Pimp my balcony

After last week’s post on making a pond, I was challenged to make a balcony friendly activity. Of course, you could put a mini-pond on your balcony, but if you’re a few stories up, you’re only going to get a subset of nature (the flying sort) colonising it.

You can, at great expense, buy balcony planters. These clever little pots are either designed to sit on the top of a rail, or come with hooks to hold them on, but there are much cheaper ways of doing this. For the price of a single hooked pot, you can have an entire planting wall. All you need is a cloth shoe organiser or a “bed pocket” – storage designed to hang off the wooden edge of a bed. The cloth pockets in both of these are ideal for filling with compost. Both cost €5-10 and can be bought online (given we’re in lockdown!). Google took me to Argos and Ikea – no I’m not on commission – but much more awesome if you can support a local Irish retailer. Shoe organisers (left) contain more pockets, but bed pockets (right) tend to come in fancy colours.

All you need to do is hang your new cloth planter on the rail of your balcony, fill the pockets with compost, and then plant whatever you’d like to have on your balcony. Water your pockets and check that the excess water runs through. If the fabric is very close weave, you might need to stick a few holes through with a knitting needle. Remember that some plants have a preference for sun or shade, so think about exactly where you’re going to hang your cloth planter before you choose your plants. You might also like to choose plants that have strong smells – honeysuckle, freesias, or herbs like mint or rosemary – so that you get the smells of nature too. And think about size, and how the plant grows. If you opt for using bed pockets, you might like to plant them with trailing plants like lobelia or begonias.

Many plants can be grown really well from a small cutting: just put it in water and watch the roots develop and plant it in a bit of compost once it’s got a few roots. So if you see neighbouring balconies looking splendid, why not ask you neighbour for a cutting?

You might also to try a few of our previous nature activities too that could help pimp your balcony:

You could hang a Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder from a nail in the wall, from a window latch, or even a hat stand, as long as you’re not too many stories up (in which case the birds might struggle to find your feeder).

If you’ve space, why not grow sunflowers in pots. The colour is beautiful, and the birds will like the seeds in autumn.

Published by Louise Allcock

Professor of Zoology at NUI Galway

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