Change Your View With Your Own "Out My Window" Organic Garden
Why You Need An "Out-My-Window" Garden!
Three years ago I was looking out of the window by my desk (where I spend about half of my life) and noticed how boring the pine tree surrounded by bare dirt looked. Something had to change! Sometimes life puts us in situations where we have to look at the same scenery, day after day, out our window. You might be recovering from hip surgery like I was back then, or you might have a window near the desk where you work at home with a really boring or even unpleasant view! Sometimes we can't get outside for our "nature walks" often as we'd like. So why not bring that nature walk, those favorite plants and wildlife, right to your window! Then you can enjoy all the subtle changes and new wildlife visitors every day, as I am doing now.
Later, I'll tell you how I did it and give you a few helpful suggestions on making your own "Out My Window Garden!"
The beautiful thing about it – like any garden over the years, it's a living canvas. Plants grow and change, new plant and wildlife features can be added, and garden art pieces can add interest. I'm planning to try and bring some wildlife right onto my window this winter with one of those new see-through bird houses you attach to your window! My next big dream for the garden is to add a heated birdbath so that my chirpy friends can enjoy a little "spa time."
In this photo, a thirsty squirrel stops for a little drink in the birdbath!
My Garden In September The First Summer
Back in June of 2011, I was still recovering from my first hip replacement surgery and anticipating my second hip surgery. While sitting at my desk in the corner by a side yard window, I was looking out at a pine tree surrounded by... dirt. Ick. Boring. I thought it would be nice to have a little garden there to gaze at while I recovered. I could build a habitat for the squirrels, bunnies and birds who could drop by to add "live" entertainment, too.
All through that summer, I moved one or two plants from my other gardens to the new garden every time I felt strong enough. I threw a bunch of Preen (weed preventer) around so it would be a no-work garden.
I had my first chance to "try out" my Out-My-Window Garden my first day home from hip surgery in October 2011. I looked out my window to see a very blustery October day with leaves swirling everywhere, rapidly building the winter insulation around all my little green babies.
When I first became disabled with my back many years ago, I took up perennial gardening as a hobby. Why perennials? Well, the way I work physically is that I never know how bad things are going to be on any given day. With perennials, which come back year after year, I've never had to worry about not having flowers some year because my back was in bad shape. I always tuck in a few of my favorite annuals (plants that die after frost) here and there, but my gardens are always about 95% perennial plants. The other great thing about perennials is that they reinvent themselves, making it possible to divide them and start new plants for free! For example, when you dig up a clump of lilies, you will see many tubers (think of them like bulbs) in the clump. When you remove the dirt and gently separate them, you have a whole bunch of new plants to transplant, trade, whatever. And dividing is good for the parent plant. It gives their roots room to spread out.
My perennials are almost all from two of our former homes; one in Papillion, Nebraska, and the other in southeast Missouri. Many others were gifts from family and friends. My gardens exploded when I was given over 300 hosta plants by a friend back at the Papio house. (See the story, "A Walk In The Hostas..." on the "My Lenses" section below). Others came from trades with other gardeners and of course my own purchases. When we bought our current house, it had a lot of sedum, iris, one hosta, and a big clump of daylilies. It's expanded a lot now!
How I Started Building My Garden
Inspiration born, I asked my husband to start saving grass clippings to throw on the dirt, knowing it would eventually loosen up the dirt and improve the soil. So he did that for a couple of weeks, and then I was ready to go! I headed out, little shovel in hand, hunting my other gardens for transplants. (The shovel doubles as a cane, too!) We have about an acre yard, so visiting my various gardens served as daily exercise too. With my little "garden car" modified to be a plant carrying wagon, (by adding a rope handle) I dug up a few plants each time I was outside and transplanted them to the new garden.
There is a patch of lovely ferns on the back fence of my property, and I moved many of those to the new garden. I moved lots of plants out of my front steps garden and front of the house garden that were inherited from the previous owners, and were too large for their present location. Those added some "instant credibility" to the new garden. Lots of sedum!
