Attracting wild life to your balcony: Lots of people on the internet tell you lots of things are easy. But the truth is there are no hacks. The truth requires a little faith and plenty of boredom. Vines creeping out of the ground to climb a Trellis, small sprouts that in time form a sheltering habitat for birds. It's still early in the season. Water, wait and see what happens. Wait again. Wait for Hellweg to open because you forgot it is Easter Monday. Stop pressing your nose against the glass. Things happen in their own time.
If you want wild life on your balcony start with a plastic bag. This is the sad truth. We live in the city and buy our soil in a bag. So buy the best, put down that hydrophobic supermarket dust and invest in a good peat free compost. Bauhaus has a good one called 'Bio HochBeet' Erde. Spend more than you intended to spend. feel stupid. Your stupidity is a small act of faith, the world needs it. Feel stupid. Enjoy it. Mix the plastic bag earth with some real stuff from the world- I don't care how you get it, I wont tell anyone.
Now grow some climbing perennial plants, grow some plants along original lines- bees find double blooms (flowers where the center is not clear) a lot like trying to land a helicopter without a landing pad. Look for the species type- species type being the type that grows in the wild-or at least plants with a nodding resemblance to their wild selves. Look for plants with a clear landing center.
Putting real soil in the mix introduces important microbes to the plastic bag earth. Make an insect hotel and stick it a corner, a simple insect hotel can be made from a small bundle of sticks pushed inside the inner tube from a toilet roll. If you don't like looking at old toilet rolls on your balcony just tie up a few bundles of twigs and leave them in a corner behind some pots. This is a Love hotel for centipedes and lady birds. Centipedes are fantastic scary looking predators scaring away all the duller more destructive bugs and I won't insult you by describing lady birds.
Be messy. Leave some dirt behind your pots as a habitat for insects. Build communities of plants rather than single sad specimens. I mean by this to attempt some sort of balcony 'permaculture': group plants close together that occupy different ecological niches- for example, a taller potted tree with a potted shrub underneath and below that a small spreading plant. A good combination would be dwarf hazel with blueberry underneath followed by wild strawberry.
Mulch the pots. This means adding a layer of insulating material on top of the bare soil like a bed cover. Mulching stops the pots drying out so you can water less. It also stops the rain from washing out the nutrients from the compost. A good mulch for pots is wood chips. You can also use stones- this is called rock mulching and was practiced by the people of Easter island. The point is to keep the moisture in and the weeds OUT. Grass clippings are a good one too, but let's face it- where in hell are you going to get those from? are you going to put them in your bag on your way home from work? what? Now wait. The magic is happening.
Above: our latest plan for a wild life friendly balcony in Neukoln