Nature on Your Doorstep is sponsored by Barratt Developments PLC, who is supporting the RSPB to get gardens, balconies and other outdoor spaces blooming and buzzing with life. Read about our wider partnership and commitments to nature-friendly homes.
Make your balcony or small space wildlife friendly
Brighten your day with the sound of birdsong or the heady scent of flowers blooming on your balcony or small space. However small your outdoor space, we’ve some great ideas to welcome wildlife into your world.
Top five ways to welcome wildlife
Here’s how to turn your balcony or urban backyard into a beautiful haven for nature:
1. Get growing – plant wildlife-friendly plants
2. Add water – provide a small water feature such as a bird bath
3. Add fascinating features – use logs or stones to create areas of interest
4. Welcome them in – put up a nest box for birds or a bee hotel
5. Feed the birds – bring in the birds with a bird feeder
Please check what limits there are on your balcony such as: weight restrictions, safely securing any items, managing any fire safety risks and making sure your balcony is safe for children, and adjust our suggestions below to fit them.
Plant wildlife-friendly flowers in tubs, containers or planters. Variety really is the spice of life. Choose different plants that flower at different times of the year, so insects can always find food. Here are our top five suggestions:
- Grow a trough of herbs such as marjoram, thyme and sage. They’re all brilliant for bees, and your kitchen
- Trailing Nasturtium – train this right over the side of your balcony and you’ll have a display full of super coloured flowers, and much better for wildlife than most hanging basket plants. They’re easy to grow from seed too
- Add a patio fruit tree – you’ll be rewarded with blossom in the spring, fruit in the summer and all the while providing food and shelter for wildlife
- Crocus – plant these bulbs in the autumn and you’ll have a welcome burst of sunshine in the spring to get your balcony buzzing
- Single flowered Dahlia such as Bishop of Llandaff or Happy Flame. Dahlias produce wonderful large flowers that wildlife can see from afar and they go on flowering from July to the first frosts.
When greening up your small space think about:
- Using containers of different shapes and sizes and grouping your plants together. This helps the plants retain humidity, plus it can make for a stunning display! The larger the pot, the easier it is to keep plants happy and healthy
- Choosing plants that like to climb or grow against walls are great for small spaces. You can train them against a wall or up and over a balcony railing
- Small trees or shrubs that can be grown in large pots – as well as adding interest to your space, a tree can be a great place to hang a bird feeder!
Water for life!
Even a small water feature can help wildlife. Large tubs and containers, or even old sinks, make excellent water features that can also provide a home for nature. Meanwhile a large plate or shallow container can make a great bird bath.
To create a mini-pond:
- Choose your container. This could be anything from a washing-up bowl to an old sink
- Place a layer of gravel at the bottom of your water feature – don’t use soil or compost
- Add large pebbles, bricks and small logs in your feature to ensure that wildlife can get in and out
- You can also add pond plants including pondweed. As the pond matures, the plants and creatures that make it their home should help keep it clean
- Birds may well come to drink and bathe and, in time, you may enjoy signs of life from tiny water beetles to elegant pondskaters.
Add interesting features
Enhance your outdoor space by adding logs, stones or cobbles in, on or around tubs and planters.
- Logs, stones and cobbles provide areas for small creatures to shelter, that in turn could encourage birds and are readily available in garden centres and DIY stores. Logs can also support communities of mosses and lichens.
- You can create a decorative effect by grouping logs or stones on, around or in planters
- Branches make ideal perches for insects or birds
- Be sure not to remove logs and branches from hedges and woodlands. Ask around or buy branches and logs from a tree surgeon.
Remember to ensure that all the materials you add are securely positioned so that there is no risk of them falling.
Give birds and bugs a home
Why not provide a home for wildlife by putting up a nest box or adding an insect box.
- You could make your own or buy one – you’ll find several different types in our RSPB online shop
- A bird nest box is best placed at least 2m from the ground and should face between north and east. Be sure to place the box away in a quiet spot and in a place that cats cannot easily reach
- Bee hotels are best facing a warm sunny aspect and located positioned at about waist or chest height near to your bee-friendly plants. You can even build your own bee B&B
- It’s important to keep bird nest boxes clean. Every autumn (September onwards) dispose of any contents and rinse the box with a dilute solution of disinfectant in warm water.
Feed the birds
A great way to welcome wildlife into your space is by providing food for birds. You'll not only be rewarded with regular visits but close-up views too:
- Feeding birds can help populations that may otherwise struggle. Even a window feeder can work wonders
- One great way to attract birds is to put up a hanging feeder containing sunflower hearts
- These are very popular with finches, tits and sparrows. Use a ‘guardian feeder’ with an outer mesh cage to deter larger visitors such as pigeons
- It’s important to regularly clean your bird feeders to help keep the birds who use them healthy.