Without a doubt, the biggest factor I contribute towards my success with high-rise vegetable gardening is my self watering containers. When you’re gardening on a balcony – and especially if it’s in a high-rise – evaporation due to sun and wind is a major issue that will affect your containers. Allowing plants to dry out between watering causes stress and will slow their growth – and depending on how bad it is, even kill the plants. In my first year gardening on my balcony I used regular containers and experienced all of those problems. In my second year, I created my own version of self watering containers based on a YouTube video I watched – and they are amazing. As a result, my balcony garden is now entirely self-watering containers and I’ll share a few reasons why.

A row of self-watering containers on a large balcony
Containers ready for 2017.

Wind, sun and the magnifying effect of glass balcony panels work together to evaporate a lot of the water in a traditional container that has been “top-watered”. By contrast, a bottom watering container has water located underneath the root system of the plants and is thus protected from the sun and the wind. This means that it is both more efficient in terms of water usage and it provides a more constant level of moisture.

A row of self-watering containers on a large balcony
More containers for 2017!

The major benefit of providing a constant level of moisture is that your plants will thrive. The mechanism of action in a bottom watering container is such that the plant root system grows down until it is able to access the water reservoir and take as much as it needs at a given time. This allows the plant to grow faster and maintain a constant state of hydration. In the hot dry conditions of a south-facing balcony space, this is essential because plants are easily scorched if under-watered in these conditions.

Two self watering containers filled with cherry tomato bushes
This ridiculous yield of cherry tomatoes wouldn’t have been possible without self-watering containers.

Finally, the longevity of self watering containers is phenomenal. Last summer, on average, I filled my self-watering containers every six days, even in 30+ degree heat! The struggle is real for us balcony gardeners watering our gardens and only having to do it nearly once a week is such a reprieve over daily watering. Additionally it’s fantastic if you’re going to be away for the weekend, which is often a reality for urban dwellers who want to escape the city for the outdoors. I feel confident leaving my garden for days and I don’t worry about it in any weather conditions.

A row of self-watering containers on a large balcony
You can use a variety of different containers depending on your needs. I use the smaller square ones for a single tomato plant, and the larger ones as mixed-use vegetable beds.

I swear by self watering containers and I strongly recommend them to everyone! There are so many DIY methods available. And if you’re not the DIY type there are many commercially available self-waterers that work great – they’re just quite pricy. The bottom line is you end up with a healthier, more productive and easier to care for balcony garden!


  1. Can’t wait for more posts! I’m a fellow Torontonian who wants to turn her balcony into a garden and I’ve been finding it harder than I imagined on the ol google machine. Any tips and tricks would happily be welcomed. Glad to be following along!

    1. Thanks for finding me! I’m super excited because I’ll be doing a lot of outdoor planting this weekend and plan to do a bunch more write-ups about different species I’m growing this year!

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