Easy Unique Window Gardens

Window gardens are an easy way to learn about plants. They are easy to grow, and don’t need much care.

Our window gardens are grown in a mason jar. These are inexpensive (you probably have some in your kitchen already!), allow easy viewing of the plants, and can be covered to maintain humidity. They are also easy to move, so you can adjust the amount of sunlight – and move them out of your way when necessary. You can even take them along if you are going on a trip – just add the mason jar lid to keep the contents inside (add a few ventilation holes or take the lid off a couple of times a day to let the plant breathe). Bugs are less likely to attack your plants indoors as well!

What you will need to make window gardens:
* Mason jar with ring
* Sand
* Small rocks
* Dirt or potting soil
* Seeds (lots of ideas below)
* Plastic wrap

To set up your garden, start with a clean mason jar.

Layers of material in the jar look nice in your window, and also are good for the plant. Start with a layer of sand, which will hold any excess water. Next, add a layer of small rocks (we use aquarium rock – easily available and inexpensive) to keep excess water off plant roots. Finally, add a layer of potting soil (or dirt from your yard) to plant the seeds in.

After planting, add water to reach the level of the rocks in your jar. Periodically add more as it is used.

Cover your garden with plastic wrap (punch a few holes with an ice pick or pencil to allow the jar to breathe), or punch some holes in the mason jar lid. Then, screw on the lid ring to hold the plastic or lid in place. You only need a few small holes – the goal is to allow carbon dioxide in / oxygen out, but while keeping most of the moisture in your jar. This is especially important in the desert (where I live!) – if you are in a more humid area, a few additional ventilation holes are appropriate.

Once set up, set your window gardens in a sunny spot. Though a window sill is traditional, the temperature can vary a lot in a windowsill so your counter near the window might be a better choice.

Here are a few books to read with your younger gardeners that teach about plants and their growth cycle and are likely available at your local library:

Grow With Me: Sunflower
From Seed to Plant
National Geographic: Seed to Plant

And now… some unique window gardens you can set up using your mason jars:

1. Mini Terrarium
Sprinkle in grass, wheat or chia seed. Add small decorative rocks and figurines if you like. We’ve also purchased glow-in-the-dark stars and glued them to the inside of our jar near the top – which added some “magic” later in the evening.

2. Cactus Garden
Add another layer of sand on the top of your jar. Plant cactus or aloe seeds.

3. Root Viewer
No specially made root viewer needed!  Just slide the seeds down the side of the jar so you can see them. Larger seeds such as sunflower seeds or large beans work best.

Root viewer
Root viewer

Try turning them in different directions – to see where the root and shoot emerge from the seed! Do you think the shoot will always come from the end of the seed, or will it always start pointing toward the ceiling?

Here’s a book on the bean life cycle that has excellent pictures:
A Bean’s Life

4. Window Herb Garden
Plant seeds for your favorite herbs – and then use them for cooking once they grow! A handmade label adds a nice touch.

Window herb garden
Window herb garden

5. Moving Garden
I suspect you remember the “Tickle Me” plant commercials from your childhood. The “Tickle Me” plant is actually called a mimosa pudica. It’s a fern that closes its leaves at night and when touched. You can find the seeds online, and may be able to purchase them at your local garden center.

6. Tiny Fairy Garden
Grass, wheat or chia seeds will grow quickly and look nice in your fairy garden. Add pretty rocks, marbles, figurines, tiny bits of bark, moss or pinecones, or other things from your yard or the park that fairies might like!

Fairy window garden
Fairy window garden
Fairy garden
Fairy garden

This is a cute story if you have early readers working on a fairy garden:
Fairies! A True Story

7. Carnivorous Garden
Plant carnivorous plant seeds, such as a Venus fly trap.

Here are a couple of books on carnivorous plants for your early readers:
Hungry Plants
Plants Bite Back!

Enjoy your window gardens! Most of these plants will sprout within a few days, so you won’t have to wait very long for results.  Please post pictures in the comments once your garden starts to grow!