Next i began pulling some of my favorite garden features and art from my other gardens. I added my favorite, the little Schnauzer statue, first. I have a big concrete Schnauzer statue too but I can't move it! When I had moved all the garden art and set up the two trellises, something was still missing. I discovered what when my phone rang one day while I was working in the gaden. I wanted to sit down while I talked... and there was nowhere to sit! So I added a lawn chair on clearance at Home Depot and my garden was on its way to happy!
Photo taken out my window, August 2011.
How I Made My Lasagna Garden - My plants are very happy!
I had what had to be THE worst soil to start with, as you can see in my "Before" photo here. I have a large pine tree that has to be about 100 years old in the middle of my garden. There are roots everywhere. I was definitely in no shape to dig up the whole thing and modify the soil in usual ways, so I did the easy thing. I went UP. All through that first summer, I had my husband dump the grass clippings in a pile in the garden. I'd go out and spread it all over the soil. I normally love to compost kitchen scraps but I just didn't feel like it at the time, so I skipped that. We picked up a couple of bags of peat moss and I'd toss out a layer of that over the grass clippings, then water it all in and add more grass on top of it.
If you've never heard of Lasagna Gardening, you should. My method was adapted from Lasagna gardening. In that method, say you have a grass area that you want to be a garden. Normally that means digging up the grass and tediously removing the dirt from it, chopping up the dirt, and so forth. It's WORK. Well, with Lasagna gardening you build UP. You start with a layer of newspapers or thin cardboard right on top of the grass. Add a layer several inches thick of grass, and other layers of things like dried leaves, straw, anything except meat or dairy. When you get a total of about 18" of layers, you're ready. Water every layer heavily as you add, then add a lot more water on top of the whole thing.
You can plant your seeds and plants instantly in the layers and they will do great! And in about 3-4 months time, those layers will turn into the prettiest black dirt you ever saw!
I can see a huge change in my soil this year after just a year or so of adding my layers. And as the soil level grows upward, I'm encountering fewer surface roots when I dig now!
Lasagna Gardening How-To's On Amazon!
Indoor Bulbs Are A Blast!
Two years ago my husband and I bought some Spring bulbs when they first appeared in the stores. They were just barely breaking through the soil when we got them. Within days they started to just go crazy, growing like little weeds. For several weeks we enjoyed a colorful display indoors as they all bloomed on their various cycles.
Once the blooms were spent, I clipped off the stems and put the pots in the cool garage for the remainder of the winter. As soon as the soil was thawed enough in Spring, I planted them in their final homes in the garden.
My New Garden
Planning Your Out-My-Window Garden - Hey... dreaming is free so don't hold back!
- Figure out what you have to deal with. Is it sunny, partly shady or full shade? Is there good soil or do you need to amend it? Is there currently grass growing there? Is there a tree to hang windchimes and so forth from?
- What do you want to grow? If you want to grow hostas which require full shade and all you have is a bright sunny spot with grass and no trees, you will need to make some changes! And vice versa... if you have too much shade and want to grow sun plants, you might be able to create a different environment with some selective pruning to allow sunlight into a certain area. Do you want to grow water plants? Well, you'll need a water feature for that.
- Do you want a 3- or 4-season garden? You'll need to plan for plants that bloom or otherwise add interest with foliage for each season.
- What kind of wildlife do you want to attract? You can get a lot of garden visitors just by adding a feeder with some good bird seed and a big low flat container to collect rain water.
- Will you want to sit in your garden sometimes? You might want to add a chair or two, and a little table to put your drink on.
- It's fun to keep records! Start yourself a little notebook (or blog!) where you can keep a list of the plants you are growing and photos of your garden's progress.
- Where will you get your plants? Are you able to visit local nurseries, or will you need to order plants online? Look hard at forums like GardenWeb. You can often trade plants you have lots of for plants you want. (See my lens, Plant Trading 101 for tips!)
