On this page, our members share information, tips, and tidbits about gardening, native plants, and wildlife. Enjoy!
Photo by: Ian Edwards
Despite the white stuff covering our yards today, spring has actually started in New England, and it is time to think about feeding the hummingbirds returning to our area.
It is important to remember how special this mighty little bird is to the pollination of our flowers and plants. These tiny birds probe hundreds of flowers for sugary nectar as often as 18 times per hour. Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates in the animal kingdom. To meet this demanding need to feed, hummingbirds rely both on their physical prowess and impressive cognitive skills. The area of the animals’ brains responsible for memory is, proportionately, among the largest in the aviary kingdom. “They can remember not only a specific yard that they visited in the past, but also which plants in it have more nectar and even where homeowners placed their feeders,” says Sheri Williamson, author of “The Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America".
Hummingbirds do not depend on scent to find flowers. They use their strong vision and ability to hover to locate nectar-rich plants with long tubular flowers such as trumpet honeysuckle and columbine. Tubular flowers are perfectly shaped to transmit pollen to the foreheads of these long-billed birds to the benefit of the birds and blooms. Hummers look for orange, yellow, purple and red flowers. It is important if you plant to make sure the plants have overlapping blooming seasons.
It does not matter the size of your yard. Plants and a sugar water feeder are all you need to attract hummingbirds. Fill feeders with a solution of four parts water and white sugar. Never use honey, and replace every three to five days in cool weather. Clean the feeders before refilling, and in hot weather, keep feeders in the shade and change the water daily. Hot water ferments faster in the heat and creates a health hazard for the birds. Resist the urge to knock down spider webs during the breeding season. Hummingbirds use the webs to hold together their cup nests and to probe for insects. Scientists say a single hummingbird can eat hundreds of insects a day.
Prep Your Gardening Tools before the Season Begins
Brush off caked-on dirt from shovels.
Disinfect with 2 parts bleach and 5 parts water and rinse.
Mix a non-petroleum oil, such as boiled linseed oil or mineral oil, with sand in a bucket.
Dip shovel into sand mixture, shake or wipe off. It is ready for the garden. This keeps the rust away.
Use cotton dipped in alcohol to clean loppers, pruners, scissors. Sharpen with a diamond file. Follow the bevel of the cutting edge, stroking in one direction only, and wipe with a clean cloth when finished. Sap can be removed from cutting tools with mineral spirits or turpentine.
Sharpen edges of garden forks, shovels, spaces, and hoes with a diamond file. Follow the bevel of the shovel edge, stroking away in one direction only. A Fiskhar file works well. Or take your tools to the hardware store to sharpen.
Starting mid-April, you can divide most hardy perennials that are 3 years or older, before plants get too large. Use a sharp spade, knife, or small garden forks to divide your plant. Dig a new hole first, putting potting soil or your good garden soil in the bottom half of the hole or pot. Water the soil until moist. Dig up the entire perennial plant. Divide it in half or thirds. Place the newly divided plant into the hole or pot, making it the same depth as the original plant. Fill with soil and press firmly. Water, leaving a small 1" elevated ridge of soil (like a little wall) a few inches beyond the plant, in order to hold the water. Place the perennial back into its original hole, fill, and water as described above. Then enjoy watching everything grow!