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June 2012
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Hummingbirds are creatures of habit

By Carolyn Roof

Hummingbirds are one of our most popular birds for their beautiful iridescent coloring and amazing aerobatics.

Normally, the scouts appear early May but the weather delayed them, and a new feeder at the house was a put-off. Hummers are very much creatures of habit. The secret to attracting them is to hang the same feeders in the same locations each year, according to "Wild Bill" Gordon, director of High Adventure Wilderness School.

Gordon says that the dominant male has only two things on his mind: eating and reproduction. They otherwise ignore the females. The female's focus is on nests, and their feeders should be out of the line of sight of the male's feeder. Gordon notes that the young are taught were they are born and return each year. He says his hummingbirds know him and, when he goes out on his porch, they hover around him.

The general knowledge is that there is only one hummingbird east of the Mississippi and that is Ruby-throated. According to Gordon, there are 14 others; we just don't recognize them. It is not unusual to see one feeding in January.

Hang feeders near a perch or shrub where they can rest. Due to their high-energy requirements they are constantly feeding and spent 80 percent of their time resting. Their nutrient is one part sugar and four parts water. Never use honey as it forms a growth in their throats that kills them, and artificial sweeteners have no nutrients.

Clean the feeder with vinegar and water every three days to prevent mold from growing.

To control ants and wasps, apply petroleum jelly to the feeding tube and on the cord or wire and add an ant moat. Most feeders have a bee trap on large tubes. To drawn them to the feeders plant bright red, orange and hot pink impatiens, lantana, petunia, salvia, and verbena flowers nearby and New Guinea impatiens in partial shade to keep them around.

Things to do

The forecast is for a dry week. Water as needed in the morning and avoid getting foliage wet.

â ¢ 15 Minute Gardening - Make a batch of sugar water for the hummingbirds and store up to three days in the refrigerator. Change water at least every three days and clean the feeder with vinegar and water.

â ¢ Garden - Plant summer natives coneflower, bee balm, and liatris for summer nectar sources, and for native asters, goldenrods, Joe Pye weed, and perennial sunflowers for fall sources. Add one tablespoon Epsom salts (magnesium) to rose fertilizer feedings.

When working fertilizers into the soil avoid contact with foliage. For thicker English ivy growth monthly water with a mix of ammonia one-fourth teaspoon to one-gallon water. Fertilizer geraniums with manure "tea."

Manure tea: Place one-part cow manure in a bag and steep in two parts water for a couple of days. Wring out the bag to get all of the nutrients or hang or the container to drain. To use dilute until it is the color of light tea.

â ¢ Herbs - Pinch flowers of herbs to produce bushier plants and retain the essential oils in the foliage. The exception is lavender to be dried for lavender wands.

â ¢ Vegetables - Place cages around indeterminate (vining up to 10 feet) tomatoes for support. Jet Start, Arkansas Traveler Heirloom and Better Boy are indeterminate. Determinate varieties are bushy and do not need cages except to keep the fruit off of the ground. They include Better Bush and Bush Early Girl. The former are continual producers, the latter produce at one time. Place onion skins around cucumbers to discourage squash bugs and cucumber beetles.

â ¢ Event - June 19 and 22, McCracken County Fair Flower Show, Floral Hall, Carson Park. Horticulture entries received Monday, June 19, and pre-registered design entries on Thursday. Fair admission is required.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at carolynroof02@gmail.com.

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