Friday, August 21, 2015

Welcoming Hummingbirds to Your Garden

photo by Denis Fournier
I was hoping to do this post earlier in the gardening season, but here it is nearing the end of August. Better late than never. ;) There might be enough time to implement some of these ideas in your garden this year, or there is always next year.

In my area we get ruby-throated hummingbirds, so this info is really specific to them, although it may be helpful for folks who get other hummingbird species. 

Hummingbird Feeders

one of our feeders in our pollinator garden
Probably the most obvious way to attract hummingbirds to your garden is to use feeders. These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes as well as price ranges. We have a few different ones, and I really recommend using non-plastic feeders. 

Ruby-throated hummers can be quite territorial, so try hanging a few in different spots in your garden, that way everyone has a shot at one of the feeders. It is also good to place them at least 5 feet from the ground to try and avoid predatory cats. 

We put out our feeders in early May and will leave them up until the later part of Autumn, that way any early comers and those who leave later will have a food source. 

While there are nectar solutions available on the market, I recommend making your own. Nectar is made with a simple ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part white sugar {please do not use maple syrup, honey or food colouring!}, bringing both to a boil just enough to dissolve the sugar, and of course let it cool off fully before putting it into your feeders. Sometimes I will have some nectar left over which I will store in the fridge for no more than 2 days. 

If you notice your nectar looking cloudy after being out, it is definitely time to change it. When it is cooler out I will change mine every 2 or 3 days, and once a day when it is hot out. 

Keeping feeders clean and free of fungus is so important, or else hummers can get very sick or die from a fungal infection. I clean ours every time I refill our feeders with nectar, using very hot water and scrubbing with a bottle brush. If I see black mold I will use some hydrogen peroxide on it and rinse very well. This video below has some good tips on how to clean your feeders:

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Another great way to attract hummers is by growing plants rich in nectar. There are so many great varieties out there and many of them are low maintenance. Below is a list of praise-worthy plants that  I have noticed hummers flocking to:

Bleeding Heart
Butterfly Weed
Cardinal Flower
Coral Bells
Pincushion Flower
Scarlet Runner Bean
Smart Weed
Sweet William

Other Little Things

photo by dw_ross
There are a few other things that you could do to make your gardening a welcoming place to hummingbirds, such as providing water and shelter. 

We have birdbaths scattered throughout our yard, and I have even seen hummers making use of the bee watering stations we have set up too. There are hummingbird houses available out there, which I have never personally used before, but having trees and large bushes around create some safety from predators and perhaps even nesting spots is another option.

Something else that can be done to make your garden a sanctuary for hummers and other critters is by using no synthetic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides and leaving at least one spot "wild". To find out more about this whole idea, check out some of my previous posts No Man's Land: Keep a Piece Wild and A Critter Hotel.



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