Growing Zones for Raised Bed Gardens
Container Gardening (such as a Window Box or Deck Planter) is slightly different than growing plants in the ground…which is what the Growing Zone Maps are meant to do. The basic environmental issues are similar but the size and location will vary.
Information for this post is from the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Your tax dollars at work by the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. See link at bottom of page
The USDA map is the one most gardeners in the eastern United States rely on, and the one that most national garden magazines, catalogs, books, and many nurseries currently use. This map divides North America into 11 separate zones. Each zone is 10°F warmer (or colder) in an average winter than the adjacent zone.
Check out your growing zone by entering your Zip code at this USDA website (cut and paste in your browser): http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov
Other Growing Factors
Many other environmental factors, in addition to hardiness zones, contribute to the success or failure of plants. Wind, soil type, soil moisture, humidity, pollution, snow, and winter sunshine can greatly affect the survival of plants. The way plants are placed in the landscape, how they are planted, and their size and health might also influence their survival. Certainly the type of container they are in plays an important factor in successful gardening.
Light: To thrive, plants need to be planted where they will receive the proper amount of light. For example, plants that require partial shade that are at the limits of hardiness in your area might be injured by too much sun during the winter because it might cause rapid changes in the plant’s temperature.
Soil moisture: Plants have different requirements for soil moisture, and this might vary seasonally. Plants that might otherwise be hardy in your zone might be injured if soil moisture is too low in late autumn and they enter dormancy while suffering moisture stress.
Temperature: Plants grow best within a range of optimum temperatures, both cold and hot. That range may be wide for some varieties and species but narrow for others.
Duration of exposure to cold: Many plants that can survive a short period of exposure to cold may not tolerate longer periods of cold weather.
Humidity: High relative humidity limits cold damage by reducing moisture loss from leaves, branches, and buds. Cold injury can be more severe if the humidity is low, especially for evergreens.
HOW to INSTALL a WINDOW BOX to VINYL SIDING
Gutter Gardens™ MAKES A DURABLE window Box that will never fail. GUTTER GARDENS™ is not responsible for damage to old/fragile vinyl or for improper mounting based on the setting at your location.
Find a seam under the window. Stick your fingers into the seam and pull down on the outside piece until it unlocks. (They do make a zip lock tool especially for this you can buy at a box store for less than $10 ) Once the siding is loose, check for under-layment. If it’s solid wood (as in the window frame made with 2 x 4s) you can attach the planters where you want them. If it’s foam, find the studs and mark them.
(OR another method is to find the studs from the inside of the house, mark them on the inside windowsill…then transfer the stud locations to the outside window sill to align the screws.)
Punch or drill ¼ “holes (slightly larger than the shank of the provided screws) into the siding where the studs line up. The siding has to be able to move and using holes the same size as screws restricts the movement and can cause buckling in hot weather-especially if you use more than one screw in a piece of siding. Relock the siding after marking the studs and pre-drilling pilot holes. If the siding is flexible, you can use a hole punch where the screws go…this will help avoid cracking the siding with a drill. The holes should be ¼”. Re attach the siding with the pilot holes lined up w/ the pre-drilled/punched holes.
When attaching the planter, don’t bind the siding.
We recommend using a clear, silicon sealant/caulk around the screws.This will keep moisture from getting behind the siding.
We’ve included a sample shim w/ a punched hole you may want to use to reinforce the area behind the vinyl. Vinyl patterns vary so experiment with what type of weatherproof shims might work best if your siding requires extra support. Similar shims are available at Home Improvement stores.
Included in purchase of Window Box:
- Enough 1 ½”-2” long hex head/slotted stainless steel screws for mounting approx. every 12 inches. Try to use holes nearest endcaps as they hold the most weight.
- Pre-drill pilot holes using a 1/8” drill bit.
- 1 bracket for center of planters over 36” long. This bracket grabs the top lip and then attached by screw into the center stud.
- Enough 1” OD Nylon and stainless steel washers for the screws. The nylon washer should touch the back of the planter with the SS washer on top of it and the screw on top of/through the SS washer.
- 1 extra rivet to place in hole in the top of an end-cap to use if the filtered drainage becomes clogged. This is a new feature we have added to accommodate those rare situations where the planter is not draining well…just poke the rivet up through the drainage holes on the bottom of the planter. Sometimes the potting mix will clog the drainage holes.
