Window boxes & Patio gardens
May 9, 2005 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving into a new apartment in Chicago on June 1st, and I'm hoping to be able to have window boxes. There's also a ground-floor patio (shared with one other person), and I'm thinking of starting some container-type gardening. Any thoughts?

For the window boxes: does anyone have any suggestions for a type of window box that is lightweight and removable? I'll be in an apartment, so I don't want to have to drill into anything. I want to grow herbs (mmmm, fresh basil!). The windows are normal window width.

For the patio, are there particular plants/containers that would be good to live out on a patio? It's a shared space, so I can't do much more than one or two pots. I'm thinking tomatoes. Recommendations?
posted by bibbit to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a container garden in addition to my conventional garden. First, if you get a big/deep enough container you don't have to grow just one thing in a container. You can combine creeping thyme and sweet basil with your tomatoes if you so choose. Also, make sure that you get an determinate variety of tomato. They need less space and are better suited for containers. If you like fresh cucumbers would recommend the spacemaster variety. It only needs a container 8 inches deep. Strawberries are also a good choice if you get lots of sun. If you have only partial sun and like exotic salads, then you can't go wrong with a good mesculin mix. You'll have amazing greens in less than six weeks.

The best book to get would be McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container. They'll tell you what plants do well in containers, go well together and how to care for them. They also have window box and other container recommendations and instructions. I've read it cover to cover and it's indispensable to me.

Good luck!
posted by Alison at 8:15 AM on May 9, 2005

I use 18 inch long plastic window boxes in my kitchen. I put broken clay pots in the bottom than soil above that and I make sure the plastic drainage hole is open so that if it rains it won't flood my boxes. I've grown basil and chives with a great deal of success, and so-so results with coriander (needed more light). I've also grown cherry tomatoes from a hanging planter, it was very satisfying with about 200 tomatoes in the end, but you had to water it twice a day so if you're away a lot it might suffer.
posted by furtive at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2005

With some modifications, the book Square Foot Gardening has been helpful for my other half who handles the apartment balcony garden.

For growing fresh herbs, we just used various sizes of terracotta planters and those have worked out pretty well for us.
posted by schnee at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2005

If you've got anyplace to attach it, you may want to look into a inverted tomato planter. That'd free up some valuable floor space for whatever else you like. I've been hit hard by the patio gardening bug over the past few years...mainly pots of herbs. Thyme, mint, oregano, tarragon, chives, sage, basil--they've all been fairly successful for me, and my place is far from ideal for gardening (pacific northwest, west-facing unit). Do make sure you have the right fertilizers for whatever it is you choose to grow, though, since you won't have as much organic matter in bagged soil as you would if you just stuck plants into the ground.

By the by, if you have access to a good nursery or don't mind seed starting, alpine strawberries would be a good choice. Everbearing, intense flavor, shallow-rooted, no runners.
posted by Vervain at 2:40 PM on May 9, 2005

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