Dealing with wind on a balcony garden, especially in a high-rise, is a challenge with gardening in these spaces. Knowing the right species to grow, how to create wind-blocks, and strategically position your plants can make all the difference. Summer in Toronto can be very stormy, and when you add to that that my balcony is 450 feet up, it can be hell for little seedlings. Not only can the wind create physical problems for my plants, but it also is incredibly drying for container planters. The biggest things that have helped me cope with the wind are picking wind tolerant plants, creating windbreaks, and using self-watering containers.
Wind tolerant plants are those which either have really strong stalks, or are flexible to be blown around in the wind without snapping. For flowers, things like Nasturtiums, Zinnias, Alyssum and Wildflowers are great choices because they’re quite flexible and can tolerate some bashing around without snapping. I’ve also gotten away with lavender as well, but I planted that strategically between larger plants to provide a windbreak. In terms of vegetables, I was very nervous last year about cherry tomato bushes but they did great! Root vegetables also don’t have a problem with major wind, and I’ve had great success with carrots and beets.
My beloved (& battered) windbreaker is my 3 year old Blue Spruce tree. It has handled many brutal summer storms with ease. I’ve placed it on the end of my balcony so it can provide some relief for the plants it’s beside. That’s likely where I’ll plant my mixed greens as I feel they’re the weakest link. It helps to know where the most sheltered parts of your balcony are so that you can place your most sensitive plants there. I also try to nestle things like herbs and lavender into little corners where they’re being provided some relief from bigger stronger plants in the vicinity.
By picking species which tolerate the conditions well, and creating windbreaks to allow for growing more sensitive species, you can maximize the potential of your balcony! And by using self-watering containers you’re mitigating much of the wind’s drying effect on your container gardens. I’ve had great success with all the plants I mentioned, and I’m going to be adding some new ones this year to see how they do!