Still lots of updates to show on the inside of our house, but let’s poke our heads out for a minute and talk about how to plant window box gardens!
These two south-facing (great for sun exposure) built-in window boxes are made of black metal and bolted into the exterior, so they can hold a lot of weight. They’re are about six feet off the ground, which means the bunnies can’t get in there and eat everything, but I also can’t reach them from the ground myself. So I have to do any planting, watering, and harvesting by leaning out the living room windows.
We’ve been container gardening for about five summers now, in the various apartments we’ve lived in. I really like to cook, so while I admire pretty gardens with flowers and ornamental plants, I’m more interested in growing things to harvest and eat. We’ve grown everything from tomatoes and broccoli to cilantro and green garlic. In the past we’ve been limited to containers because we didn’t have access to an in-ground garden area. Now we have this:
The previous owner put a lot of work into landscaping this space, and it’s beautiful, but doesn’t really suit our purposes. It’s going to take a lot of work to convert this mostly ornamental backyard into a functioning edible garden. So we’re not tackling that this summer. In fact, it will probably take many years to gradually replace some of the existing plants with a dedicated vegetable and herb space. Luckily, the previous owner did incorporate some perennial herbs into the backyard, so I’ve been harvesting a lot of those lately.
In the meantime, I decided to take advantage of the built-in window boxes to grow a few more things. In the first box, I planted a ton of basil (because I love making pesto) and a few parsley plants (great with egg dishes). First, I set a long plastic window box insert with drainage inside the metal built-in box. This will make for easier cleanup and portability, so when it’s time to remove the plants in the fall, I just have to lift out the inside container and clean that out, rather than trying to shovel soil out of something attached to the house. I added some rocks and pieces of Styrofoam to the bottom of the box for extra drainage.
Then I added some organic Miracle-Gro potting soil that we had left over from last year’s container garden and mixed in some organic fertilizer to bump up the soil’s nutrient content. All of this while leaning out the window!
Then I started planting my herbs. I bought some starter plants at Home Depot, and I planted the parsley in the middle and the basil out to the sides. In the past I’ve tried starting plants from seed, but with the chaos of the move and all the work we’ve been doing on the house, I decided to use already-started plants this year to save time.
I planted this window box (above, viewpoint from leaning out the window over the box) at the end of May. By mid-June, the herbs had grown really well (and our chalk-wielding toddler had decorated the walkway below).
By the beginning of July, the herbs were growing like gangbusters and the basil had almost overtaken the parsley.
The basil really needs to be cut back because it’s starting to sprout flower buds (this is called bolting), and by trimming off the tops of the plants, I can temporarily stop this process and encourage the basil to grow more leaves instead. So this weekend I’m planning on doing a big basil harvest and making some pesto for the freezer. Then hopefully I’ll have another basil harvest by the end of the summer.
In the second window box, I planted Swiss chard and red leaf lettuce. I used the same rocks-Styrofoam-soil-fertilzer base, but these starter plants were actually from the local farmers market. And again, I worked on this garden box by leaning out the window.
We eat a lot of greens in our family, so these plants have been harvested many times using a method called cut-and-come-again. And they are still going strong.
And that’s how to plant window box gardens! Pretty simple, right? What are you growing this summer?
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