University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
HUMMINGBIRDS AND OTHER MAY GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Feeding hummingbirds, handling large containers, and
using row covers are some of the gardening tips for this month.
you have a very large container, such as a half barrel, you don't need to fill it
totally with soil. A depth of one foot is enough for most container plants. Set
plastic pots upside-down in the bottom of the barrel, then cover them with a
false bottom of thin plywood or another sturdy material. Then you just need to
fill the top half with soil.
We've also used Styrofoam peanuts to
take up space, but invariably they mix with the soil and it gets messy when you
try to clean out the container and add fresh soil the following year. Another option is to fill around the upturned
pots with an inexpensive organic material such as bark mulch, sawdust, or wood
To reduce watering,
incorporate water-absorbing crystals into the potting mix when you plant. It's
hard to add them afterwards. They are
especially useful for hanging baskets lined with coir (the fibrous mat made
from coconut husks). Since clay pots dry
out faster than plastic, use plastic pots set inside clay pots to help hold in
moisture. Grouping pots together also will help reduce
Use clay or metal "plant
feet" underneath large containers to help with drainage and to keep pots
from staining wood decks and steps. For heavy indoor plants that you summer
outdoors, use plant trivets with four casters to make transporting them less
backbreaking. There is even a strap you
can purchase for large pots that makes lifting by two people much easier.
Use row covers to protect
seedbeds from marauding birds. Once the seedlings are two or three inches tall,
it's probably safe to remove the covers. Or you can keep them in place for
awhile to exclude pests and remove them once plants begin to flower so pollinators
can do their jobs.
up hummingbird feeders early in May, as that is when these small birds usually return and
can use good nutrition after their long migration northward from Central America. To
make your own hummingbird food, use one part sugar to four parts water. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then let cool
before filling your feeders. Don’t add
food coloring or any other sweetener. Replace the liquid at least every week,
more in warmer summer weather. You can track online just where hummingbirds are in
their migration (www.hummingbirds.net/map.html).
Even if you put up hummingbird
feeders, also plant some of their favorite flowers, such as fuchsias, salvias,
columbines, nicotiana (flowering tobacco), trumpet vine, bleeding hearts,
foxgloves, and others that have trumpet-shaped blooms. They are attracted to
the color red, but they visit flowers of other colors, too, as long as they are
the right shape.
Return to Perry's Perennial