Posted by Katie Gambone
Window boxes are a great way to pretty up a dull home exterior and add a little extra green to your life. As I mentioned in my post, Project Curb Appeal, this is the first of several projects Carlo and I are tackling to make the front of our house appear more welcoming.
So, window boxes. If you are thinking “I don’t have a green thumb,” don’t worry. I didn’t either. A few years ago I went to a class at City Planter to learn how to plant window boxes. The three best tips that they taught me that have made me a successful window box gardener (I’ve determined I’m successful because over the years a few neighbors have said “Hey, your window boxes look really nice.”) are:
1. The deeper the window box, the easier it will be to keep your plants well watered and alive all spring/summer.
Elevated planters dry out more quickly than plants in potters on the ground or plants rooted directly into the ground. The more soil contained in elevated planters, the slower the plants will dry out.
If you are a novice window box gardener, stay away from shallow, narrow window boxes. Instead look for window boxes that are at least 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Boxes with solid construction material will retain their water longer, though they tend to be more expensive.
For my window boxes, we decided to go with black metal hangers. For years we used the molded coconut liners, but two years ago Carlo built these wooden inserts and we love them. They don’t need to be replaced each year and they help the dirt hold moisture for longer.
2. Plant like you are having a party tomorrow.
So what does that mean – plant like you are having a party tomorrow?
Plain and simple, plant your window boxes as if you were having a party tomorrow and need them to look amazing right now. In other words, buy mature plants and don’t worry about planting them too close together. If you buy small plants and give them room to grow in, it isn’t going to look terrible, but it won’t look as lovely as it could and it may take you all summer till they look fantastic.
Also, some of your plants are going to thrive in your window boxes and some aren’t. If you plant like you are having a party tomorrow, you don’t need to feel bad if you pull the plants that aren’t lovin’ it. If you plant with space, pulling plants that aren’t thriving may leave your planters looking a little…well…bald.
I drove around the city and found the following examples of lovely window boxes that clearly are planted for a party.
*One thing I want to point out is that these window boxes use a simple planting pattern that is easy to replicate – thrill, fill and spill. Basically, a taller focal point, shorter, fuller plants that add color, and then the spill, which is usually a hanging vine of some sort. This planting pattern creates visual interest and adds a bit of depth.
3. Water Giveth Life, But It Also Taketh Away
Water is certainly critical to keeping your plants healthy and looking beautiful, but over-watering can kill them just as quickly as leaving them thirsty. If your window boxes are exposed to the sun for the majority of the day, you can expect to water them at least once a day on days when it doesn’t rain.
To know if they need to be watered, simply touch the soil. If it feels damp, don’t water them. If it feels dry and dusty, water them – they are thirsty.
In the middle of summer, I water my window boxes once a day with about one and a half garden pitchers of water for the two boxes. I recommend watering your plants first thing in the morning or in the evening. Watering during the heat of the day tends to make plants wilt.
If you don’t have a lot of time to water your plants or travel a lot, make sure you have a good neighbor who can care for your window boxes while you are gone, look into an irrigation system, or check out these three handy tips from The Garden Glove blog (including how to turn a wine bottle into a slow watering system – it’s pretty cool).
And that’s it. Here is a picture of my window boxes this year. If I’m being honest, I don’t think they are “amazeballs” yet. I tried to plant for a party tomorrow but some of the plants at the nursery were still pretty small, particularly the fountain grass in the middle. But I know they will look pretty amazing in about two weeks. We’ve used the fountain grass in planters in previous years and they get very tall with soft, fuzzy plumes on the top that sway in the breeze. I love them. I hope you try window boxes yourself. If you do, send us a picture as your Plantspiration entry! Not yet a Button Jar subscriber? Click here to sign up.