Windowsill Gardens

You don’t need a backyard to grow a garden. Try growing herbs and vegetables right on your windowsill.

Choosing seeds

  • Choose compact, miniature, or dwarf varieties of plants that will mature quickly.
  • Check the back of the seed packet for the sowing time or the length of time a plant needs to become big.
  • Plant seeds as closely as possible to their natural outdoor growing season to increase your chances of a successful crop.
  • Root and leaf crops, like beets and kale, are cool weather crops and do well when planted in autumn and winter.
  • Fruiting vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, take longer to ripen and need more sun, so it’s best to plant them in spring and summer.

Windowsill gardens in trays

Planting your garden in trays is a great way to grow seedlings. For some plants, you can grow them in the tray until it’s time to harvest them. Seeds that grow well in trays include leafy greens like:

  • lettuce
  • beet tops
  • kale
  • chard
  • arugula
  • spinach

For other plants, you can start your seeds in a tray and transplant them when they are bigger. (See below for instructions.)

Tools you will need:

  • 2 planting trays
  • 1 clear plastic lid for the tray
  • Potting soil, preferably organic
  • Scissors or a small knife
  • Watering can
  • Seeds
  • Newspaper or an old sheet


  1. Cover your work area with the newspaper or old sheet.
  2. With the help of an adult, use the scissors or small knife to poke rows of holes into the bottom of one tray about 2 inches apart.


  3. Fit the tray with holes into the other one. This will allow for water drainage.


  4. Fill the seed tray with potting soil.
  5. With your fingers, poke holes in the soil in even rows. (Check the instructions on your seed packet for the appropriate depth).


  6. Drop one seed into each hole.


  7. Using the trowel, gently cover the holes with dirt, and pat it down.
  8. Moisten the dirt with the watering can.
  9. Place your tray on a sunny window sill, south-facing if possible, and cover with a clear plastic lid if you have one.
  10. Remove the lid once your seeds sprout and leaves are established.

When planting herbs, lettuces and greens, sow a few seeds each week and harvest them often while they’re still young and tender.

Windowsill gardens in pots

Some plants need only a little room to grow and don’t mind being close to their neighbours, while other plants need a little more wiggle room. Plants that need extra space include:

  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • eggplants
  • beans
  • peas
  • cucumbers

Depending on what you’re planting, you may be able to plant many seeds per pot, while others will only hold one. Refer to the seed packet to determine which is best for your seed. Some plants, like basil and tomatoes, grow really well together.

Tools you will need:

  • Potting soil, preferably organic
  • Seeds
  • Terra cotta or plastic pots that have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Be sure to have a tray under these to catch any excess water. Check on the seed package to determine the size of pot you need.
  • A watering can
  • Wooden or plastic stakes
  • Newspaper or an old sheet


  1. Cover your work area with the newspaper or old sheet.
  2. Fill your pot (or pots) with soil.
  3. With your finger, poke a shallow hole in the soil. (Check the instructions on your seed packet for the appropriate depth).


  4. Drop a seed into the hole.
  5. Cover the hole with soil and pat lightly.
  6. Water liberally until water comes out through the holes in the bottom of your pot.


  7. Put the pot on a sunny windowsill, preferably south-facing and wait for the seed to sprout!

It should take roughly 7-14 days for your seed to sprout. It depends on what you’ve planted. Once your potted plants grow, they can be kept indoors or put outside on a balcony, porch or patio.

Transplanting into pots

  1. Fill your desired pots with organic potting soil.
  2. Lightly water the soil.
  3. Using a trowel or your fingers, make a hole in the soil that is wider and deeper than the seedling you’re transplanting.


  4. Use the trowel to gently ease your seedling out of the seed tray, trying not to touch the delicate stem or roots.
  5. Place the roots in the hole you prepared and fill the rest of the hole with soil to surround the seedling. Gently press the seedling into the pot.


  6. Water and clearly label your seedling and place back on window sill.

For information on how to care for your windowsill plants, click here.