There are a number of You Tube videos that suggest various other methods of installing a window box onto vinyl siding. And other videos on how to drill pilot holes. You might want to review them prior to beginning this project.
Attach a Window Box on Brick/Concrete
Window Boxes are so popular as we all want to increase curb appeal. Standing up to garden can be done! Using a level, mark the location on the brick sill or concrete wall where you want to mount the Gutter Garden(s) as a raised bed .
- Take into consideration the amount of sun you will get at that location when selecting plants. Put it in a place where it will be easy for you to water, dead-head and where drainage will not damage items below.
Carefully mark where the back holes on the planter are on to the surface where you want to hang them. The enclosed tap-cons are the only really adequate screws to use on concrete or brick walls. Two end holes are the most important and need the longer ( 1 ¾”) tap-con screws. The other, shorter screws ( 1 ¼ “) can be spaced every 8-10 inches. Ideally another person is useful to hold the planter in place when making markings for the holes…or you may want to use tape or some kind of strap. Measure twice and drill once. I often slightly begin drilling holes so I can see that they are lining up with each other while remaining level. The planter itself will cover any miss-drilled holes!
Drill ‘pilot holes’ using the special masonry drill bit with a hammer drill to complete this task. Before I bought my own, I would rent one and the drill bits are generally available at the rental place. Drill the holes at least ¼ inch deeper than length of the screw itself. Use a can of compressed air (the kind w/ the red straw that lets you blow off dust from electronics) to blow out the concrete dust. It is very important that the hole is drilled longer than the screw you are using…so perhaps make a mark on that red straw to be sure the holes are deep enough.
Accurately drilling the holes is the most tedious part, but once the holes are lined up and the screws are tightly in, they will never come out! Use the tap-cons included with your purchase for a very secure raised bed gardens. You’ll receive enough tap-cons and washers to secure your planter/ window box to any type of masonry or brick.
Enclosed are brackets to install with planters longer than 36 inches while you are putting in the screws. Hook it on to the front edge and placing the screw into the back hole of the bracket and then into the pre-drilled hole in the concrete surface. The brackets should be approx. 20-22 inches from each end. These brackets will help keep the integrity of the shape because when the planter is full of wet soil, it may tend to splay/bulge.
How To Add Plants
Each foot length of planter requires approx. 3 quarts of POTTING MIX for a 6” wide planter and over 6 quarts per foot for the 8” wide Gutter Gardens. Do not use topsoil or garden soil. Put in about two inches of good quality potting mix (the best ones already have moisture control and plant food). Level it and water it thoroughly. Add another 2 inches and repeat…being sure that the soil is fairly saturated. If you are going to install an existing plant, now may be the time to begin to plant them. You can insert potting mix up to bottom of the back holes. Consider leaving a little room and put pre-moistened mulch around the plants to help keep the moisture in.
If you are growing from seed, follow the directions on the packet. If planting seed, be sure the planter is completely full of potting mix (up to the bottom of the back holes) that has been completely saturated…this will give you a level start and provide maximum room for root growth.
Helpful Raised Bed Gardening Hints:
- Use a spout watering can to direct the water where it needs to go.
- For a 6” wide planter, select the small six-pack of plants…up to a 4” nursery pot. For an 8” wide planter, you may select up to a 6” nursery pot. Go ahead and crowd them together. They are annuals and will find a way to survive the entire season!
- After about 2 months, begin using water soluble plant food each time you water.
- If, after a hard rain, the raised bed planter looks like a swamp, take a pin or needle and punch up from the bottom holes. Sometimes the fine soil materials clog the drainage holes.
Detailed directions come with your purchase!
Why Attract Hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds are really fun to watch and they are important to the environment. Attracting hummingbirds and birds in general can help maintain the amount of bugs in your area and can help to spread seeds around the neighborhood as they travel from plants to trees. It is very rewarding to find ways to attract birds to your deck or balcony planters. One of my favorites is the Ruby-throated hummingbird. (see diagram from Cornell University Dept. of Ornithology for their range)
Growing colorful annuals in your planters is one surefire way to bring small nectar loving birds…mainly hummingbirds to watch close up. The color red is often an attractant. Color is the keyword to remember along with deep throat floral displays.
