In this country, window gardening offers apartment dwellers the pleasure of gardening indoors or outdoors. If you live in a single room or a very small property, you too can have a window garden filled in spring with pansies and primroses, in summer with petunias or fuchsias and in autumn with chrysanthemums. In winter, vegetables and berries, such as bitter or California pepper berries with pine, give color. English ivy will provide the final green throughout the winter if kept away from the wind.
For best results in a window garden, the box should be at least three or four feet long but no more than six feet long. If larger, it is too heavy to hang and secure properly and cannot be lifted easily, even by two people. The boxes resting on large ledges of windows and on handrails on the porch could be one and a half meters long, but hardly more since moving them becomes too dangerous. Maintain a minimum depth of eight to nine inches, with a width of ten to twelve inches at the top. Obviously, the lengths must vary depending on the window or the series of windows or railings to be decorated with the gardening of the windows.
The most common material for window gardens is wood. California redwood turns neutral gray if unpainted and the cypress will last for years. Cedar is recommended, as is a good grade of white pine. Other materials include metals, which are attractive and, for the most part, light. However, they have the disadvantage of conducting heat, thus overheating the soil in the window garden. Other suitable and durable light materials are plastic, fiberglass, spun glass and Gardenglas.
If you are comfortable with tools, you can create your own wooden windows, following the instructions in the brochures of your nursery or garden. Whatever plan you follow, you get boards one to one and a quarter of an inch thick. (The thinner sheets deform and offer little insulation from the summer heat.) For fixing, rely on brass screws instead of nails, which in a few years could come out and drop a box. To make the corners safe, reinforce with corner irons. Make sure to provide enough drainage holes on the bottom to allow water to pass freely. Space half-inch holes six to eight inches apart when building window gardens.
Once the boxes are complete, treat the internal parts with a preservative to prevent decomposition. Cuprinol or other non-toxic materials are excellent, but avoid creosote which is poisonous to plants. After the preservative has dried, apply at least two coats of good paint or stain.
Select a color that does not detract from the plants. Traditional dark green is satisfying, albeit trivial, unless you use a tint like apple green. Keep in mind the colors of the flowers, especially the plants that flow on the sides. Dark flowers do not show up against dark paint. The same goes for white flowers against light surfaces, such as white petunias against white or pale yellow boxes.
To securely hold window gardens, use thumbscrews or screws and treat them in advance to prevent rust. Leave about an inch of space between the window garden and the house for air movement. If the boxwood garden is to rest on a terrace or other solid surface, lift them up on bollards or placed on bricks or wooden blocks so that the drainage holes do not become blocked. The space under the boxes is also important for air circulation, which will drain the runoff water.
When planting a garden of windows, put a layer of broken flower pots, crushed bricks, small stones or pebbles on the bottom to allow water to escape freely through the openings. Above this, spread a piece of wet canvas or a layer of damp sphagnum moss, old leaves, hard charcoal clinker or ash to prevent soil from entering the drainage area.
All plants in window gardening need fertile soil for lush growth. Space of larger types: geraniums, coleus and fuchsias, at a distance of between eight and ten inches; smaller types – lobelie, annual phlox, wax begonias, sweet alyssum and browallia – six inches apart. An eight-inch wide box houses two rows of plants, with tall ones in the back and low ones in the front. The boxes, ten inches wide, take three rows of plants, high, medium and low by the edges.
After planting, spread a peat moss mulch or other mulch on the ground to delay drying and keep the weeds in check. In a month, give a liquid fertilizer and follow the feedings every seven to ten days. Fertilizer fertilizers can also be applied, but only as a supplement to the feeding of the roots.
The choice of plants for window gardens is limited only by the size. Plants more than a foot tall don’t look good unless the boxes are exceptionally large. Otherwise, you can grow almost anything you want. By early spring, you could start with Dutch flower bulbs. In cold regions, these can be purchased already grown or you can increase yours.
Try hyacinths with pansies or early tulips or daffodils transplanted with grape hyacinths, or gold baskets and arabis with scillas, chionodoxas or leucojum. Include some English daisies and fragrant flowers for the walls, so common in window gardening in Western Europe. Violets, blue phlox, aubretia and forget-me-nots are other possibilities.
The favorite plant in window gardening is geranium – red or pink for white, cream or light or dark blue boxes; white for brown, blue or red boxes. The familiar variegated final vinca is excellent with them. Flowering in the sun or shade, the vinca needs to pinch constantly to prevent it from becoming too long. English and German ivy are other trailers for sun or shade. In the sun, low annuals, dwarf marigolds, lobelie and verbene form graceful edges as well as the sweet alyssum, in white, purple or lavender. Petunias vie for geraniums in popularity and each type can be planted, although balcony types have the advantage of gracefully dragging each other on the sides of the window garden.
In the shade that is open to the sky, as on the north side of a house, the coleus grows beautifully, with the white and green types a nice contrast for those with red and pink leaves. Coleus regenerates in rich soil and requires a lot of humidity. Pinch to keep bushy and to improve appearance remove blue spiked flowers, unless you like them particularly. Trailing Queen Coleus is one of the best.
Other shade tolerant end plants include English ivy and its varieties, creeping jenny, Kenilworth ivy, creeping fig, German ivy, variegated gill on the ground, myrtle, wandering jew, zebrina, acheeni, chlorophyte, Bethlehem star or Italian begonia of strawberries and wildflowers.
These are just a few tips for planting window gardens. Be creative with the colors and the texture. Window gardening, as well as container gardening, will become your next favorite hobby.
Happy Window Boxing Garden!
Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All rights reserved.
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