Friday, April 13th, 2007...6:49 am

Window Gardens – Planting in Windowboxes and Containers


TheGardenLady received this question from Karen. 

I am planning on moving to Florida this year, and I would really love to grow a window garden in the warm weather.  Coming from Alaska and having no prior experience with gardens, I’m not really sure where to start.  What kind of window boxes are available that are low-cost?  Are window gardens really high maintainance?  What sort of flowers should I choose that will thrive in Florida’s enviroment?  

Welcome to the East Coast. After the short growing season of Alaska you may think you have arrived in flower heaven when you reach Florida. After all Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon who  first saw Florida on Palm Sunday, April 2, 1513 thought he had so he named the state “Pascua de Florida,” meaning “Feast of Flowers.”  The state has a nickname that is The Sunshine State.  Sunshine is great for growing flowers. However the state  has unique growing environments. 

Since TheGardenLady does not know Florida, it will be best for you to contact the Master Gardener Organization in the area of Florida where you are moving. They will happily answer your questions, for free, and tell you which flowers/plants you could plant successfully in window boxes.

Container growing is the hot exciting trend in gardening. Window boxes are a type of container growing.

You must know that plants raised in containers need to be watered more than plants raised in the garden. In fact, one site says it is the most important job when raising plants in containers. 

Depending on what you are growing will determine the size of the container. You can raise most flowers, herbs or vegetables in containers but you will need containers with ample space for plant root development. You will need a container that provides rapid drainage but with sufficient water retention to keep roots uniformly moist. The website I recommend says that “soilless” potting mixes that can be purchased at garden centers are popular because they are lightweight. You can make your own “soilless” mix  by mixing equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil and peat moss and then heat it in an oven for 1 hour at 210 degrees F to kill any weed seeds, insects, fungi or bacteria. Containers need regular fertilizings and garden centers have many choices, even time release types like Osmocote that releases the nutrients over a period of time.

Window boxes are sold almost everywhere in garden centers, hardware stores and  garden catalogues. You will choose from wood or PVC plastics. Plastics may be more water retentive and will last forever without rotting or needing paint. But the choice is yours. Cheap planters can be found in large centers like Loews or Home Depot or Wal-Mart or other inexpensive stores. Enjoy the fun of shopping around to find exactly what you like. Go to more expensive garden stores even if just to see the interesting containers they sell.

One suggestion in planting a container, according to lecturer and horticulturist Michael Ruggierro, is to aim for what he calls “Thrill, Fill and Spill” . The thrill is a plant that rises high from the pot to be the centerpiece of the pot. The  Fill is the plant that takes up most of the space in the container and the Spill is the plant that hangs low over the side of the container- like some pretty vines. Look at the growth habits of the plants you are interested in. If you are having a window box on a window that you look out of, you might not want any Thrill plant in it to block your view.

Good luck with your move and your exciting new venture into window boxes.

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