You can start planting up window boxes from mid-May. Or even earlier in sheltered areas.
1. Cover the drainage holes in the box with a broken piece of plant pot, so that the soil does not wash out when watering.
2. Fill 1/3 of the box with a peat-free soil, specially designed to meet the needs of balcony and patio plants.
3. Thoroughly water the plants before planting.
4. Carefully lift the plant out of the pot.
5. Plant low and hanging varieties at the edge and higher varieties in the middle.
6. Once all the plants are in place, fill up the spaces in-between with the peat-free soil. Gently firm the soil and water.
Consider the following points irrespective of the material:
- Tubs, flower pots and window boxes need openings on the bottom to allow water to escape and prevent waterlogging. You will need to drill holes in some containers after buying.
- The greater the volume or the more potting soil needed, the lower the risk of drought damage.
- Dark pots heat up more strongly in direct sunlight than light-coloured ones. This may even cause burn damage to the roots. Light-coloured pots are therefore more suitable on a south facing balcony.
- Irrigation aids or an automatic irrigation system protect your plants in summer and during holidays.
Clay plant pots are particularly well suited. Even at high temperatures, the inside remains fairly cool. At the same time, the material allows air and water to pass through. Unglazed pots and tubs often get a so-called “efflorescence” on their surface, lighter patches mainly caused because by the lime in irrigation water. This patina is all part of their charm. Terracotta pots come in a variety of different price ranges. Handmade Tuscan specimens from Impruneta feature at the top end of the price scale. Note: Many terracotta pots are not frost resistant and must be protected over winter.
Pots and tubs made of natural stone are heavy but also very beautiful. Alternatives are hypertufa – a sandstone-like material made of concrete and peat – or terrazzo, a mineral material used as flooring in ancient times. Nowadays, concrete is also used to make plant pots in a variety of different qualities and looks. Damp locations can lead to algae and moss growth, which can detract from the aesthetic appearance on light surfaces.
The advantage of synthetic materials is that they are lightweight and often inexpensive. This makes them particularly suitable for balcony railings and terraces. However, high plastic pots do not have the stability of lower pots in terracotta or stone, so they are more likely to tip over in windy conditions. Plastic containers are available in different designs, they also come in colourful or imitation stone versions. Many plastic containers and pots are almost indistinguishable from real stone pots. Boxes for balcony railings often have in-built water storage.
Wooden containers are more or less sensitive to weather conditions depending on the quality of the wood. Select local hardwoods, they promise a long life and do not have to be shipped from the tropics to us.
Commercial potting soil often consists of 90% peat – a fossil raw material that grows back extremely slowly. Since peat cutting has a negative impact both on the environment and our climate, it is better to preserve natural resources. Peat-free soil is a good alternative – especially when used for plants on the balcony and terrace.
The peat in the moors has taken thousands of years to form. Moors are not only unique biotopes, they also store large amounts of CO2. All the moors worldwide store more CO2 than all the forests worldwide! If peat is removed, a lot of harmful CO2 is released. In view of these facts, it seems sensible to refrain from using peat in your own garden. Particularly as there are equivalent alternatives that are less harmful.