Gazette Gardener: Window boxes can be stocked with lovely, practical herbs

A reader e-mailed that she wanted to grow her herbs in window boxes to keep them away from the antic

A reader e-mailed that she wanted to grow her herbs in window boxes to keep them away from the antics of her pets. The window boxes are in full sun and in the limelight as they are the first things visitors see when they come up her front path.

She had two goals: The window boxes had to look beautiful and be bountiful, as she intends to use the herbs in summer meals. She said she is already collecting recipes.

There’s no reason an herbal window box can’t be gorgeous and practical. What you’ll need to get started is a window box, potting mix and some tips on designing with herbs.

There are many different window boxes available, from rot-resistant cedar, to wrought iron and plastic. Choose what will look best on your style home, but be certain there are ample drainage holes as this is absolutely necessary for plant survival.

The right plants

When making plant selections, think about how the plants will look next to one another and how the colors will blend with the color of your home as well as with each other. Then be daring. Bright yellow looks good with red and orange; most yellows are complemented by blue. White brightens and greens can be used to blend plants together. Take note of all the different shades of green as you select herbs and don’t hesitate to use edible flowers, such as marigolds, petunias and pansies.

For added interest, consider the variegated or golden varieties of oregano, thyme, the various sages and ruffled, purple basils. For red, you could use Swiss chard or red lettuces.

Group the plants together while at the garden center to make sure you have a pleasing assortment with the right colors, textures, height and structural forms. But avoid having one of each. Repeating plants is one of the keys to success with plant design.

To look best, window boxes need plants that will hang over and soften the edges and others that add height and some that will fill in between other plants, making the window box appear full and lush.

Here are some suggestions for full sun:

For height: lemon grass, lavender, parsley, chives, scented geraniums, rosemary, basil, feverfew and chamomile.

For fillers and plants that trail: cilantro, sage, thyme, oregano, nasturtiums, sweet marjoram, prostrate rosemary, sweet potato vine, alpine strawberries, miniature roses and dianthus.

When preparing the window box, choose a potting mix meant for containers. If you want, you can select a mix with added fertilizer or add your own fertilizer — such as compost before planting. Remember that annuals need feeding to bloom their best. And if you use compost, you will be most satisfied with the flowering if you also water with a manure tea.

To prepare for planting, fill the window box about halfway with the potting mix. As you remove the plants from their pots, dip the roots in water.

Then begin arranging the plants in the window box until you like how they look. Once satisfied, begin packing fresh mix around the roots. Leave a lip of about two inches at the top of the box.

Once planted, water well and be prepared to water every day if need be. A wrought-iron window box with a coconut fiber liner may need to be watered twice a day during July and August. Finish by pinching off the tips of the herbs to encourage branching.


This is a good time to take care of your houseplants, freshen the soil and place them outside for the summer. Look over your indoor garden and transplant any houseplants with roots growing out the drain holes. When you remove the pot, loosen the roots with your hands and brush away the old soil. Place the plant in a larger pot that is no more than 4 inches wider at the top and add new potting soil. For the next few months, houseplants will enjoy growing in a shady location such as in the dappled light of a mature tree.

Happy gardening.

Categories: Life and Arts

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