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Window Box Gardening Cultivates Senior Interests

A window box is easy to assemble and your mother can watch flowers and even vegetables and herbs grow all year round.

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Gardening is one of the most popular activities for seniors. But many can no longer get outdoors to enjoy this activity. That's what makes simple pot or window gardening so appealing. Companionship, too, can help.

Q. My 82-year-old mother can no longer get outdoors much. She used to love to garden. What are ways that I can help her continue to enjoy this hobby?

How about a window box? They're easy to assemble and your mother can watch flowers and even vegetables and herbs grow all year round.

According to the National Gardening Association, you can help your mom assemble a window box with the following tools and procedures:

  • A container that's at least 8 inches wide and deep. Be sure the container has drainage holes or plan to drill your own. If mounting under a window, use a box that is a couple of inches smaller than the width of the window for best appearance.
  • A sterile potting mix containing peat, perlite and other ingredients that improve drainage, aeration, fertility and water-holding capacity. Consider using a water-absorbing polymer to decrease watering frequency. Fill your window box about half full with the potting mix, and add water to moisten the mix if it's dry. (Do not use regular garden soil.)
  • Set plants about 2 to 5 inches apart in the box, depending on their mature size. Slip plants out of their pots without pulling on the stems and gently untangle any circling roots. Set the tallest plants, such as geraniums, in the back of the box. Let the trailing plants, such as lobelia, hang over the front and sides. Fill in with the fluffy plants, such as pansies or impatiens. Fill the spaces between plants with soil mix, tapping gently. Water thoroughly to settle the soil.
  • Window boxes require frequent watering—often daily in hot, dry weather. Soak the soil completely at each watering. Use a water-soluble flowering plant fertilizer dissolved at one-quarter strength once a week or according to package instructions.

Making a window box—or more than one—will also be a fun bonding experience for you and your mom. For other project ideas, log on to the National Gardening Association website at

If you don't have time to help your mom with these projects, consider hiring a companion, such as a CAREGiverSM from Home Instead®. Many like to garden, too.

Last revised: July 13, 2011

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