What are the perfect plants for a window kitchen garden?
Window sills and ledges often make good places to grow in containers. You can use them to create a small but rewarding kitchen garden. To get the most out of a window sill garden, choosing the right herbs, leaves and fruit to grow is key. I hope this post will help guide you.
How to chose?
Almost any edible can be grown in containers on a window sill.... But for your perfect window kitchen garden, you probably want plants that aren't too huge (walnut trees are obviously less suitable!), that taste delicious, look beautiful, give you lots to eat, or are hard to buy. And ideally you want each plant to deliver on several of these. Your choice will also be determined by how much sun you window sill gets. Many urban window sills are overshadowed. Luckily, even if yours just gets a few hours sun, there are still lots of options. You'll just need to choose carefully.
Top crops for shady windowsills
If your window only gets three to four hours sun (less than half a day), it will not be easy to grow sun loving plants like aubergines and chillies. However, most leafy crops and woodland fruit will do great. Here are some top choices.
- Parsley, mint, and chives are low maintenance. They can be picked regularly for most of the year, taste delicious, are versatile in the kitchen and expensive in the shops. They are brilliant choices!
- Sorrel, chervil, lemon grass, savory or Vietnamese coriander will give you delicious leaves that are hard to buy. Lemon grass and chervil look pretty, too.
- Mediterranean herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary are often thought of as 'sun loving' crops. But they will usually grow fine in three to five hours. As well as being invaluable for so many dishes, they produce pretty edible flowers that bees love.
- Microgreens like peashoots, fava shoots, sunflower shoots will give you LOTS to eat from a few trays. They're also hard to buy, taste delicious and are highly nutritious. Microgreens are more work than herbs (you need to sow them every two or three weeks) but an excellent choice if you want maximum harvests for the space.
- Rocket, mustards, landcress and almost all other salad leaves grow well in less sun. Harvest them by picking the outer leaves and one crop can be picked over several weeks.
- Edible flowers like nasturtiums and violas. Grow nasturtiums in summer for their pretty edible leaves and their bright orange, edible flowers. Grow violas in autumn and winter - it can feel like a miracle to pick and add edible flowers to your salad in winter!
- Bright lights chard, Red Russian kale or Cavelo Nero kale will give you larger leaves for cooking. They are slower to grow but can be picked over several months if you harvest the outer leaves. They will survive and give you a few leaves all through the winter, too. These varieties taste great and look pretty, too.
- Alpine strawberries will not give you huge harvests - but they do produce small, delicious fruits over several months. Perfect for grazing from on a hot summers day!
- Blueberries. If you can find space for a twenty litre (5 gallon) pot on your ledge, blueberries will give you pretty blossom in spring, berries in summer and red foliage in autumn.
If your window sill has less than three hours sun, it's more tricky but usually possible to grow something. Microgreens and herbs like mint and parsley are good ones to try.
Sunny window sills
If your windowsill gets six hours or more sun, you can grow all the crops above. Some of the leafy crops like salad will be harder if it is very hot and sunny - but the Mediterranean herbs will love it. You'll also be able to chose from the following.
- Chillies. They look great and one plant can produce a hundred chillies or more. The flavour can be far superior and more interesting than generic red and green chillies from the shops. Any surplus can be dried or frozen. Choice of variety is important - I'd recommend Apache F1, Hungarian Hot Wax, Jalepeno, Purple Princess (for beauty), Ring of Fire, or aji Limon (for heat and full flavour). If you like them and have a sunny windowsill, chillies are a magnificent choice.
- Tomatoes need largish containers (ideally 20 litres / 4 gallons). They will fruit from late July to October and taste fantastic! Again the variety you chose is important. You can grow "vine" tomatoes that are tall and need support or "bush" tomatoes that are low and bushy. Good cherry vine tomatoes include Sungold F1 and Gardeners delight. Good bush tomatoes for containers include Red Alert and Tumbler.
- Tromba squash. You'll need a large pot (20 litres / 4 gallons) and a string for them to climb up. Great fun and eyecatching to grow.
- Fat baby achocha. This unusual plant produces lots of small spiky, alien looking fruit. They taste like cucumbers crossed with peppers with an added squeeze of lemon. A five to ten litre pot is fine. Easy and fun to grow in a sunny space.
If you're growing on your window sills I'd love to hear what you are growing in the comments. Any window sill growing tips to share for other readers?