- Will you be able to do the work yourself, or will you need help? Who can you get to help? A community college bulletin board is a good place to find inexpensive laborers. You could offer to do a short talk on gardening to a local boy or girl scout troop in exchange for a volunteer help day from their troop.
Decide What Interests You!
Do you like birds? Squirrels and bunnies? Plants with lots of interesting foliage? Lots of blooming flowers? Think about the plants you like most in your yard (or elsewhere). Make a little list and add to it whenever you see something new that catches your attention.
It's Like... Watching Plants Grow:)
04/11/13 - Here it is Spring for weeks now and we are still in Winter here in Omaha! We are still freezing nearly every night. This year, my husband and I did something that was so much fun we will be doing it every year from now on! In early March, we picked up a bunch of tulip and hyacinth plants in pots on sale, with just tiny green shoots. I put them on my dining room table which is a sunny spot. Within days they shot up like crazy, and in a couple of weeks we got to watch all of them bloom! After blooming was spent, I clipped the plants down to about 2" tall and slowed the watering. They will go outside just as soon as the weather warms up a bit. My house was full of fragrance and the flowers were gorgeous! Later on, we picked up a gorgeous Hydrangea bush on sale for $12 and a few more colors of tulips. I can't wait to see that Hydrangea blooming outside all summer!
I've been through a knee replacement surgery in mid-February, so haven't done much in the way of starting seeds indoors. I have been spending a lot of time drooling over plant nursery websites tho! I have a brand new garden to plan this year. We lost two of our beloved dogs, Monty and Bailey, and I am creating a memorial garden for the furkids. It will be a "Rainbow Bridge" theme garden with a bench and who knows what else. I want it to be a place where I can sit and reflect. Here is a photo of my latest plant shopping trip!
05/04/12 - Guess I need to catch up! The plants all started popping up early in March this year - we had a very early Spring. It was a thrill watching all my old friends come back. My husband has taken quite an interest in the gardens, and we made a few plant shopping outings which were a lot of fun.
Then I made one very special trip to our neighborhood nursery and greenhouse, which for some reason is a magical place to me! Two years ago, I went there for the first time with my son John. I could barely walk, lasted about 15 minutes there and bought two plants. This year I went by myself, spent a good two hours walking around looking at interesting plants with the owner. It was a BLAST. I came home with several very nice perennial plants and some interesting tomato plants. My favorite is the heirloom "Mortgage Lifter" tomato, which I'd heard about but never seen in person. Supposedly it grows 2-pound tomatoes! We'll see.
My most exciting find after the long winter was the little wisteria I'd planted two years ago by the back clothesline pole. It was weed whacked to the ground and never showed up again... until this Spring! Now I'm debating whether to move it to the OMW garden where it would be safe.
I moved a lot of plants I'd started in my "plant nursery" (the front stairs garden) to the Out My Window garden. I had lots of newly rooted sedums and hostas, garlic chives, and a whole bunch of strawberry plants that I rescued from the flowerbeds in the back yard where the dogs roam.
I added a hummingbird feeder and a finch tube feeder this Spring. In April, three baby black squirrels began to visit my garden to snack on the bird food! They were adorable climbing all over the feeder and eating. I did learn last week that I need a new metal feeder, as they managed to break the plastic one in their enthusiasm!
On May 3, I had my first hummingbird visit my feeder! So excited I nearly jumped out the window! Down on our farm we had flocks of three kinds of hummingbirds, and I've really missed them. We have a pair of cardinals and a pair of doves making daily visits now, and this morning I saw a bunny eating at the pile of bird food! Hey, everybody needs a snack.
My neighbor Katie gave me a big bunch of hardy glads to plant, and I added them to the garden yesterday.
10/31/11 - Happy Halloween! We had another hard freeze this week but somehow many plants are still hanging in there! I redid my containers two days ago, something easy I could do standing up! I am three weeks postop today and doing pretty well. Still on the walker 100% but soon I will be strong enough for a cane! Woo-hoo! Now it is time to think of next year, I've brought everything inside that I'm going to... need to organize all the seeds I collected this summer.
