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How to Start Your First Windowsill Garden

By Karen Wilkinson
Published: May 1, 2016 | Last updated: April 26, 2021
Key Takeaways

It always feels like you’re standing on the brink of a new adventure when you consider bringing a new companion into your home—even if that new friend is a windowsill plant! Here’s a crash course on how to grow on the edge.

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A windowsill garden is a great way to bring color and texture to a room. Even the apartment-dweller can find the space to beautify; all it takes is a well-lit windowsill, some pots, plants and a good attitude—the rest just kind of takes care of itself.

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Plus, windowsill gardens serve multiple purposes in that they literally breathe air into the space. And, you’re in for a treat if your plants are the food-bearing kind, especially during the winter months when outdoor growing isn’t happening.

But during the summer, windowsill gardening can get somewhat tricky, as temperatures soar and the sun’s powerful rays beat down and threaten such life.

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Below are a few tips to starting and maintaining a windowsill garden, while keeping your plants burn-free.

Choose the Right Spot

Choose the sunniest, best windowsill in your house. Eastern or southern exposure is ideal. Western-facing windows give off intense afternoon heat, making life challenging for less healthy plants.

Also, make sure trees and buildings don’t block the sun’s light and that the area receives at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. If needed, add artificial lighting.

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A white or light-colored room will prove useful as well; light colors reflect the light, while dark interior surfaces absorb light. Finally, try to avoid windowsills near heating vents or cooking appliances, which will upset the natural humidity in the air.

Choose the Right Container

Choose the proper container. If starting with plants, get a container that is at least 6- to 12-in. deep. Herbs can grow in a wide or long container.

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If you’ve got more than one crop per container, make sure there’s enough breathing (and root system) room so they don’t have to compete for light, water and nutrients.

You can get all artsy and make decorative arrangements by combining different crops together, like tomato and leaf lettuce. But, again, just be sure the container allows plenty of room for the different roots to grow.

Choose the Right Plant

Choose a quick-maturing plant for vegetables. Indoor vegetable gardening has nearly all the same requirements as an outdoor garden—bright light, water and protection from pests and diseases—but there is dramatically less space. So, growing quick-maturing crops planted in quick succession is ideal. Also, try growing indoor crops close to its natural outdoor growing season.

Water

Water the plants as needed, using room temperature water. Use the old “stick your finger in it” method. That is, stick your finger in the soil and if it’s dry, give it some water; if it is damp or wet, then let it be. Too much water can lead to fungus. Water your indoor plants in the morning on sunny days ideally, as evaporation slows on cloudy, cool days.

Spray

Spray them if needed. To counter the dry air, especially in the summer or in heated homes during the winter, mist around the plants frequently. Dryness can lead to brown tips and spider mites.

Rotate

Rotate those beauties. Give your plants a quarter turn each week to expose all sides to the sun, so as to ensure it grows evenly.

Rinse

Rinse them off. Vegetable crops are susceptible to aphids, mites and whiteflies, so give indoor plants a strong rinse every two weeks or so. You can take the plant outside to spray, or do it beneath the kitchen faucet. Just be sure to check the undersides of leaves to verify any bugs have been washed away.

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Written by Karen Wilkinson

Profile Picture of Karen Wilkinson
Karen Wilkinson is a budding gardener with previous experience working in the hydroponics industry. Her background includes daily reporting, technical writing, marketing and promotions. After spending years living along California’s northern coast, she made her way to Sacramento where she currently lives and breathes the yoga lifestyle.

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