“Buckets of Biodiversity”

Galvanised Metal Buckets have been the “building blocks” of my wildlife balcony:

They’re cheap, look great and are relatively easy to move around and reposition.

They’re big enough to grow decent sized plants in and, with the right growing medium, they don’t dry out too quickly, either.

They also last “forever”!

“Ingredients” for this simple project:

  • Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl –  cheap and easily available from   “poundshop” type stores (though I’ve never yet managed to get one for a pound!)  I’m always careful to make sure that the bowl is wider than the base of each bucket, before buying it.
  • Stiff Wire – 2 lengths per bucket. Obtainable from most DIY stores or hardware shops. I used copper wire though I could also have used a wire coat-hanger, cut in half. *
  • A Galvanised Metal Bucket (of course!) Cheap, versatile and readily available from most DIY and hardware stores.

I very carefully drilled 3 drainage holes into the base of the bucket. It was better, and safer for me, to place the bucket upside down and drill through the base that way. This is because the drilled holes can be jagged and so its better that the jagged edges are on the inside of the bucket- where they will eventually be covered in soil- and so less likely to cut my fingers.

I then very carefully drilled a hole in either side of the bowl’s lip(as illustrated)*

Once the 2 holes had been drilled into the bowl’s lip,  I placed my bucket on the bowl and threaded a stiff wire through each hole (in the bowl’s lip) and then up into the  corresponding holes – where  the handle connects with the bucket (as shown below). With a pair of pliers, I carefully twisted and tightened both ends of each wire so that the bowl was held firmly in place and pulled tightly into the base of the bucket. *

When I finally planted up each bucket, the attached bowl helped to retain the water and help to reduce overall watering. If I’m ever worried about over-watering  my plants, I simply pour water into the bowl itself (rather than into the bucket) and a process known as “capillary action” draws the water up towards the thirsty plants. I  just stop adding water when the water stays in the bowl and ceases to be drawn upwards.

My balcony has suitably strong “wire mesh” type panels which has allowed me to maximise my very limited space , by suspending my buckets(on the inside of the balcony)using “S” hooks. I simply attach one end of the hook to the bucket handle and the other end gets attached to the mesh panel. This gives me lots of flexibility in terms of easily repositioning buckets as and when I see fit(for better light, more shelter, etc)

“S” Hooks. Readily available from hardware and kitchenware shops
* NB. For those buckets where I know I’ll be placing them on the balcony floor , (and NOT suspending them with “S” hooks),  I don’t bother to attach the bowls to the buckets with wire. I just sit the bucket on the bowl. Obviously!

Honey Bee - attracted to the nectar rich "spring bucket" which is planted up with miniature daffodils and grape hyacinths.

 Subject to the load bearing capacity and size of the balcony , it’s also possible to consider using much bigger galvanised metal containers –  which then gives scope for growing bigger climbers and small shrubs. For example, I’ve used a galvanised metal dustbin to grow a large climbing hydrangea(loved by hoverflies). The volume of soil used means it doesn’t dry out as quickly as a bucket and allows the roots a lot more growing room.Clearly, the usual  poundshop “drip bowls” , which I’d normally get for my buckets , would not be anywhere big enough for the base of the dustbin. I addressed this problem by heading out to one of the bigger, local Asian supermarkets and got a very large(catering size) stainless mixing bowl from there. When I got it home, the bowl fitted under the dustbin  nicely – with room to spare.

Once I’d finished preparing my buckets and other containers, the next step was  on deciding what sort of growing medium to use?