Fall Gardening Starts With a Window Box

Good gardeners don’t stop after Labor Day. With a bit of imagination – and these few tips — you can create attractive landscapes to view through a window when rain, snow and cold winds keep you and your gardening boots indoors.

Cash in On Discount Containers
Window boxes and large planter boxes for the terrace are on sale now at garden centers, or discounted at major retailers. Winter containers need good drainage holes, as plants die quickly from soggy feet in cold weather. Secure window boxes to a railing or a window frame, either by screw-in brackets or heavy wire.

Create Mini-Gardens
Plant window boxes or pots as if they were gardens in miniature. You’ll be inside a lot, so design your plantings so you can enjoy them from inside the window. Include some shorter plants in front, so sunlight can reach the little gems you’ve planted for your eyes only.

Start your fantasy design with a small tree. Dwarf Alberta spruce is a hardy choice: I’ve had mine for three freezing New York City winters, and it gets a little bigger every year. Their dense needles shed off rain and snow, so the trick to keeping these alive is to water them well at the soil level; check the soil frequently to make sure it does not dry out.

Other evergreens are dwarf Mugho pines, perfect for a Japanese garden effect, and small-leaved holly such as ‘Red Beauty.’ In the south or warm west, consider a dwarf camellia. The old variety ‘Yuletide’ reliably shows its deep red blooms by Christmas.

Dwarf cultivars of any kind are great for a mini-garden. Include winter-hardy foliage plants and grasses, and late-flowering plants with long seasons, such as miniature cyclamen. Pads of collected moss or a mulch of smooth stones add texture and look beautiful on rainy days.

Add Fall Flowers and Accessories
Leave some holes – literally – in your windowbox to make room for potted chrysanthemums to color your world through the early frosts. I always add a large pumpkin that can be seen from the street, then a few miniature pumpkins closer to the window. The one year I grew dwarf sweet corn, I added two-foot cornstalks!

Keep up Appearances
Through autumn, trim straggling stems, clean up dead leaves, and water when days are dry. Toss potted flowers when they’re finished, and top bare spots with a mulch or compost.

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