Hummingbirds seeking nectar from your flowers will also capture many insects including spiders, tiny flying insects, and those insects that feed on your flowers, all which provide a great source of dietary protein for the bird. And, occasionally hummingbirds will consume mosquitos.
Attracting Hummingbirds in Sun or Shade
A sunny spot on your deck or balcony can attract lots of hummingbirds and butterflies with the help of colorful annuals such as flowing Petunias, Salvias, Geraniums, Verbena, Snapdragons, Lantana and Calibrachoa can be combined to create a miniature garden in just one planter box.
Shaded areas can also provide the bright colors that attract hummingbirds. While comparatively fewer shade-loving plants produce bright enough flowers to act as a beacon for hummingbirds, impatiens and begonias are an exception, with flowers that bloom in vibrant oranges, reds and bright pinks.
There are dozens of Begonias, Fuchsias, several varieties of Impatiens, Lobelia, Wishbone Flower, Browallia and Nasturtium are also among classic planters and container summer plants. If it is colorful and or has a fragrance, hummingbirds (and butterflies) will find it. Even a small number of plants can make a big impact in a colorless, shady area.
Having a colorful planter on your balcony or porch is a wonderful way to invite hummingbirds to visit. Put one up this season and enjoy the view!
How to plant a Gutter Garden™
Once the Gutter Garden™ is securely attached, you can begin to plant! Most annuals, many herbs and greens (lettuces, kale, and spinach) are successful in the depth of this 6 inch wide planter. Not recommended for planting bulbs. Consider filling up to within ¼ inch of the bottom of the back holes (remember, the soil will compact when water is added). Once the plants are in and the potting mix has settled to the maximum height, you may want to add mulch between the plantings to reduce watering needs.
Each foot of length for a (6” inch wide) gutter garden requires about 3.5 dry quarts of potting mix. (for example, if you purchase a 36” long Gutter Garden™, you will use almost 11 dry quarts of potting mix. Be mindful that each brand has unique characteristics so fill amounts may vary). Be certain to use a soil medium that is designed for containers. Do not be tempted to use top soil or garden soil. Feel free to use organic potting mix or potting mix that contains moisture amendments.
Fill the bottom with about two or three inches of potting mix and water completely (until water drains from the bottom holes). Then gently add your plants and fill in with potting mix. Consider ‘spillers’ such as sweet potato vines or ‘creeping jennies’ between the flowers. Be mindful of the sun requirements for your plants. Many Gutter Gardeners have seen success by placing plants in a staggered way as opposed to in a straight line. If you are planting seeds, fill to near the bottom of the back holes and follow directions on the seed packets.
- If the planter has problems draining, poke a straight pin up through the bottom holes. This sometimes occurs when small potting mix particles clog the bottom filter.
- Gutter Gardens™ are hand made with riveted end-caps and a food grade caulk…so safely grow your own herbs and veggies…be as organic as you wish.
- Some plants are aggressive so cut them back hard to allow other plants to thrive and get sunlight.
Outsmart the Rabbits with Raised Bed Gardening
Gutter Gardens™ is one of the best raised bed gardening systems there is! And it helps defeat the damage done by deer and rabbits. Mount these planters on a balcony or deck railing; or as a window box planter and you will outsmart those rabbits and deer and enjoy growing edibles or flowers without the hassles. Gardening is so worthwhile. So many pleasures to smell, feel or taste. And so easy to install!!!
We no longer need tractors or rotor-tillers. We can grow amazing things in containers. Planters have been used for centuries. They keep improving and now, with the introduction of Gutter Gardens™, they just keep getting better and easier. The standard raised bed system consists of some kind of frame that sits on the ground, is filled with soil and then planted. This system is particularly successful in growing vegetables that require a great deal of root depth (like tomatoes and corn). I have been using the standard raised bed for years and will continue to do so. BUT I still have issues with the critters in my yard (mainly squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons and just recently I have seen a possum!). If possible, put up fences to try to thwart them.
For growing most annual flowers, lettuces, kale, spinach, and many different kinds of herbs, getting the garden UP, off of the ground works best. The rabbits and slugs cannot reach them. Local dogs can’t lift a leg on them, either!
