Your Backyard is a Hummingbird's Home
Apr 20, 2014
Your Backyard’s Important
I heard the first hummingbird last week, out in the snow and cold, and realized it’s time to clean and hang the feeders! The best recipe to fill feeders mixes one part regular white table sugar to 4 parts water; this ratio most closely resembles plant nectar and is all they need. Do not use artificial no-calorie sweeteners, agave nectar, honey, molasses, boxed mixes or red dye or coloring. Not only can they be harmful, but they also provide nothing to the birds. Just use plain white table sugar. This provides a quick energy boost for hummingbirds so they can catch insects and bugs, their real food and nourishment. (Kind of like coffee- gets us going, but doesn’t provide lasting nutrition.)
It's also important to remember to keep your feeders clean. Change out the solution at least every 3-4 days if the hummingbirds aren't emptying it by then. You can always make smaller batches and fill it more frequently, especially in hot weather, if the hummingbirds aren't emptying the feeder.
If you want to attract hummingbirds to your yard and feeder, there’s no better way than to add a few of their favorite plants to your yard. As natural habitats are lost to development, your backyard can provide important shelter and food for birds, butterflies and bees. Just avoid using pesticides; they kill the insects the birds eat, and can harm butterflies and bees. Add a source of fresh water and your backyard plays an important role in keeping the birds, bees, and butterflies around.
We offer a lot of plants that hummingbirds are attracted to below is a brief sample of what's available. We are also involved in the annual Hummingbird Festival at Starsmore Discovery Center.The following plants grow well in Colorado Springs, don’t require any special treatment, and have colorful flowers that are irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies too!
-Hummingbird Mints (Agastache)- hummingbird magnets!
-Beard’s Tounge and Columbine- our native wildflowers, spring to summer blooms
-Honeysuckle Vines like Major Wheeler, Blanche Sandman, Magnifica : irresistible tubular flowers
-Bee Balm (Monarda)- large purple, pink or red flowered varieties, butterfly favorite too!
-Sage (Salvia)- annual and perennial varieties, red flowered are the most attractive.
-Coral Bells (Heuchera): butterflies too!
-Annual Hanging Baskets – Fuschia, petunia, Lantana
-Butterfly Bush – Butterflies too!
Mycor-what? Fungi Fit Soils
Mar 22, 2014
Notice how everyone is talking about mycorrhizae lately? It's the one thing you want in your soil and will reap great benefits from once it's added to it, but what exactly is it and what's going on?
Well, simply, mycorrhizae are fungi that live in the soil, grow in and around root surfaces, and as a result, extend root surface area by up to 100-1000 times its normal range. This means the plant gains access to water and nutrients well beyond what it could normally find on its own. Obviously, this is not harmful to the plant, and is a mutualistic relationship. In exchange for its increased access to food and water, the plant offers the fungi a meal of carbohydrates and glucose manufactured by the plant through photosynthesis. Most plants (90%) live with some sort of relationship with mycorrhizae but drought, tilling, chemicals and neglect can reduce existing natural populations.
Mycorrhizae fungi also excrete enzymes that break down soil nutrients into components that the roots can absorb. The relationship becomes especially important in nutrient poor soils where plants need as much help as they can get. Research has also shown that plant roots with strong mycorrihizal activity are more drought tolerant and can resist root diseases better. Some plants are even 'mycorrhizal-obligate' meaning they can't survive without their fungal partners. One of these plants is the western sagebrush, which helps explain how that plant survives in such harsh conditions, like the deserts of the southwest.
Mycorrhizae are a 'must have' whenever you plant a tree, shrub, perennial or vegetable plant. This is an inexpensive and easy way to give your plants a helping hand in avoiding transplant shock, getting established in your yard, and adapting to their new environment. They are sold usually mixed with bone meal and sprinkled into the hole when planting or added to potting soils and compost. Stop by Summerland Gardens and talk to us about what we recommend. Add some fungi to your life today, and not just on your pizza.
Photo of two plants, one treated with mycorrhizal fungi, one without. From Alpha Thrive.