Saturday, January 16, 2010

Windowsill Garden

One of my favorite gardens is right on my kitchen windowsill.  It's the only windowsill in the house the cats don't sleep in.  During the winter I fill the windowsill with starts, herbs, and other little happy things.  It is a great place for plants needing daily care and brightens the kitchen.

I have grown all kinds of WG's over the years.  One of my favorites is the simplest and my first.  Carrot top garden.  I think every school kid has cut the tops from some carrots, put them in a lid full of water and watched as the leaves grow.  Even as an adult, I love these little islands.  A couple of years ago I added parsnip, turnip, and rutabaga tops.  Lots of foliage graced the plastic tub.  I added a little fertilizer to the water, when I changed the water once a week.  The islands really took off!  Just some joyous greenery!

This fall, while grocery shopping, I found a ginger root with a green tip.  Usually you find these in the spring.  The green tip is the beginning of the leaf stalk.  I put the rhizome (ginger root is really a rhizome, like an iris) in an old cat food bowl, added water, and set on the windowsill.  A leaf stalk began growing.  I watched the green stalk getting taller and taller.  Then we had a week of arctic weather and the windowsill got too cold.  The leaf stalk died.  Sob, hiccup.  I have kept watering the ginger, and now I notice there are even more tips beginning to sprout!  I will pot up the ginger and grow it as an indoor plant.  If you live in zone 10 or higher you can grow ginger as an outdoor plant.  Ginger likes to be moist and warm.  Light requirement is medium.  After the plant is a year old, you can begin harvesting ginger root for your cooking needs.

I also have starts of herbs on the windowsill.  I bought some fresh 'poultry herbs' at the market.  In an effort to keep them fresh, I put them in tiny, little vases on the windowsill.  Well, the rosemary and thyme have grown roots!  I will pot them up and grown little plants.  (Scott killed my rosemary plant when he put in the new fence.  Yes, he meant to.  You see we have a little disagreement on rosemary as an herb.  I love it, he doesn't.  Not that killing the plant was mean spirited, it was in the way and had outgrown its boundaries.  I didn't really mind but one should have rosemary at the garden gate.  Rosemary for rememberence.)
I am waiting to see if the basil will sprout on the sill as well.  Of course, it is so easy to buy seed for fresh herbs and grow your own.  Or you can buy small plants if you don't want to wait for the seed to sprout.

My favorite plant, Schlumbergera species, is a Christmas Cactus start given to me by Grandma Jo.  It was given to her in the 1920's by a neighbor.  At her daughter's wedding in 1947, the original plant graced the alter in full bloom.  This plant blooms for Christmas and Easter.  I forgot the plant I had been growing since the early 1970's was on the front porch when we had that spell of arctic weather.  Yup, it died.  (Christmas cactus blooms either after 12 hour light/dark cycles or after being exposed to very cool weather.  Hence, I put the plant outdoors until we have our first good frost.  I forgot to bring it in this year.)   But I had saved some starts on the sill.  The plant lives on. 
I also have a start from a snake plant, Sanserveria sp., I gave Selene and Nate when grandson Lennon was born.  Snake plants are very hard to kill.  You can forget them forever.  Just don't over water them.  They love to be dry with occasional watering.  That's why I gave them the plant.  Perfect for new parents who are too busy to water a plant.

Past windowsill plants have been:  Sweet potato vine, wrapped around the kitchen four times.  Avacado seed, I had a 3 ft tall tree when a cat used the pot as a litter pan.  Redwood tree bought in July, I kept it in the window until the following February (the best time to plant trees and shrubs), the dog ate it two years after it was planted in the yard.  Leaf lettuce.  Green onions, after cutting off the roots I planted them in some potting mix and they grew new tops.  The list goes on.

Some hints for the best Windowsill Garden: 
  • Use only potting mix for planting.  Garden soil is NOT suitable for container gardening.  It has fungi, bacteria, bugs, etc that will attack your houseplants.  Garden soil compacts without worms and other critters to burrow through it and make new pores.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer for houseplants.  I use 1/2 the recommended amount when I water once a week. 
  • Check for pests.  These can sneak in on new plant material or through an open window or door.  When you find a pest, kill it!  Or remove the plant to the garbage.  I mean the garbage can, outdoors, away from your other plants.
  • Rinse the plants under running water once a month.  This freshens the plant and helps to remove dust and grime.
  • Add a shelf about 1/2 the way up the window.  It will give you more space.  To install, just attach cleats to the side of the window frame and span with a length of wood.  Just make sure you don't interfer with the opening and closing of the window.
  • If your window doesn't get enough light, put mirrors under and between the plants to reflect light.
  • Have fun with your Windowsill Garden!  Be a kid again!

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