Andy and Adam recently sold their smallholding and have moved in above the village store and coffee shop they run. They have gone from nearly an acre of land, to no real outside space to speak of, and now they’re taking on the challenge of becoming gardeners without a garden!
Since the day we moved into the new house we’ve been really excited about the prospect of getting our window boxes up. The house has loads of windowsills that are perfect for boxes.
How to plant a window box.
Choose the right size box. It sounds obvious but a quick measure up of all our windowsills revealed that we had 3 different sizes even though they all looked the same.
Drill holes in the bottom to make sure water can drain freely. We got slightly over excited with our hole drilling on some of the boxes and the water started to pour out quicker than we could pour it in. It’s worth getting trays to match your boxes to stop water dripping down onto the windows below and making them constantly dirty.
Place broken pots in the bottom of the boxes to stop the holes blocking up and sprinkle some gravel in the bottom for extra drainage.
We then add a layer of compost followed by a sprinkling of plant food and water retaining crystals (drying out is the biggest killer of small-pot plants) and then a final layer of compost. Depending on what you’re planting you can vary the amounts of compost and gravel. For Mediterranean plants, increase the gravel for very fast drainage.
Now just plant your plants. For our boxes we have chosen a mixture of perennials (plants that come back every year) and some dramatic annuals (plants that last just one). We have done this so that the perennials will keep the boxes looking good all year round and only the annuals will need to be changed each year.
Water well and secure to the sill. This is very important as bad weather could send your boxes crashing to the floor or on someone’s head!
Our boxes.We have chosen a few combinations to suit the various windows around the house.
The two windows above the shop front have been designed to reflect the colours of the shop, so orange marigolds and blue trailing lobelias are on display. We have also used different grasses to give some height to the look. These boxes each have lots of orange nasturtium seeds planted in them. The nasturtiums are fast growing annuals and the idea is that they will trail down the front of the shop as they grow.
The two lowest windows on the side of the building are reachable from the ground so we wanted to plant them up with something edible. We’ve opted for strawberries and have planted 4 different varieties to see which ones are happiest in this position. The spot gets lots of light so we’re hoping to find a variety that thrives here and then use only that one in the future. We’ve interspersed the strawberry plants with yellow marigolds for a bit of colour. Marigolds are also slug magnets so they are commonly sacrificed to protect more valuable plants. We want to keep our marigolds intact so we’ve opted for slug pellets to keep the pests at bay!
The kitchen window is a particularly important one for us. In our old house we were used to popping out into the garden for fresh herbs to use in cooking everyday. Having lost this ability in the new house we were really keen to keep a stock of fresh herbs to hand. When planting this box we used a lot more gravel in half of it. This was to provide better drainage for the more woody Mediterranean herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage. In the other half we planted chives, fennel and dill. We’ve packed this box tightly with plants – we’ll keep an eye on how they develop introducing more pots and spreading them out if anything starts to ‘take over’.
The rest of the boxes are all decorative with a mixture of aubrietias, vinca vines and different coloured lobelias.
We’re really pleased with the results and are looking forward to watching the boxes develop. We’ve drawn masses of pleasure from the process of putting up the window boxes, as we’ve created growing spaces in places where they weren’t any before.
Window boxes can be as varied as your imagination, so go wild! As well as benefiting the outside of the property the boxes also provide every room in the house with a living display. The boxes have transformed the feel of the house inside and we think everyone that has windowsills should have them!
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