Urban Gardening: How to plant a window box

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Creating a backyard garden can be costly, difficult and time-consuming - not something to do if you're planning to move in six months. Instead, transient plant-lovers and those without a yard should consider a window box.

These cheery, portable planters hang from windowsills or railings and can be filled with flowers, herbs or small vegetables. I prefer ones that feature bright blooms meant for full sun, like the one below prepared at Oakland Nursery.

Thanks to nursery manager and buyer Dave Snow and display coordinator Michael Reineck for a great-looking planter and these helpful tips.

- Window boxes should have a half-inch drainage hole about a third in from each end. Don't worry about using a gravel base.

- Plant everything in a soil-less potting mix, a combo of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and bark. It's lighter than garden soil and aids drainage.

- Start with the planter about half-full and add mix as needed around plants. Level things off about an inch below the rim to avoid runoff and erosion.

- Keep things unique but manageable by limiting your selections to three or four plants. When planting, divide the row into thirds - it's pleasing to the eye.

- Tall, upright plants work well in the rear by adding dimension without shading other greenery. Try phormium, Gerbera daisies or spikes (pictured).

- In the center layer, pick your favorite hearty flower in the most vibrant color. Choices are nearly endless, but some to consider are marigolds, dragon-wing begonias or geraniums (pictured).

- At the front and sides, you can increase real estate with trailing plants. German ivy and wave petunias are good options. We used calibrachoa and sweet potato vine.

- When adding plants to the soil-less mix, don't be afraid to compress the root balls a bit. You need to account for plant growth, but things can get pretty cozy in a planter.

- If you're worried about your security deposit, buy an adjustable holder that clamps onto a windowsill or deck railing and doesn't require drilling. Oakland has models starting at $15.