Wildlife Gardening on a Balcony
Even if all you have is a balcony, you can still attract plenty of birds and butterflies with wildlife gardening.
When visiting my father in Ohio earlier this summer, I was reminded of just how little space it really takes to attract wildlife. At my own home in Florida, I have about a tenth of an acre for wildlife gardening, and have managed to attract more than one hundred species of birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles, and more. My father, in a rental home in Ohio, has just a little room for gardening, but he makes good use of the space. Simply using the space on his back balcony, he attract butterflies and birds that he can watch comfortably from his living room easy chair!
Adjusting the rules of wildlife gardening to fit your space is pretty easy. Here are some tips for each category:
- Food. Use shepherd’s hooks that are designed especially to be mounted to railings, and hang a variety of nectar plants in hanging baskets for butterflies and hummingbirds. Do the same for bird feeders – don’t forget a hummingbird feeder. If you’re worried about mess from seed feeders, look for sunflower chips, which come without the shells, and buy a feeder that has a tray underneath to catch the overflow.
- Water. There are some really cool bird baths available now that are meant to be mounted to a deck railing. There are even heated versions you can use in the winter as long as you have a grounded outlet nearby.
- Shelter. If you have trees nearby your balcony, this will help automatically with shelter. If not, consider adding a couple of small shrubs in pots nearby your feeders, so birds have a place to perch as they scope out the situation. In the winter, mount a roosting box for birds to take shelter from frigid winds.
- A Place to Raise Young. Not all birds will comfortably nest on a balcony so close to people, but wrens of all types are usually happy to nest just about anywhere. Provide a small nesting box, or try an old-fashioned wren jar, like the kind colonial people mounted near their doors to attracting nesting wrens that would keep pest bugs in check. For butterflies, try adding a few small host plants, like milkweed and parsley, mixed with nectar plants to create all-in-one butterfly planters.
Don’t forget to provide yourself with a comfortable place nearby to watch your visitors. My father’s tiny wildlife habitat attracts several dozen species of birds, and is regularly visited by butterflies of all sizes. In the winter, it’s easy for him to step out onto the balcony to fill feeders and add water to the birdbath, except in the very worst weather. Small space wildlife gardening offers a lot of great rewards for very minimal effort. Give it a try!