Posted on 21 September 2008 by urbangardencasual.com

Window Box Gardens: What to Grow and What Not to Grow

By Cindy Naas

A friend has recently become interested in gardening.

He’s growing a few herbs in pots on a very small front porch, but has three sets of bow windows on the west side of his home.

He asked me to come up with a list of veggies which would be appropriate for growing in window boxes, and that is an interesting question.

Window boxes have their own set of challenges, but there are many people who have no other access to growing anything. These planters are shallow, so plants which form deep and extensive roots will not thrive in them.

They also dry out very quickly, and are at the mercy of the hot drying winds of summer. However, they can look very attractive, use only previously wasted room, and picking the crops for a second-storey dweller couldn’t be easier.

Here are a few things which ought to do very well in a window box:

  • Lettuce – lettuces don’t develop especially deep roots. They will thrive in the early part of the summer if kept well watered.
  • Radishes - these grow less deeply than carrots if the round varieties are planted. Even a very small window box can be edged with radishes.
  • Beets – although beets like to grow long taproots, picking and serving them as baby beets will allow a small crop of them to be successfully raised in a window box. Beets also do double duty, providing both veggies and greens.
  • Tomatoes – tomatoes can be grown if they are not crowded, are kept very well watered and a simple organic fertilizer is used fairly frequently. Tomatoes grown in such shallow conditions won’t crop as heavily as tomatoes grown in the earth or in deep planters, and great care must be taken not to crowd them. Grow no more than one tomato in a window box, as these will need all the growing room they can get.
  • Oregano – this herb should be fine in a window box, and is even more tolerant of heat and being allowed to dry out a bit than most veggies.
  • Thyme – Thyme is another heat and drought tolerant herb, and might even overwinter well in a window box.

Veggies which are worth trying in a window box:

  • Green Onions — these generally are a deeper rooting vegetable, but they might do well if grown a bit further apart than usual.
  • Basil — if the basil is kept very well watered, it might do well in a window box.
  • Rosemary - This herb needs to grow a fairly deep root if it is brought indoors and grown as a small tree. However, growing a small rosemary plant in a window box could give enough to use for the summer if treated like an annual and either composted or repotted and brought inside at the end of summer.
  • Strawberries – these fruits could do very well if kept well watered. However, they would have to be allowed to grow in the same box each year, and I’m not sure if they would easily overwinter in a window box. It would be worth experimenting, though, in order to get a yummy crop of berries.

Veggies which would NOT do well in a window box:

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Raspberries
  • Cabbage
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2 Responses to “Window Box Gardens: What to Grow and What Not to Grow”

  1. urbangardencasual.com Matt Lance Says:

    I actually had an indoor garden in my dorm room the summer after my freshmen year. I haven’t had the nice, big windows since then, but I was able to (with varying success) grow tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, green onions, Parisian carrots (they’re small and round like radishes), and lettuce. My biggest problem was maintaining the proper levels of water… I also had a problem with aphids that I brought in from the outside on my lettuce transplants. I’ve stuck to herbs since then. The quantity of vegetables you get for the amount of time spent growing just makes it impractical. You can, however, get a ton of herbs in the same amount of space.

  2. urbangardencasual.com Susan Labandibar Says:

    What about chives? I have some chives in a window box on my back porch. They are zero maintenance and they come back every year.

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