Outsmart the Critters
Another good trick to discourage these animals from helping themselves to your bounty is to apply cayenne pepper to the leaves and produce in the morning when there is still moisture/dew…Just remember to repeat this every few days and after a rainfall. One chomp of something with cayenne pepper on it will change their minds quickly! Remember not to get the cayenne pepper in or near your own eyes!! STAND UP and GARDEN !!!
Why Window Boxes?
Window boxes have been around for a long time and although they are hugely popular in Europe, they are gaining popularity in the United States. A window box adds color in the middle of an exterior wall by allowing home owners to plant flowers and vines in key locations on any side of the house.
Gutter Gardens™ has researched and experimented with various prototypes and found what we believe to be a smart solution for those inquiring about the possible use of window boxes. We use a deeper/wider-than-normal channel of aluminum rain gutter material that is securely attached below the window.
What types of surface is necessary for a window box?
The sill…or bottom of an outdoor window can be made of brick, mortar, and various siding materials covering a wood frame.
Any of these surfaces is a good candidate for hanging a window box. When ordering, just select the appropriate screws (tap-cons or stainless steel screws) available for the surface you have to work with.
Historically, window boxes have been made out of wood and over time, the material deteriorates and falls apart. Some window boxes have a plastic or vinyl planting box inside which prolongs the life of a wooden window box…but since the planter box must have drainage for healthy plants, eventually all wood window boxes will fail.
What are the best Window Boxes?
Another popular window-box is made of wrought iron with an insert of coco-fiber (see above photo). This method begins well, but because it is so porous, this window box requires very frequent watering. The fiber lining must be replaced every season….and, because the birds often help themselves to the material for nests, they generally begin to spill their contents around mid-to-end of July. Nothing uglier than a coco-fiber planter that is ignored!
There are some very attractive poly window boxes available on-line now-a-days. Some are treated and will last longer than others because they have been treated to delay the effects of sun UV rays…which will eventually cause the material to become brittle. These are generally 3 or 4 times more expensive than the Gutter Gardens™ Window Boxes we offer (in 4 different colors)…which are made from recycled aluminum (and can be recycled somewhere down the line) and won’t last as long as a rain gutter planter.
8-Inch Wide Window Boxes Work Best
Because they are non-porous, Gutter Gardens™ require less watering and the filtered drainage holes guarantee healthy, gorgeous flowers! We suggest that you select the 8” wide Window box planters because the larger window boxes give your building a larger, more elegant presence, hold more flowers and need less watering than the 6” wide window-boxes. I, the owner and developer of Gutter Gardens™, LLC started out w/ the 6”wide window boxes for 3 years…but switched over to the 8” wide this season b/c I wanted more of a statement and less maintenance and the 8” require less watering. Both sizes worked well and looked great…but the overhang prevented any rain at all from reaching the plants. The 8-inch wide required less watering for this very busy gardener.
Be sure to order the appropriate hardware for drilling into concrete/mortar (tap-cons) or wood surfaces (stainless steel screws). Your purchase includes enough screws for the length of the planter you purchase. However, additional hardware items can be purchased from our store and will be shipped with your order.
What Container Planters work on Decks and Balconies?
A very popular method of container planters are coco-lined garden planters which have been around for a long time. I have used them and had semi-success in plant stands on the front porch. They never worked well on my deck because my rails were not suitable for level mounting. So, shortly after planting, the potting mix began falling out to the patio below. The brackets that came with them never seemed secure in holding so much weight. Because safety is so paramount…we came up with a completely safe method
of hanging planters using stainless steel cable ties to securely hang Gutter Gardens™.
Then, I noticed that some birds were using the materials for nesting…so even more dirt fell out. Because they are so porous, they demanded water more often than less porous planters. By the end of the season, they looked like this picture! What a mess.
Container planters can be made of various materials such as terra cotta, concrete, plastic or resin. Since we want to Stand Up and Garden, these planters can be placed on a shelf or table on the deck/balcony. Keep in mind that weight determines the ability to move the planter around. Also, remember that the UV rays from the sun will degrade plastic and resin and make them brittle/breakable.
Gutter Gardens will never break, fade, fall, crack or disappoint! These planters are uniquely designed to hang in a level, secure manner. So easy to install, too. Take a look at some pictures on this website, You will be amazed at how utterly wonderful Gutter Garden planters are!