Tips for Starting a Windowsill Garden

By Alan Ray
Published: November 20, 2017 | Last updated: April 29, 2021 12:59:24
Key Takeaways

Don’t put away all your gardening tools just because the outdoor season is over. Though limited in size and variety, windowsill gardens still provide the satisfaction of growing your own food during the cold winter months.

As spring portends the sunny summer months of gardening to come with all its beauty, bounty, and therapy, fall foretell the coming of darker winter months and the end of outdoor gardening.


Withered and spent plants littering the garden floor—a sad reminder. There are a few vegetables such as turnips, beets, and carrots that come to fruition late in the season, but for the most part, it’s over until next spring.

However, before imbibing in a stiff rum and hemlock while stowing away your garden tools, consider this: You can still garden this winter, albeit on a smaller scale.


Admittedly, there is something to be said for getting your hands in the dirt, working the soil, and wrenching your back on occasion while digging and weeding because it keeps you connected to the physical aspects of gardening, but then there’s the spiritual side.

With gardening, it is not how much you garden, but that you do garden at all—because the next best thing to gardening a lot is gardening a little.

We can experience a bit of the same joy as we do working a summer garden when we garden from the heart and on a windowsill, planting and harvesting on a smaller scale.


Windowsill Gardening

This article is as much a why-not as a how-to, as these are simple instructions introducing you to the concept. A windowsill garden is a garden in miniature and grows just where the name indicates, a windowsill... or close to one. Creating a simple windowsill garden can be productive, fun, and, best of all, help tide you over until spring.

There are any number of beautiful flowers, fragrant herbs, and even compact versions of tomatoes and fruits that can be grown in your little windowsill garden, but let’s talk about herbs.


Most of your recipe favorites such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme can be grown in a windowsill garden. Herbs are fun to grow, look and smell great, and what can be better than going over to the window and snipping off some fresh mint for your salad during a snowstorm?

The Beginning

While you can start plants from seed, it has been my experience that beginning with established herbs is faster and more productive.

Place your herbs in their respective pots, making sure they have drainage holes and are set in some type of saucer to catch water drainage. It is best to plant like-kind if you are going to place more than one plant in a pot.

Always begin with fresh, sterilized soil to avoid microorganism contamination. After transplanting, place your herbs in or near a window with southern or southeastern exposure.

Don’t put them too close to the glass, as temperatures can fluctuate greatly from day to night during colder months. You’ll also need to know your herb specifics for their respective care. Some herbs do better warmer, some cooler, so do your homework.

Windowsill gardening is pretty much common sense after that. Water your herbs enough to keep the soil moist, but not saturated.

Pinch off dead and sickly leaves and feed every couple weeks with a half-strength solution of standard plant food. A supplemental light source such as an aquarium light may be necessary during days of limited sunlight.

Another tip is to take cuttings from your favorite outdoor plants and root them over the winter in a windowsill. Change the water every couple of weeks. When spring arrives, you can transplant them back outside.

The Benefits of a Windowsill Garden

  • You can doodle around in your garden any time of the day or night
  • You can grow fresh flowers, veggies, and herbs in the dead of winter
  • Come rain or come shine, the elements are of no concern
  • You can enjoy a nice little harvest of herbs, peppers, and more

While windowsill gardening serves as a temporary stopgap for the real deal, it does afford us a small window of opportunity to dabble in the garden while we wait out the winter.


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Written by Alan Ray

Profile Picture of Alan Ray

Alan Ray has written five books and is a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he is an award-winning songwriter with awards from BMI and ASCAP respectively. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife, teenage son, and two dogs: a South African Boerboel (Bore-Bull) and a Pomeranian/Frankenstein mix.

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