Growing plants in window boxes can spark creativity

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Window boxes enhance your surroundings wherever you live. They create a mini-garden. Use them for flowers, herbs or small vegetables. Just think, you can have a small herb garden right outside your kitchen window. You will be surprised by the impact of a window box at eye level that can be enjoyed from both inside and outside.

Grow what you like in your window box considering sun, shade, or semi-shade based upon the type of light your box will receive. You don’t need to grow the old standbys. Be creative, use color, texture, height, and form. Grow some bushy, upright, vining, trailing, large, or small plants. Place the larger plants at the back of the window box with the small, trailing, vining plants in the front.

When selecting a window box, use the best material available. A well-made wood box will last for many years. Cheap lumber is no bargain. You need a wood that resists decay. To help preserve the box, a liner may be installed. If used, be sure it has drainage holes.

To encourage healthy root growth, make sure your window box is at least 6-inches deep. A depth of 8-10 inches is better. The width should be 6-10 inches. Any larger and it will be hard to handle. Make sure you provide drainage holes in the bottom, usually at each end and in the middle. If drainage is not provided, plants become water logged and die.

If a liner is not used, place a piece of screen in the bottom and a layer of sphagnum moss about 1-2 inches deep on top of the screen. The moss will keep the box from drying out and provide an air space to encourage a healthy root system. Use the proper equipment to mount your box considering the type of siding on the house.

Always use a balanced planting mix. A good formula is equal parts of compost, topsoil, sharp sand and perlite or vermiculite. Start fresh each year with new soil. Before placing large plants in the box, place 2-3 inches of soil in the bottom. Fill the box within 1-inch of the top for planting smaller plants. Plants should be put closer than you would in a garden setting. Establish a watering schedule, usually every second or third day in the summer. If the weather is extremely hot, it may be necessary to water every day.

The soil mix should contain enough nourishment for the first two weeks. After that, feed every 10-12 days using an all-purpose liquid fertilizer following label instructions. Your window box may be mulched with wood chips or dried grass clippings. This will help retain the moisture and prevent soil from splashing on your plants.

Encourage flowers by deadheading, pinching back, and removing plants that may die or be diseased. These plants may be replaced with others if necessary. Your window box can be used almost all year. Start with pansies and violas, and then replace with your summer selection. In the fall, chrysanthemums, bittersweet, teasel, and Chinese lanterns may be planted. For the holiday season, decorate with evergreen and pine cones.

Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.