has her gardeners match her garden colors with her interior design through every window view of her California home. Sounds dedicated!)  This season, I have been crazy for color.  I’m mixing punches reds, fuchsias, apricots, blues, lavenders and bold yellows all together for a Spanish fiesta-type feel.  And on the complete opposite side I’m planting windows that are two or three very deliberate colors for a strong, bold feeling, like this one below:

colocasiabox

This features colocasia (elephant ear), sweet potato vine (lime green vine), and purple wave petunias  (the petunias have been molding due to all this rain — even a seasoned gardener loses plants).

Planting a herb window box in the kitchen could save you TONS of money!  Plant all kinds of herbs, peppers, etc.

Now that you know what color/plant scheme you want, plan a structure.  You want plants that are vertical and plants that hang.  In my little 24” box I can fit three small trailing annuals, three tall annuals and a few other small annuals amongst the bunch.

The plant material will be small when you first buy it.  Look for plants with strong main stems and lots of buds.  Buying plants with flowers all over it isn’t always the best because those flowers will die off sooner.  Be sure the light requirements match your window box area.

freshly-planted

Plant your box using good potting soil and a bit of organic slow release fertilizer to feed your plants through the summer.  Adding a layer of mulch will help keep things moist.  Water once a day if needed.

summercolor

A planting this time of year should last through October or the first heavy frosts.  Winter window boxes are a whole other beast — future post!

Go plant something!

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