A great idea to help you maintain and supplement your diet is growing the ingredients at home. Since not all of us have the space for a garden or a big yard, there is a way to grow some edibles in window boxes. This is a great alternative if you live in the middle of a busy city. It is really amazing how much food can be grown in a limited space and how many common herbs and veggies are actually quite content in window boxes.
Today we will give you some suggestions and ideas about what you can grow in a small box under your window or on your apartment terrace (besides flowers)
Let’s start with herbs. You can grow literally any type of herb you want. They will brighten your kitchen and enrich your cuisine. You can use them fresh or dried, depending on your personal flavor.
Parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, sage and mint varieties, they can all be grown in your window box. It is possible to grow even tropical herbs like ginger and turmeric as long as you can bring their containers inside when it gets cold.
Strawberries will beautify your window with their cute white little white flowers and pretty red fruits. You can grow everbearing and day neutral varieties on a sunny, south facing window to get a staggered crop. Remember that they love the sun a lot since they thrive from it. If your window is on a partial shade most of the day, go for alpine strawberries.
Strawberries need a rich, well-draining potting mix with plenty of organic matter. Slightly acidic soil with pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal. You can add your coffee grounds to their containers.Don’t plant them together with tomatoes, though. Pest problems are rare.
Microgreens! Unlike sprouts that are eaten roots and all, microgreens are harvested by cutting off only the top growth. They should be grown in good light and out in the open, which helps avoid many pathogens that cause food poisoning. To grow microgreens, all you need is some all-purpose potting mix because most of their nourishment comes from the nutrients stored in the seeds.
Shallow window boxes are enough for them. You should start by planting them in in small tubs or trays that can be lifted off as they become ready for harvest. Fill them almost to the top with soil or a soil substitute like peat moss. Sow the seeds and cover it with a layer of perlite and tamp down.Water them thoroughly with a fine spray and keep the tubs in the dark until you see sprouts pushing upwards, and then transfer them in a window box.
Here are some microgreens you can grow:
- Red amaranth
- Daikon radish
Greens for salads and for cooking generally are great for window boxes and can grow in partial shade. Many of them have short crop duration, so you can have several batches. Just pick the mature leaves and they will continue to produce more. Shallow rooted ones can be grown with other deep rooted veggies to optimize space utilization.
- Leaf lettuce
- Green onions
- Swiss chard
- Bok choy
When it comes to vegetables, you can only grow seasonal ones. Shallow-rooted vegetables are best because most window boxes may be only 1 ft. deep. Also, look for varieties that are best for your area. They need good quality potting soil with some long-release fertilizer.
You can grow:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sweet potatoes
It is advisable to use boxes with sturdy supports and make sure that your edibles have enough space (the more space, the better).
As for soil, use nutrient-rich and well-draining soil in order to grow vigorous roots and shoots and avoid diseases. Lighter soil substitutes like coco-peat and moss are ideal for window boxes, when used along with soil or by themselves. But they should be fortified with all essential plant nutrients.
Plant your edibles closer together in window boxesbecause constant breeze ensures excellent airflow between plants and prevents many diseases.
You can mix the plants in order to save on space. Plants that can spill over edges and allow more space for others should be planted closer to the sides of the box. For example, let the sweet potato plants hang out of the box so that the greens get all the space to spread their crowns.
Water them regularly because the sun and the constant breeze can quickly dry the soil. You can add a thick layer of mulch to protect the topsoil, but keep checking frequently.
Keep in mind that drainage is very important, so make sure that you provide them a good drainage.
Follow a proven feeding schedule. When growing veggies organically, the general rule is to give nitrogen-rich manure during vegetative growth and increase potassium with wood ash or kelp meal as they get ready for flowering and fruit formation.
By growing early-maturing crops, you have more chances of putting in another crop as soon as one is harvested.
Every crop depletes the soil of some nutrients, so it makes sense not to grow the same crop again. Charge the potting soil in the window boxes frequently, preferably after every growing season.
Beware of which window you choose for growing your edibles. An eastern exposure gets morning sun, but it may become too shady once it is past noon. Northern exposure gets the least amount of sunlight while south and southwest facing windows get the maximum.
For example, fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and peppers need more sun than leafy vegetables. So, grow the fruiting vegetables at the southern and southeastern window boxes. Strawberries also may need as much sun as they can get to give a good crop. If it gets too hot or sunny for them, use adjustable awnings to control the sunlight.
For the north-facing windows, choose greens and microgreens. Carrots, beets, radishes, and parsnips do very well with half a day in the sun, so you can consider them for east-facing windows. Alpine strawberries can probably do well here.
It is not for certain what you should and shouldn’t try to grow in window boxes, but we’ll try to narrow your choices.
Edibles that you use in small amounts – if you can’t get enough of a vegetable crop to make a meal out of, you might get disappointed. We recommend basil and oregano if you make pizzas and pastas regularly, chives and dill for your potatoes and cilantro for Chinese dishes. Hot peppers and cherry tomatoes are great too because you can make do with a just a few.
Edibles that you really enjoy eating – choose edibles that you enjoy eating raw and will make your efforts worthwhile.
Give it a shot at growing a vegetable that is rarely seen in markets, such as jicama or Chinese artichoke.
Even though pest problems are very rare with window box gardens, there is another common problem – wind damage. To avoid it, attach side panels to the windows, but only after you make sure it is not against building rules. Dust and dirt from the street can settle on the leaves, making them less efficient. Spray the plants frequently to clean them.
As for aesthetics, avoid plants that require staking and make sure you remove scraggly looking plants. You can also plant a row of marigold or pansies in front of the vegetables to enrich the view, or use sweet potato vines with decorative leaves.