Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's not too late!

Here we are in the middle of June. Have you planted anything yet? Don't panic...it's not too late to start an herb garden in a window box.

One of the advantages of growing your herbs in a window box is that they can be placed conveniently near the kitchen (outside the kitchen window, on the stoop, hanging from the back fence.) The closer and easier your herbs are to pinch, the more often you'll find yourself reaching for a fragrant leaf or two.

If you're just getting started now, buy small plants instead of seeds for an earlier harvest. Most garden centers and farmers' markets sell herbs in 4" pots. Allow each herb six inches of growing space. In other words, if you have a 24" window box, you can plant 4 herbs; a 36" window box has space for 6 herbs.

Be sure you group herbs together that require the same growing conditions. For full sun try basil, thyme, sage, dill, parsley, cilantro, or fennel. A part shade location is fine for rosemary, bay leaf, chives, or lemon verbena. (These herbs can also take full sun.)

A word of warning: If you have your heart set on oregano or mint, DO NOT include them in a window box with other herbs. Oregano and mint, while delicious, don't play well with others. They'll quickly take over any container they're planted in, so give them their own pots.

The first step is to cover the drainage holes in the bottom of your window box with pottery shards or pieces of screening or landscape cloth. This prevents soil from running out the holes. If your window box doesn't have drainage holes, now is the time to drill them: 1/2 inch holes every six inches should do the trick.

Add enough soil to the bottom of the box so that when the herbs are in place, the top of the soil will be an inch or two below the rim of the box; this helps prevent messy spill-overs when you water. Be sure to maintain the original planting level of the herbs: don't expose the roots by planting too high or cover the stem by planting too low.

Take your herbs out of their pots, or, if they're in biodegradable peat pots, peel off the top edge so whatever is left will be below the soil. If you leave the peat pot exposed to the air it will wick moisture away from the root ball, where it's needed.

Place your herbs to see how you like the arrangement, then plant, firming in the soil around the roots as you go. You want each herb's roots to make good contact with the soil. The final step is to water, which you should do thoroughly! Thoroughly means until water runs out the bottom of the window box. This run-off tells you the entire volume of soil has been saturated.

How often you have to water your window box will depend on how hot it is, how sunny it is, and how much it rains! In the middle of summer, you might need to water every day. This self-watering window box is from Gardener's Supply and the reservoir holds enough water to get you through 3-7 days, depending on the weather. It's a reliable and effective labor saving device and I recommend them to anyone who likes to take a long weekend off in the summer without worrying about who's going to water the herb garden.


Georgia said...

Moving to a new place with no outdoor space but lots of window space. Must try the self-watering window box.

Ellen Zachos said...

It's a real time-saver. I've never used one indoors, so let me know how it works out for you!

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