Monday, March 28, 2016

opinions invited

Your input is requested on my next project.

As you may recall, there are windows on the west and south walls of the porch. Three windows on the west wall; four on the south. Even as I was measuring for these windows, I was planning to put up windowboxes beneath them. Because they will get SUN!

Please pardon the parallax in this distorted snap - it's the best I could find at the minute. If it wasn't dark right now, I'd step outside and get a better picture.

Last Spring, the windowboxes had to be postponed. This Spring, I am very determined to Make It Happen. And now is the time, before the gardens can be worked. It's going to take time and effort and trips to buy materials and...well, as slow as I am, I had better get cracking.

Will you please help with the planning?

All along I've been picturing individual white-painted wooden boxes filled with soil, each box supported by brackets attached directly to the walls. Sweet peas growing up! Nasturtiums dangling down! Herbs in the middle! Soooo pretty!

But now that it's time to get to work, I'm - of course - thinking of other options. For example, I've been told plastic is by far the best material for gardening containers because it maintains more moisture for the plants. The non-rotting feature of plastic could be pretty useful too, considering all the water that goes into windowboxes.

Expense? Well, no matter what plastic boxes would cost, it would probably have to be cheaper than building wooden boxes and then painting them, probably with multiple coats of...I don't know, some kind of enamel, or marine paint? I haven't researched the paint yet.

(Sidenote: I have a terrible record as far as painting wood goes. Every time something is built of wood here (by me or by real carpenters) I think, "This time I will paint it. Some cheerful color. It will be so pretty!" And every single time, when the item is built, I look at it and think, "Wood is so beautiful." And I don't want to paint it. So I don't. I honestly cannot remember the last time I applied paint to unfinished wood.)

So, the first question is, the material for the boxes:

Next, do I really want seven individual boxes on wooden brackets attached to the house? There are good alternatives. For example, I could build a shelf or slatted rack the length of each wall below the windows, and put the boxes - or even pots - on the shelves. Flexible for future arrangements.
Or, I could build a tall, freestanding bench in front of each wall, and use the benches to hold the boxes. The only advantage I can think of, is that this option puts space between boxes and walls, which might prevent staining of the porch walls from rainwater splashing or draining from the boxes. The most difficult aspect would be leveling the benches at the start (leveling a lawn chair takes effort here), and annual adjustment after frost heaves.

So, the second question is the overall design:
Seven traditional boxes on wall brackets?
Two long shelves on wall brackets, holding boxes?
Two long freestanding benches, ditto?

Please feel free to weigh in on these questions! Most if not all of you have much more experience than I do with successfully growing plants. And I'll bet many if not most of you grow plants in windowboxes or planters or containers of some kind, and I'll bet they look fabulous. Please share your wisdom and ideas! Thanks!

Sambucus would like to see windowboxes on the barns.
"Just about chin-height, please!"



  1. Hey Shirley - thanks very much for your helpful ideas and questions! There were pages of space at the end of your comment (I don't know why) so I just copied it out then deleted and posted it again - here it is!
    This comment came from Shirley - March 28, 2016 at 10:26 PM

    Hi Quinn, You wanted an opinion well here goes. I think the plastic flower boxes would be lighter weight than the wooden ones What kind of wood would you use? You don't want to use a treated wood because of chemicals. Have you thought about flower boxes on every other window except at the corner. You need your boxes to have some drainage I would think or otherwise if you would get a real downpour like some of ours they would drown. Do you have gutters above the windows or will water run off the roof directly into your boxes. Just some of the things I would think about. Probably not exactly the answer you wanted. Take care. Hugs and Prayers from your Missouri Friend Shirley

  2. I have never had window boxes. My only successful gardening experience has been my raised beds for veggies. I built them about a decade ago out of wood. The bottoms have started rotting out, and the hungry rodents burrow under to eat my veggies. So, one-by-one, I'm replacing the bottoms with metal non-rotting but draining screens. For that reason, I'd go with plastic if I were you. I also like the idea of a shelf. If you wanted, you could extend the season for the plants if they were in pots on the shelf, by bringing them inside the sunroom for the night.

    I'm not sure if plastic and shelves goes together :) But that's my very disjointed 2 cents!

    I love that photo of Sambucus!

  3. Window boxes will certainly look lovely. I'm not an expert. Plastic doesn't last long around here because of the heat unless it's really thick and sturdy. Sounds to me like you already kind of answered your own questions since painting wood is not your thing. You have enough chores on a daily basis and build enough stuff. Perhaps go the route of premade this time and get things growing pronto. :)

    Just for information purposes here's a post by Mariette about her fiberglass window boxes.
    She researches before she purchases. Definitely pricey but gives you ideas of what's out there.