10/19/11 - 10 days since my hip replacement surgery! My "out my window" garden IS a huge source of entertainment to me, as I spend about 80% of my days sitting by my window right now! It is making me a bit crazy because we haven't had our first freeze yet and everything is so veru dry. The crazy part is that I can NOT go out and water! The photo is a gorgeous red rose that bloomed about Oct 3. The blooms are few and far between but oh, so pretty.
9/25/11 - Third trip to the hospital, this time for surgery to remove the infected port (central line). I managed to trot out a few small Halloween decorations over the weekend first, though.
9/18/11 - Second time in the hospital - got out Wednesday night again. (maybe I should avoid Tuesdays for awhile?) We had a big cold snap and dipped into the high 30's!! Nooo.... not yet! I've not felt well enough to go out and plant anything, but I have been giving thought to a bird feeder for the garden.
9/9/11 - I got home from the hospital Wednesday evening after being on IV antibiotics for yet another infection... which has now postponed my hip surgery to October 10. Bummer, but I will be able to enjoy the last of the summer with my gardens. Yesterday evening I went out and planted six "naked ladies" (a/k/a Surprise Lilies) I received from a lovely gardener in Oklahoma - they were rescued from being destroyed when her neighbor Bette passed away. She will be growing some of my orange and red daylilies. Also tucked a little elderberry tree start into a pot outdoors, I had forgotten it after digging it up last week! Oh no!!
9/4/11 - Made my final plant shopping trip before the surgery today! I couldn't resist... they had a giant rubber tree plant for $13... picked up a nice little red mum for about $3... and two little houseplants, a Rex Begonia and this other cool plant I've forgotten the name of already... oops! The Sweet Autumn Clematis is going nutso - as shown in photo.
8/31/11 - Yesterday I planted gift plants from a garden trader! They were Twilight Butterfly Bush, Rose Mallow, and Butterfly Wings Daylily. Can't wait to see them grow up!
8/25/11... Back in June I bought two little Moon Plants in 3" pots. One is in the front steps garden and the other is in the Out My Window garden. Yesterday the one out front bloomed for the first time! The tomatoes are VERY late this year. All are covered with blooms but to date we've only had ripe ones from the cherry tomato plant. The Wisteria bush in the East side garden had an unfortunate encounter with a weed whacker when my husband hit his head on its trellis (a metal clothesline pole!) with the whacker in hand and running. Well, despite being cut off 3" above ground, it has grown back and is doing amazingly well! A deer cut my brand new blue Rose of Sharon, planted this spring and almost 3' tall, down to the ground. Very sad. It's going inside a fence if it recovers!
Outside The Window, 8-24-11
With perennials, which come back year after year, I've never had to worry about not having flowers some year because my back was in bad shape. I always tuck in a few of my favorite annuals (plants that die after frost) here and there, but my gardens are always about 98% perennial.
A Visitor Stops For Breakfast!
Out My Window, 09-20-11
The XXX Squirrel Picture!
Hey... I Said There'd Be Entertainment! Just Didn't Expect This!
I guess brown squirrel had a crush on black squirrel. They both live in the yard and chase one another constantly. Well... I glanced out my window the other day and... well.... I think we'll have black and brown striped squirrels next year. Or something.
Out My Window, 10-14-11
Overwintering Plans Worked!
For the most part... I'll definitely do this from now on.
Before the first freeze last fall, I had all the container planters moved indoors that I wanted to save. 2011 was only our second winter in this house. The first winter, whatever I brought in just kind of sat around in corners, hoping for the best. This year, my husband suggested we could put some of them out in the garage. Then I realized our laundry room in the basement is quite bright during the day, and very humid. Then I got the bright idea to have him move my 4-shelf greenhouse into the laundry room by the window. That done, he took the plants all down there for me. My next step is to go down (when I can do the steps) and organize them, and hopefully things will go well for them over the winter this year.
Black Squirrel Babies!
First Snowfall, 11-2-11 - O Nooooo!
