ISSUE 40  |  The DIY Mudroom

DIY: A Tiny Fall Garden in a Window Box

October 09, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Erin Boyle

I have a serious case of window box envy. The 4-inch-wide window box I call my garden doesn’t afford a lot room for plants, not to mention the thrillers, spillers, and fillers that are supposed to be the mainstays of any window box worth its salt. What’s a girl with a tiny window box to do? Fake it. Here’s how:

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

Above: I started by cleaning out the dirt from my summer box. Curious about whether you can reuse potting soil? You can! But mine had gotten a little buggy over the course of the summer, and I wanted to give my fall garden the opportunity to thrive sans pests. 

Above: I chose three 4-inch ornamental kale plants from the farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets and farm stands are likely the best sources for ornamental kale this time of year. If you’d like to plant your own for next year, a packet of Ornamental Kale Seeds (Brassica oleracea) is $4.99 from Outdoor Pride.

Above: After I planted the kale in the window box, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for anything else. I decided to take a page from my winter window box and stick dried grasses and herbs into the soil to fill in the bare spots.

Above: I trekked to my favorite neighborhood flower shop and came home with a selection of grasses that I allowed to dry upside down for a few days before adding them to the box. If you have the advantage of the great outdoors, take a pair of scissors on a long walk and come home with a fistful of foraged grasses.

Above: I nestled dried mountain mint–which has the added benefit of smelling delicious–between the kale plants. 

Above: Next, I allowed some of the golden grasses to spill over the edge of the planter. 

Above: I worked with a pair of scissors nearby so I could trim and tweak as I worked. 

Above: Behind the kale and mountain mint, I stuck tall stems of Little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) to achieve height. Any tall grass would work as well. 

Above: Tucked into the same box together, the goldens and browns of the dried grasses play off the brighter, deeper colors of the ornamental kale.

Above: After some city foraging, I added purple seed pods that had dropped from the honey locust trees along the Brooklyn Heights promenade.

For more tiny garden inspiration, see all of our posts on Window Boxes. Inspired by dried flowers? See Justine’s Dried Hydrangea Garlands.