Window boxes for wildlife


Neil Cumins from explains how to assemble the ultimate window box to attract wildlife to your home.

There’s a common assumption that only people with gardens get to enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening. In fact, that’s not the case. Whether you live in a terraced house or a tower block, you can nurture plants and give birds and insects a place to visit by installing a window box.

Despite their compact dimensions, window boxes can provide a wealth of opportunities for enjoying the natural world – providing they’re assembled correctly. There are some common mistakes many first-time window box owners make – avoiding these should ensure your box is attractive and sustainable even during less clement seasons.

Bigger is not always better

Do not buy the biggest window box on the market. Measure up to ensure your preferred box will fit comfortably and be fully accessible outside your chosen window. Many people want to position window boxes in their kitchens for watering and potting purposes, but could you reach every corner over a worktop or sink unit? Leaning out of a window is inadvisable for all sorts of reasons.

Wood is good

Although plastic and metal boxes are more durable than timber, these inflexible materials can stifle the roots inside them. The same is true of clay pots, which are also heavy and could be difficult to lift or secure into place. Wood may eventually rot, but it’s far more sustainable, and you could always recycle the timber.

Line the box properly

Any good window box will have pre-drilled holes in its base for drainage but add a layer of gravel or pebbles to stop soil being washed away by heavy rain. Environmentally-friendly jute or coconut fibre liners protect the inside of the box, making it easier to clean out when seasonal plants like flowers need removing. These liners also need a few holes cutting in them, to let water drain through.

Mix perennial and seasonal plants

Flowers have a naturally limited lifespan but try to have nectar-rich plants flowering for as much of the year as possible. Window boxes are an ideal place for growing herbs, which provide intoxicating aromas and ingredients for cooking. Intersperse seasonal plants with hardy perennials to provide year-round interest and opportunities to maintain the box throughout colder months.

Work with nature

Flowers attract insects, so look for ‘perfect for pollinators’ labels when choosing seasonal plants or study the RHS’s Plants for Pollinators list online. Herbs like oregano and rosemary are also valuable in this regard. Your window box’s contents may be influenced by which way the window faces – mint can grow in shady conditions, whereas basil and thyme need plenty of sunshine.

Preserve the soil

Investing in quality soil ensures plants have more nutrients and minerals to draw from. Periodically adding fertilisers high in phosphates helps to tackle diseases and strengthen root systems, while it’s important not to allow window boxes to either flood or dry out. Soil should be damp to the touch, with no standing water.

Header photo by John Little


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