Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hummingbirds - Nectar, How To's & Fun Facts

In the natural world, hummers feed on a combination of flower nectar and
insects. Flower nectar is a simple chemical solution of sugar and water.
Hummers seem to like sucrose best – table sugar – and it is the most
digestible. Making your own nectar ensures that there are no preservatives  
or food coloring. Using tap water will add electrolytes if your water is hard.
If it is soft, add just a pinch of salt to a quart of nectar. Too much salt and
the hummers won’t drink it.

To make your own mixture, bring the water to a boil and stir the sugar into
the hot water at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. The solution will
keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Making your own nectar is
easy and often superior to using packaged mixes, as our experience has
shown that the hummers prefer homemade sugar water.

       Please don’t use food coloring, honey, brown sugar or
       sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummers.

                                    LOTS TO KNOW

 • Besides nectar, Hummingbirds consume protein in the form of insects
which they find inside flowers, on plants and in trees, in spider webs
and in midair as they travel through your yard. Consider that when using
pesticides in your yard and gardens. Hummers also drink water.

• Hummers feed 5 - 8 times an hour.

 • Hummers have the greatest energy output, gram for gram, of any known
 warm-blooded animal. If your sugar water freezes, replace it immediately
 (even at dawn). They rely on established food supplies.

 • A Hummingbird’s wings can beat 200 times per second during courtship!

 • A Hummingbird’s tongue is roughly twice the length of its beak. It licks
 the nectar. (Approximately 13 licks per second!) You might see its beak
 and think that it can’t reach the nectar in the bottom of the feeder. Look
 closely with binoculars to see the tongue.

• The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest hummingbird in the world at
2" long, weighing 1⁄15 of an ounce!
Under no circumstance should insecticides or other poisons be used at
Hummingbird feeders.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vegetable Garden Planning - Sun & Soil

I am getting ready to plant our 2nd ever vegetable garden and so was looking for some good articles to help me out on the topic.  Last year was my first year doing one and let's just say I bit off more than I could chew.  I didn't know much about soil and didn't think much about fertilizing it to get the best results.  And we don't even have an outside hydrant so I had to hand-carry one water can at a time out to the garden and water as much as I had time for, which usually ended up just being my tomato and pepper plants and that was it! I just figured mother nature would do the rest.  Needless to say, our garden was not as productive as I had anticipated.  So I thought I'd do some research first and share it with you all!  Happy Vegetable Gardening...

Sun and Soil
Good vegetable garden planning requires that you meet two special requirements: sun and soil. Vegetables can be fussy and they are very specific about their sun and soil needs.
You must have a garden bed that receives a minimum of six hours of full sun each day. The more sun, the better your garden will be. Your harvest will be bigger and your vegetables will taste better. A garden that faces south and has good space between the rows (six inches or so) will generally produce a better crop.
The other unbending requirement is good soil. You must have proper soil, but what is that? How do you know if your soil is good for a vegetable garden?
Fertile soil for the vegetable garden should be loose, brown dirt. It should shake easily through your fingers. It has to be rich in nutrients and organic matter. You may use commercial fertilizers or manure to enrich the soil. If you have a friend with a horse of two, offer to clean his stable. Horse manure is great fertilizer.
The soil should also be just a bit acidic. The pH should be about 6.5. A pH reading of seven means your soil is neutral. Any reading above seven means that it is alkaline and a lower number means acidic. You can pick up a cheap testing kit at your local nursery or home care store. If the soil is too alkaline, just add a little peat moss and work it into the soil. If it is too acidic, add lime.
Just a side note: flowers and flowering bushes require more alkaline soil than vegetables. While your flowers may bloom when planted against your vegetable garden, they will generally produce bigger flowers and more of them if the soil in which they are planted has a pH a little above 7. Having said that, there are certain flowers (marigolds, etc.) that you may want to put in among your vegetables to help ward off pests.
When in doubt, don't hesitate to call your county agent or the manager at your local nursery. These folks have probably been active gardeners for a while and they can provide you with information specific to your area. What's more, they will be delighted to help. Vegetable gardeners love to talk shop!
Good sun and soil can make all the difference in the success of your garden. Begin at the beginning with great vegetable garden planning and reap the rewards of your labor all summer long.
A guy has celery sticking out of one ear, lettuce out of the other, and a zucchini up his nose. He goes to the doctor and asks him what's wrong. The doctor tells him, "Well, for one thing, you're not eating right." I love that joke! If you like it too, you'll love the information we have at Vegetable Garden Planning. If you like great bargains, check out Blue Topaz Gemstone. See you there!

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