GARDENING IN WINDOW-BOXES
Where it is impossible for the garden lover to cultivate a garden, a window-box, properly made and filled, may be regarded as the “next best thing.” A soundly-constructed box is more attractive than a row of ordinary flower-pots stood on the window-sill. It is also cleaner and easier to manage, and will accommodate far more plants than could be grown in pots. Where the purse will allow, ornamental tile boxes can be used, but a well-made wooden box is just as attractive, if properly planted, and will last for many years. Metal boxes are undesirable; they conduct heat too rapidly, and the plant roots suffer. In metal containers, the best practice would be to use pots, packing round them, inside the metal box, some coco-nut fibre or similar material.
How to Make a Box
The box, in length, must properly fit the sill for which it is intended, and may be made as wide as is consistent with safety, but the depth can vary, six inches being the minimum.
For a strong, durable box, 1 in. or | in. timber should be used. To make it more attractive, and also to preserve the box, paint or stain the outside, preferably some inconspicuous colour that will tone with the house front.
The best way to treat the inside of the box is by charring. Failing a blow-lamp, which is the best tool for this, brush over the inside of the box lightly with a little paraffin, and light a newspaper inside. When the sides are just charred, quell the fire with a wet rag, or turn the box upside down to put the flames out. This must be done in a garden, or where there is no possibility of setting light to surroundings.
Secure the Box
The next thing is to set the box in position and make it safe. Most sills slope slightly outwards and downwards. To make the box stand level, therefore, it should rest on two pieces of wood, wider at one end than the other. These are best nailed to the bottom of the box before it is taken to the window-sill.
If as an added safeguard some brackets are nailed to the ends of the box and secured by screws to the sill or the window-frame, there will be no danger that the box will fall.
Should there be any possibility of water draining from the box, dripping freely, and becoming a nuisance, a metal tray below the box, can be arranged to catch the surplus water.
Drainage is Vital
Drainage holes are essential, and the best way to make these is to burn through the wood with a red-hot poker.
Preparation of theis important. Decayed leaves and farmyard manure, mixed with ordinary garden soil, will make a good . Coarse sand may be added, and dry lime or old mortar rubble is also helpful, as these will keep the soil open and porous. A double handful of bone-meal is also good.
Before filling the box, drainage should be amply supplied. For this purpose a layer of stones, broken pots, broken cinders or coke, or oyster shells from an obliging fishmonger, should be put into the box. Over this, an inch layer of decayed leaves, manure, or turf, to hold moisture, should be laid. Next comes the prepared soil, the coarser part first, and the top layer is sifted through a 3/4 in. mesh sieve. It should come to an inch from the top of the box when lightly pressed flat and level.
In addition to the manure in the under-layer, liquid fertilizers are used during the growing season, to assist the plants. This is needed, because the plants will naturally be rather crowded and the soil not very deep, so that they may soon be short of food. When applying liquid fertilizer, the soil should be already wet. If there has been no rain, a good soaking with clear water should be given an hour or so before the fertilizer is applied. Any commercial preparation, such as those supplied in, or with, handy sprinklers, can be used if the plants seem slow in growing, but only after they have been in the box a few weeks.
Suitable Plants for the Window-box A single window-box can be very interesting if suitable plants are chosen for cultivation. Points to remember are the height and habit of the plants to be grown, and, of course, their colour. Bulbs in spring are excellent because of their uniform growth, andsuch as Canary Creeper, or Vir-ginian Creeper can be trained very effectively round the windows.
Auriculas and Wallflowers with the spring bulbs, Geraniums and Alyssum for summer, and dwarf shrubs such as Golden Aucubas for winter, will keep the window-box colourful and interesting all the year round.
Some plants will need staking to prevent damage by winds, but it is better to keep mainly to dwarf plants, and to creepers that trail over the front of the box. The practice of trainingup the sides of the window has, I think, little to commend it. They do not as a rule improve the appearance from inside, and would be more graceful, seen from the house front, if allowed to hang down.
When planting summer-flowering plants, see that the plants are well hardened. This can be judged by the deep colour of the foliage, and the short-jointed, sturdy stems.
A good ball of soil should be lifted with each plant, and this should be put carefully into the box, pressing the soil quite firm round it.
Water must be given regularly. It is best to give a good soaking two or three times a week, but where this is undesirable, a little each evening will keep the soil moist. Dryness is one of the commonest causes of failure.
One of the common troubles with window-boxes is that keen draughts blow along a street, and cut down the plants. The quarter circle of vicious-looking spikes, invented to keep away marauders, and still seen on many ground floor bay-windows of Victorian houses, has a new use in this connection, for it breaks the winds and makes a real protection for window plants. Where no such protection exists, something on the same lines might be made of wood, and covered with a hardy climber whose roots are in the box.