Friday, June 28, 2013

Toward A Permaculture Window Box

We've been working on a way to have window boxes that don't require replanting each spring. Reflecting my own evolution in how we use planting space, over the years we've shifted from filling our very public, street-level window boxes with masses of colorful annuals to what you see above: 99-cent seed geraniums for early color surrounded by every herb that will grow in the strong south sun.

An easy proposition, that: there is mint, borage, sage, cilantro, six kinds of basil, rosemary, and thyme. MIA: oregano and many other less common herbs, washed out by our record rains (2013's 27.54 inches of rain makes this Chicago's wettest year to date on record--Tom Skilling).

It didn't take much effort to get the permaculture windowbox idea started. We took the gone-to-seed, herb-filled window boxes from last summer, helped them drop their seeds into the box in mid-October, and overwintered them outside. Uncovered for the spring rains, it wasn't long before we saw all kinds of sprouting--from thyme and basil to marigolds (lower pic, at left) started from seed last year.

Below are the self-seeded marigolds--French-Sparky variety from Bountiful Gardens--in mid June, healthy and bushy, along with basil (the self-seeded plus new plants we started this spring) and nasturtium, the latter a gift from a friendly neighbor.
Somehow the borage didn't re-seed, so we restarted it from seed in early 2013. And there it is, blooming at left below.

I also sprinkled on some seeds gifted me by a friend from a packet of Victorian perennial wildflower mix. Plenty of diversity yet to come, this year and in future if we let them go to seed.

Patience is a virtue in the case of these window boxes: there's no early spring splash. Instead you have a nice slow build to this in late June:
Passersby regularly sample our herbs, and that makes me happy. My favorite group was a medical student walking with his mother-father physicians and fiancee. I watched them from afar for 20 minutes, identifying everything in each box. Joining them, I found their tour had resulted in a single unidentified variety: stevia, which I urged them to try.

Beyond sweet!


Leon said...

I tried a new experiment this year that seems to have worked out really well.
In the early spring, as soon as the worms were awake, I gathered a few from the footpaths after the heavy rain, and put a couple in my large containers which I filled with the old soil, roots and dead foliage from last year's containers. Turning the soil a week or so later, I noticed how these little wrigglers had grown to be fat little piggies.
This years growth of my plants have been amazing - even after a really cold start. The worms have made it my best year yet.

H2 said...

Thanks, Leon. Worms are magical soil-builders.