Win­dow boxes are raised-bed gar­den­ing writ small

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - DEAN FOS­DICK

Some­times the best view isn’t what you see through a win­dow but what catches your eye un­derneath it.

Win­dow boxes de­liver color, ed­i­bles and fra­grance. They’re prac­ti­cal, too, as raisedbed gar­dens that el­e­vate their contents to within easy reach.

“Win­dow boxes are con­ve­nient con­tain­ers,” said David Trin­klein, a hor­ti­cul­tur­ist with Univer­sity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion. “Plant them with herbs, for ex­am­ple, and you won’t have to go out­side to bring in the har­vest.”

If you have room for a win­dow box, you have room for a gar­den. Win­dow boxes are ideal for small, shal­low-rooted plants like radishes, let­tuce, marigolds, im­pa­tiens, pan­sies, be­go­nias, pars­ley, basil, sage and thyme.

“Mix and match flow­ers with veg­eta­bles,” said Rhonda Fer­ree, an ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor with the Univer­sity of Illi­nois. “They need the same soil types and have the same wa­ter pref­er­ences. Plant flow­ers to­ward the front for curb ap­peal; po­si­tion veg­eta­bles to­ward the back for eas­ier ac­cess.”

The lo­ca­tion of the win­dow box usu­ally dic­tates what you can grow, Trin­klein said. “Win­dow boxes that get a blis­ter­ing af­ter­noon sun re­quire one thing. Win­dow boxes in shade re­quire an­other.”

Fern Richard­son, author of “Small Space Con­tainer Gar­dens” (Tim­ber Press, 2012) de­scribes her­self as “a big be­liever in creative win­dow boxing.”

“There’s noth­ing stop­ping win­dow box gar­den­ers from adding gar­den or­na­ments to their boxes,” Richard­son said. “Small gaz­ing balls tucked be­tween the plants can add a lit­tle sparkle to a shady area. Gar­den­ers can even use short shep­herd’s hooks to plant a hum­ming­bird feeder in a win­dow box.” Win­dow boxes work es­pe­cially well: — As theme gar­dens. Find flow­ers that dis­play your school col­ors, pa­tri­otic mix­tures that show the flag or plants that com­ple­ment the paint on your house.

— At de­liv­er­ing fra­grances. Fill win­dow boxes out­side bed­rooms with evening prim-

rose, four o’clocks (Mirabilis) and moon­flow­ers for perfume-like scents on still sum­mer nights.

— For four-sea­son gar­den­ing. Grow daf­fodils, grape hy­acinth and tulips in spring; or­na­men­tal ed­i­bles like pep­pers, straw­ber­ries and chives in sum­mer; flow­er­ing kale and pan­sies for color through fall and win­ter.

— To show­case houseplants. Dis­play your fa­vorite pot­ted plants in empty win­dow boxes dur­ing the sum­mer grow­ing sea­son. That will free up some shelf space in­doors while en­hanc­ing things out­doors.

“If there is no room in the bud­get for a high-style win­dow box, thrifty gar­den­ers can use spray paint and even sten­cils to up­grade in­ex­pen­sive plas­tic win­dow boxes into some­thing that is one-of-a-kind,” Richard­son said. “Cur­rent fash­ion trends are al­ways a great place to look for color and pat­tern in­spi­ra­tion.”

Be care­ful, though, when wa­ter­ing win­dow-box gar­dens, Trin­klein said.

“Most plants die from over­wa­ter­ing in con­tain­ers, but win­dow boxes can dry out quickly from ex­po­sure to wind and hot weather,” he said. “Add a soil­less medium like ver­mi­culite or peat moss to the mix that drains well yet re­tains mois­ture and light­ens their weight.

“Win­dow boxes will need tend­ing maybe three times a week, but that’s a small price to pay for what they add in the way of at­trac­tive­ness to the home,” Trin­klein said.

AP PHOTO/DEAN FOS­DICK

This April 20, 2009 photo shows tall and small flow­ers that com­ple­ment one an­other in this spring­time win­dow box as­sort­ment in Bel­gium. This home­owner in the Bel­gian coun­try­side re­freshes her plant se­lec­tion with the change in sea­sons. Win­dow boxes are con­ve­nient con­tain­ers that pro­vide color, de­liver ed­i­bles and sup­ply fra­grances.

AP PHOTO/DEAN FOS­DICK

This Fe­bru­ary 19, photo shows prim­roses and daf­fodils spruc­ing up a sim­ple win­dow box on an out­build­ing dis­play at a re­cent North­west Flower and Gar­den Show in Seat­tle. Win­dow boxes make prac­ti­cal raised bed gar­dens -- easy to reach from in­side or out. It only takes a few shal­low-rooted plants to pro­vide win­dow dress­ing for even the most rus­tic build­ings.

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