Magazine: Robin’s View — 30.06.21
Urban Gardens In The Sky
Words SARAH ROBIN
Column ROBIN’S VIEW
Column ROBIN’S VIEW
You do not actually need a garden to be able to curate a beautiful space for both yourself and wildlife. Balconies and window areas can be transformed to provide food sources and shelter for birds and insects, whether you are on the 3rd or 13th floor. These spaces are not just for the benefit of the wildlife. Enjoy creating beautiful, relaxing spaces to escape from busy day-to-day life and connect with nature. You may be surprised at the difference little changes can make.
As space is limited, use climbing plants such as ivy to quickly transform a dull concrete balcony into an attractive green space. Ivy can produce berries, providing a vital food source for insects and birds throughout the harsh winter months as well as providing shelter for nests and roosting throughout the year. Ivy’s protective qualities can help shield walls from frost and pollution as well as keeping walls warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Sunflowers are also a great food source for insects and birds, and are quick and easy to grow. The bright colours can attract birds, as they associate the colours with food. The flowers make it an attractive place of rest for wildlife, especially if there is food and water available. A regular supply of clean water is as important for birds for hydration and bathing as it is for us. Position clean water in a shallow dish or tray on the floor or on an outdoor tabletop, making sure to replenish it when needed.
Butterflies are attracted to plants such as marigolds, peonies, poppies, sunflowers and dill. Consider buying or making a wooden butterfly house (which looks similar to a birdhouse), using a long thin slit at the front, rather than the usual circular shape used for bird boxes. Butterfly houses should be positioned at least four feet off the ground in an area which receives plenty of sunlight.
Lavender is great to use in window boxes along with rosemary – both beautifully fragrant plants which are known for attracting butterflies. Rosemary can also be used to accompany herbs such as parsley, basil and chives to create green spaces on kitchen windowsills, providing a constant supply of herbs for cooking alongside their pleasing aesthetics.
Use pollinating plants such as lavender and honeysuckle in brightly coloured pots outdoors for a more vibrant look. If you attract insects, you will attract birds. For other sources of food, use hanging bird feeders away from the edge of the balcony to prevent debris from dropping onto the ground below. Alternatively, use a tray on the floor with a mixture of seeds and dried mealworms for optimum nutritional value.
For windows, bird feeders and bird boxes can be fixed to glass using suction cups. Having birds so close to a window provides a great opportunity to see them up close without the need for binoculars. They are unlikely to be startled by your presence as they may not see past the reflection of the glass and will soon get used to their surroundings if there are no sudden movements near the area.
Bird boxes for balconies should be positioned away from the balcony edge to provide shelter from strong winds and heavy rain. It is best not to use more than one bird box per balcony as many birds are territorial and so may become aggressive if other birds come too close.
Birds prefer a natural wood box as it mimics their natural surroundings of trees and hedgerows, providing familiarity and comfort. As tempting as it is to create a comfortable environment inside the box by filling it with what we think they would like, it is best to leave the box empty. This allows for the birds to gather their own materials to make their new home suitable for them. It’s also best not to approach the bird and butterfly boxes after setting them up so as to not disturb or scare away potential inhabitants.
Want to take it one step further? Purchase a wildlife camera to fit inside the boxes to see the fascinating process for yourself, of birds settling into new homes and if you’re lucky, to watch eggs hatch and the birds feeding their young. Alternatively, buy a bird guide or spend time researching different birds and keep a diary of the different species you spot and if their frequency in visits changes with the seasons. Design, nurture and explore urban gardens in the sky.
Sarah Robin is a writer from the north of England who cares for the environment, wildlife and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.
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