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Tips for Planting Window Boxes and Pots

It’s June and I’m just getting around to planting my window boxes and pots.

That’s only 3 weeks late.  The weather has been SO cold this spring.

Here’s a couple of quick tips I use when planting:

When a terracotta pot breaks, I save the broken pieces.  No, I’m not being overly sentimental.  It’s because they are useful.  I always place a few pieces of broken terracotta over the drainage hole of my pots.  Place them so they allow drainage and cover the hole at the bottom of the pot.  This aids drainage, keeps the dirt from running out of the pot when watering and takes up a bit of space that I don’t need to fill with expensive potting soil.

I know, I know.  I don’t have a baby.  So why do I have diapers?

They are for my window boxes of course.  As I know from the days when I did have babies, diapers can hold A LOT of liquid.  That makes them the perfect thing to put at the bottom of my window boxes.  Whenever I water, they fill right up and hold the water, rather than having it all drain out the bottom of my planters.  This keeps my plants from drying out in between watering.  This is very good thing, since they are South facing window boxes in the hot sun.

My favorite tip for planting my pots came from reading P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and from watching his show on PBS.

His formula for choosing plants is to pick a tall and spiky plant in the center, surrounded by round and full plants, and a cascade around the edge.  I’ve used this formula for a long time and I’m always happy with how my pots turn out.

The pot in the photo could not be simpler.  I’ve used Dracaena in the center, seed Geraniums and double Petunias for the round and full and Lobelia for the cascade.  All of the plants were chosen, not only for color, but because they were economical.

One last dirty trick… that I shouldn’t admit to… is that I reuse potting soil from my containers.  It gets darn expensive to fill my pots every year.  So some years, especially when money is tight, I empty the old soil into a my wheel barrow and mix it about half and half with new potting soil.  To be on the safe side, you can pour boiling water over  the old soil before mixing it, to remove any potential fungus that might be lurking in the soil.  I’ve never had any noticeable ill effects on my plants even though I am breaking a cardinal rule of container gardening.  It might be that here in Utah, were the air is so arid, the soil is less likely to develop contamination… I don’t know.  But until I have a problem, I’ll go on breaking the rules.

Now I better get out and finish up my planting!

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17 Responses to “Tips for Planting Window Boxes and Pots”

  • That diaper tip is genius! I have window boxes and every time I water them the water runs right through. I will be laying those diapers down in them. Thanks so much!

  • I do that too with terra cotta pots ;) Little tip I learned from my mom. Actually a lady I work with had a box full of small ones she wanted to get rid of so I took them specifically for that!

    Great diaper tip since I am drowning in diapers now :)

    And, I do the same thing with my container soil ;) Never even thought to pour boiling water over :0

  • Beth:

    I never knew you were supposed to get rid of the old potting soil! I don’t even add more unless the soil is low. LOL! We live in a VERY humid climate over the summer and I’ve never had a problem. It seems so wasteful to get rid of the soil. Another thing I do when planing new pots is to to use regular old dirt from my yard mixed with the potting soil. Your pots are gorgeous. If only the pots themselves were less expensive!

  • Christie S.:

    Coffee filters work great to keep the soil in place also. And cheaper too.

  • Thanks for the tips. I DO NOT have a green thumb, but would like one, so you might have given me a little push to get out there!

  • Jenn:

    The diapers are a GREAT idea! I will definitely be doing that next year. I love my garden boxes… but not how much I have to water them. :)

    I did get a good tip for my big pots this year… fill the bottom with old plastic water bottles. I had been using stone for drainage but man does that ever make them heavy! The bottles worked great and are obviously much lighter :)

  • Patricia:

    I use a piece of window screen to cover the hole in the bottom of the pots. I’ve also used the broken clay pots as well, which was what my mom did. The diaper idea is something I’m going to have to try, because in our summer heat, those potted plants do dry out daily. I just have to ask my daughter for a few of our granddaughters new diapers that she’s just about to grow out of. Thanks.

  • I wish I’d known about the diaper trick last week-end when I planted the boxes on my deck railings, which are in direct sun all summer long. I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year. Thanks!

    We always dummy up our containers. Like you said, otherwise they use WAY to much soil.

  • Susie:

    I take the old potting soil and dump it in my compost container, then I reuse it later!

  • Lori:

    I’ve been putting coffee filters into my pots and window boxes for years but the diaper idea is great! I also reuse my potting soil. On the driveway, I make a pile of old and new soil with crushed, dried leaves (there are always a few stuck in corners or under the deck in spring) and used coffee grounds (my own or starbucks if I can get them.)

  • zahra:

    thank u so much for such useful tips..now i can also do wonder in my mini garden of pots:)

  • Nana S:

    I use the used dryer sheets in the bottom of my pots to help keep the soil from running out. Have also used the foam pieces that come in boxes to help keep pots from being so heavy.

  • tamos:

    the diaper idea is brilliant!!

    I wonder if that would work to put them in the ground next to my veggie plants that i plant, I don’t plant many but I may experiment with that one!

    I am also considering lining the cocoa liner with plastic and poking a few holes in it…I read somewhere this helps also…im in Virginia and our spring has just arrived…however I am afraid with such a late showing were going to go right to summer!

    I love P.Allen and wish I could still get his shows…

    oh, and yes, I reuse my potting soil as well…either in containers or recycle it…sometimes I think that is just a fear tactic the potting soil people throw out there so they can sell more soil! I will take my chances…lol

  • Karen:

    I have a problem with having to water every day as well. But won’t the diaper prevent the soil from draining at all? Are you covering the whole bottom of the pot with diapers or just putting in one?

    • Calli:

      The water still drains, but not what the diapers hold. It definitely doesn’t make my plants water logged.

  • [...] broken pots by placing some pieces into the bottom of a planter before adding in the soil. Doing this helps excess water drain out of the container and ensures the future health of your impatiens, [...]

  • Lori:

    I love the idea of lightening up my pots and planters with plastic water bottles. That was exactly the solution I was looking for. Thank you!

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