Yesterday, after nearly four weeks with virtually no rain, we were treated to three different types of precipitation in a few hours' time - rain, sleet and snow! We also had thunder and lightning. I could almost feel my poor little plants shivering out there as the temperatures dropped!
What's Growing In My Garden? - See If You Can Find Them All!
All but a few plants in here are perennial. Hint: the annuals are on the very edges. I will be working on ID's for the unidentified plants.
- Daisy, "Vanilla Butterfly"
Hen & Chicks
Hosta (Many, unID'd)
Lily of the Valley
Spikey Plant (?)
Butterfly Bush White Profusion
Butterfly Bush "Twilight"
Lily, "Butterfly Wings"
Strawberry & Cream Grass
Purple perennial 2012 (name!)
Out The Window, 11-16-11 - Br-r-r-r!
It's really cold out, just look at the number of plants that were green the other day and now, sadly, are not:( Oh well little friends, we'll see you again in the Springtime!
If you look closely, Brownie the Squirrel is visiting in this photo.
December 4, 2011 - Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
We have just received about a 4-5" snowfall today, mixed with a lot of ice. Everything looks beautiful outside right now but I'm afraid if the wind kicks up it will start breaking a lot of tree limbs.
Out My Window, December 2011 - Brrr!
A Different Perspective...
The Official Out My Window Garden Poll! - Chime in!
What would you like to see MOST in your Out My Window Garden?
Out My Window February 2012
What Do YOU Think?
Would you like to have an "Out My Window" Garden?
Oooohhhh My Neighbor Added Interest!! - He put up HoHO Lights!!!
My neighbor John is retired and in his spare time from farming, he putzes around his yard a lot and does interesting things besides just yard work. He grows beautiful dahlias in the summer and now I see he has a propensity for holiday decorating too! Awesome!
Great Gardening Stuff on Amazon
My Source Gardens - Plants Are Portable!
Where I go, my plants go – at least that's the goal! We had lived for many years in Papillion, Nebraska and I had built up some very extensive perennial gardens. It was heartbreaking to leave about 90 percent of my plants behind, but we managed to accomplish a late January 500-mile move to southeast Missouri with a couple hundred plants, mostly hosta. The hosta were a cherished legacy of my departed friend, Mrs. Rose "Scooty" Maguire, who had begged me to care for her "babies" when she was forced to give up her home and huge gardens after going blind. After the first frost, the plants were dug up in clumps, packed into cardboard boxes and replanted after the spring thaw in the new location.
After four years there, we were transferred back to Omaha and my husband rented a U-Haul trailer to move as many of my plants as possible. This time was a "live" move in May, and the plants were packed in open crates and kept watered. Our special baby Magnolia tree even came along! After an 8-hour drive in an open trailer, the plants were pretty beat up by the wind. I was amazed at how resilient everything was though - nearly everything survived!
The house we bought had several constructed flower gardens which had been largely abandoned. There were a few gorgeous iris, some sedums, and a giant hosta. Oh and don't let me forget the garlic chives. Our yard is about 60-70% shade and is full of pine, oak and walnut trees (I call it Squirrel Heaven).
I divided the hosta between two locations for their first establishing year. On this their second summer here, many plants were ready to be divided and/or moved.
So I figured out what had survived, what hadn't, and started making a replacement list of my favorites. Between the moved plants and new purchases this year and last, I'm getting some nice gardens going. The one thing I miss terribly is my roses from the old Nebraska house - I had 39 bushes, mostly teas.
Why Not Do This For A Shut-In!
You know that wonderful older lady who always made the great popcorn balls at Halloween? You'd always see her out digging in her gardens when you walked home from school. Well, now she's stuck in the house. Can you imagine what joy a little Out My Window Garden would bring to her? You could keep it very simple or go totally crazy. But what a neat forever gift!
My Wish List
A lighted solar windchime that moves
A big bird bath
A water feature with a fountain
A really gorgeous Clematis growing up the pine tree
Lots more variegated foliage plants
A small ornamental tree or interesting bush