Sustainable gardens

Sustainable gardens

If you have planters or a small garden, it’s a task to keep on watering and taking care of them. And when you travel, these plants are at a risk of wilting and rotting. But  self-watering planters can save you a lot of time, effort and worry, writes  Swati Kapur

The easiest way to save water, time and energy when it comes to gardening is to invest in self-watering planters. Just a little smart planning and creativity are all that one needs. These planters have a mechanism of retaining water and therefore do not require daily watering. Available in all shapes and sizes, you can find a size to suit your plants — vegetables or flowers.

There are special sizes made just for specific purposes and you will even find decorative self-watering flower pots that can be planted near the main door. Not just small herbs but big plants like peppers, green beans, tomato or lettuce too can find place in a planter. Container gardening can be both beneficial and harmful to a plant; you can easily control the surrounding soil environment, but plant roots can become too dry or too wet depending on watering habits. Self-watering planters offer an alternative way to water the plant, with many benefits. However, soil within the self watering pot perches above a base water reservoir where the plant’s roots can stretch down out of the soil and into the water for nourishment.

The working

The way these pots work is really quite simple. In the pot, there is an area that holds water which is separated from the plant and soil so that the plant’s roots won’t be soaked in water all day, but the water is able to wick up to get to the plant. You add water to the pot from either a tube that sticks just above the soil surface or from the side of the pot just above the reservoir. Instead of watering every day you can look space out your watering and leave a gap of two-three days or more between watering, depending on weather and how sunny the location is.

“The closed system of water irrigation allows the nutrients to stay within the closed environment; any water overflow gets trapped within an attached side wall. When the side wall is full of water, you simply pour it back onto the plant, creating your own water cycle. Nutrients do not get expelled into a garden bed or out of container drain holes. And as a result, the plant flourishes with the healthy nutrient levels,” says nursery owner Gopinath. 


Conserving water, especially in dry climates, is a constant concern for gardeners. Self-watering planters only evaporate some of the water from the soil, mainly after a direct watering from above. The trapped water in the reservoir does not get evaporated with the dense soil covering it; the side wall too retains the water until you pour it back onto the plant. The water used is considerably lower than other pots and plants’ consumption.

Encourages healthy root growth

Savvy gardeners know that shallow watering can lead to shallow root growth; many desired crops, such as tomatoes, have poor fruit growth with improper root supports. The self-watering planters allow you to deep water the container without any issues of root rot.

Water flows to the bottom reservoir which stimulates roots to grow deep to find the moisture supply. Sturdy root systems will produce larger stems and branches above for even more foliage, flowers and fruit, depending on the plant type.

Take your pick

You must have seen pretty planters usually hanging outside Venitian windows or balconies. These pretty things are no more a thing of the west and can be easily found around. Choose from a variety of planters available in the market – patio planter, window box, railing planter, hanging baskets, raised beds, mobile planters or grow carts, stand alone garden planters, trough planter. Some of the pots come with plant food and a growing medium. You can peek through a discrete side window to check out the water supply and fill up as and when there is a need.

Such pots are good for growing mint, chives, lavender, cacti or bamboo, orchids and violets. Then there are special manures and granular plant foods that take care of your plants when you’re out holidaying. Malini from Delhi is on a two-week vacation with her family while her pots and containers are looking after themselves.

“I have converted most of my regular pots into self watering pots and containers and it saves me of my worries when I travel. In fact for my small garden, I make small water routes and connect it to the tap so that once in morning and evening when the water supply comes the whole garden gets irrigated without anyone having to do it. Of course my neighbours have to put the tap on and off but that’s it,” she adds. You can ask for self watering planters from your nearest nursery or even home decor shops. Self watering pots have truly revolutionised the idea of container gardening. They are not just a smart alternative but also remove the biggest pain point in growing greens!