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Windowboxes in Brick Apartment Buildings - Mounting windowboxes when you can't use brackets

Sometimes the places where plants will do the most good are the hardest ones to garden in. Consider the brick apartment building. Unless you have a great relationship with your landlord, and you happen to be dating a mason, and have a friend with an extension ladder truck, mounting exterior brackets in the brick is not an option.

There are two types of sills: wooden and stone.

  • If you have a wooden sill, use the “screw eye and hook” method: get screw eyes and hooks (like what people used to use to fasten screen doors) from the hardware store. Put at least 4 on, and use a safety strap! (a short piece of rope holding the entire box). If the box does fall, it might drop dirt on somebody’s head, but that’s not nearly as bad as having a box full of soil do a kamikaze run on your noggin. (I can think of worse ways to go, but that’s another story).
  • If you have a stone sill: you are almost (but not quite) out of luck. What you need to do is put a bar of some sort across the inside of your window, then connect your windowbox to it with nylon straps. Here are some details: What to buy: Buy some nylon straps (the sort sold at hiking stores for affixing sleeping bags to backpacks, etc.) You’ll need two, with old-fashioned sliding buckles if possible. Tell the guys at the outdoor store what they’re for, and tell them you want a buckle that will stay closed and straps that won’t rot when they are wet. Now, get some kind of pole (an old hockey stick works, as does a broom handle or some 1 inch dowling) long enough to fit across the inside of your window and stick out by a foot on both sides. You might want to wrap cloth around it so it doesn’t damage your paint, or decorate it. Its your call. You’ll also need a few feet of strong, waterproof rope or heavy-duty wire to serve as your safety line. And buy a long windowbox (it’s okay if it’s longer than the window) with as deep a drip tray as possible underneath it. (You’ll also need plants and potting soil – you can learn about them elsewhere on our site). What to do: First, attach your “safety line.” Tie a rope or strong wire through a drainage hole in the box, (or put an eyelet in, if it’s a wooden box), then tie the other end to your radiator or a chair leg or something else bigger than it inside your house. Do this first! Falling windowboxes can kill! (and that means nasty zoning and insurance regulations and less plants on buildings – so don’t ruin it for everyone!) Make this safety line strong enough to hold a box full of heavy mud twice the size of yours, and make sure you aren’t in danger of it rotting through. Loop one strap around the hockey stick, then hold the stick in place with your knee while you try to guess how long of a loop you need to hold your box in place. Make two loops around the stick, then hold your box (empty) to where you want it. Adjust the straps so it looks like it hangs about right. Fill your box about halfway full of potting soil, then get the box to where you want it to live. You are making a sling for the box – you may need to hang it a bit below the window to make it balance. Rotate the straps around so they are not in danger of being accidentally released, but so they can still be reached for a final tightening. When you plant your box, leave the soil at least an inch shy of the lip, so heavy rains don’t dump muddy water down the side of the building. Plant your box, tighten the straps, and enjoy. Be responsible: don’t slam the window down on the strap (some metal weather stripping can be like a guillotine), check you straps for sun damage or water-induced rot, and take your boxes down in the fall when the landlord may see them less as an enhancement, and more as a liability.