Green Patch: Window Box Herb Gardens

A wide variety of herbs are perfectly suited to window boxes as long as you match your plants to the boxs exposure.

| April/May 2000

  • Photography by Anybody Goes

Q: I’m planning to add some window boxes to my house this spring. Any suggestions on how to do this and which herbs will do well there?

A: Herbs and flowers spilling out of a window box can be a delight to view from both inside and outside the house. Actually, herbs can add fragrance, color, and graceful form to any container arrangement. If you include some culinary herbs in a window box placed near the kitchen door or outside an easily opened kitchen window, you have the added convenience of easy harvests at dinnertime. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

In choosing material for a window box or a ready-made box, look for a rot-resistant wood such as redwood, cedar, or cypress, or go for a rugged plastic container with adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out. Take care that the box is sturdy enough to hold the weight not only of the potting mix and plants but also of the water the herbs will require.

Secure the box’s brackets firmly to the window frame so that the box can’t fall and injure people, pets, or plants. Place spacers between the house and the box to help keep the siding from mildewing.

Select a potting mix that contains both peat moss to retain water and vermiculite or perlite to promote drainage of excess water. A product that’s useful in hot or dry climates is polymer granules. Mixing a small handful into the potting mix will cut down on watering frequency because the granules absorb and store water, then release it as it’s needed by the plants. Use of polymers serves as insurance against the soil’s drying out completely but doesn’t eliminate the need for water or for checking soil moisture.

Choosing the plants is the fun part of window-box gardening. A wide variety of herbs are perfectly suited to window boxes as long as you match your plants to the box’s exposure: a sun-loving herb won’t thrive in a shady location, and vice versa. If you plan to replant the box each spring, you can choose a mix of bright annuals and perennials without regard for their winter hardiness.

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