  4. Hello Quinn
    Definitely plastic, wooden ones would fit in with your building & surroundings however you already know all the work or problems that go with that...., So that's a definite No no. Once all your plants are trailing over the edges, you will never know they are plastic. There are some very good ones out there now, much better than when they first introduced plastic troughs. Choose a terracotta colour, go for a sturdy thickness ,nothing flimsy, I know price is always a problem to suit the pocket/purse. But it would be better to have less good quality ones at the beginning, then build up with more the following year. It looks like you have arain gutter on the side with 3 windows and a down spout you could fit in a rainwater container there with a tap at the bottom. making it easy to water the troughs. In hot dry weather they could need to be watered twice a day.... Good luck and happy planting. I look forward to seeing the results.

  5. Sambucus would likely be happy to help you keep the window boxes plant free!

    I can picture all those lovely window boxes! I tend to agree about the plastic, even though I'm not a fan. But wood and water won't mix so they'd eventually deteriorate and you'd have to replace them. You might be able to find white ones, although I'd probably pick those dark green ones though, because of the color of your walls. (Don't you hate it when you get conflicting opinions, LOL). There is a paint just for plastic, however, so you could still have them the color you want. I think it will look gorgeous.

  6. I think plastic is probably the way to go. I think wood would be nicer, but plastic is more practical. I think long shelves, bracketed under the windows would look terrific.

    My guinea pigs agree with Sambucus, that boxes of greens at chin height are always best.

  7. I tend to agree with Barbara, Two more pluses for the plastic would be: One, they weigh less so less stress on the anchors. two, they can be taken into the barn for wintering as plastic can crack when frozen. But be sure and get the ones with the little lipped feet on the bottom so your shelf will dry quickly even if they have a saucer, they have saucers with feet too. And as someone mentioned on down the road if you tire of the color spray paint them. Much easier then painting wood. Just a little more food for thought. I anxious to see the finished project.

  8. First, I'd want boxes of a food friendly type for the herbs, and second weight on the building.
    You can make solid frames of wood, cover in hardware cloth (cheaper? and good drainage on the bottom), or plexiglass (drill drainage holes), or add slats; spray paint the outside; and then add planters inside. I'm thinking of a similar set up for my patio herb garden with wood sides with a wire bottom. Consider wood from around the woods for a decorative touch. Good luck!

  9. I'm no gardener, but I think plastic would be the way to go. If you seriously want the wood look, you could make faux boxes (with no bottoms to rot out) and place the plastic functional planters inside. Don't listen to me though, because as I said I'm not a gardener!

  10. I have one small window box on my garden shed. You might be happy to know that you can build your window box and there are plastic LINERS that you can fit into them. That's what we did. The liners are fairly rugged (like a plastic plant pot), and there are drain holes you pop out of the bottom. My husband built the box to fit the liner. We also have drainage holes drilled through the wooden box. The box is tilted a tiny bit downward away from the shed wall so that water drains forward away from the wall. I don't see any discolouration of water stains on the shed wall as I look at it now, and the box has been there for many years. I have read that plastic pots actually get hotter than clay pots, and therefore the roots suffer from burning in plastic. I have kept the box watered almost daily in the summertime, and even then the plants did suffer a bit (it's in full sun from about noon till the sun goes down). But there are potting soils you can get now that hold moisture in the soil for longer. If you use a wood like cedar or teak, you wouldn't have to stain it or paint it as it's naturally weather resistant. Your wood supplier could help you there. Your house is so cute, and I see you already have cedar shingles on the sides so natural wood will suit perfectly. If you can get away without painting the boxes, I would go that route. Otherwise it will be something that will need repainting or restaining once every year or so and who needs that. How are you going to reach the boxes to water them? Also you have to be able to reach the boxes to fill them, and also empty them in fall. I store our liners in the shed so ice doesn't crack them. I have a watering "wand" thingy that attaches to my garden hose, but it's difficult for me to water anything high up (hanging baskets). I don't think you want to spend more money on building a little deck around that new addition (but wouldn't it be nice). I think it would look nice with one box centred underneath two windows on the 4-window side (ie. two window boxes). And one box under the middle window of the 3-window side. I also think that's just a personal preference and you should fill it up the space however it makes you happy. Hope this helps.

  11. Hello! What about wooden boxes that are sized so that you can fit plastic INTO them? You get the look of wood with the durability of plastic? One thing to remember too is draining, where will the water go out the bottom, keep it from running onto your house. Window boxes are beautiful.

    I found a pic once of a REALLY unusual one. It's hard to describe, it's clay pots AND wood. Really cool. It's probably the one we might use whenever I get to them. Have waited as we haven't had the outside fixed up yet.

    Can't wait to see what you do!!

  12. Quinn, I was just at our local Ag center's demonstration gardens and they recycled a wooden pallet to use as a planter. They used permeable weed control fabric as the floor of each row of plants because it was permeable to water. I took two pictures for you. Where shall I send? Judy

    1. Hi Judy - you can email me through the Profile page in the sidebar, or at

  13. I'm glad you got this figured out, because I would have been no help, whatsoever...except to ooh and aah over Sambucus! Happy day - get to plantin'!


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