Start your Indoor Planting Signs are slowly starting to appear of spring's arrival. Finches are starting to search for nesting locations, and briefs spells of relief from winter are starting to appear in the weather. With spring just around the corner, it is time to dig out the flower pots and start the indoor planting. In order to get perennials to flower in the first season, they need an early start. Annuals usually require from two to eight weeks head start indoors, before planting outside, so you can hold off on them for a few days. Many perennials will not flower the first season, but still could use of benefits of starting indoors. Many garden stores and a nurseries will have their seeds out on display. It is a great time to start scanning through the varieties available. If you're gardening for hummingbirds, your choices should include taller plants, red in color if possible, and definitely choose perennials within your climate zone. JEWEL OF THE NORTH provides a list of perennials tried and tested from zones 2 and up. Once you have your seeds selected, it is time to start the soil mixture. I have always mixed my own. I will generally use 75 percent peat moss, and the other 25 percent equal parts of perlite and Vermiculite. You can often times get a bail of peat moss for around $12.00. It is a little more expensive for the Perlite and Vermiculite, but I like to purchase it in the larger bags to save on cost. This amount of ingredients can produce about 40 flats of plants, and this makes it relatively inexpensive to do your own indoor planting. Now all you require is the time and effort. I have one room which is dedicated to strictly planting seeds. If you go to your local hardware store you can purchase fluorescent lights, and I have used the regular fluorescent bulbs which have worked well. Purchase the size of lighting according to the size of the table you will be using. To avoid any water damage to tables, I will usually place a plastic sheet underneath all of the trays of plants. Fill each of your pots to near the top with your soil mixture. Place your seeds in the soil to the depth that is recommended on the seed package. Water them thoroughly, and keep them moist but not wet. Make sure that the seeds do not dry out up until the time that they germinate. This may require you to do a morning watering and an evening watering. Many perennials will take 10-30 days to germinate. Once this occurs, it is important to keep them slightly moist until they develop roots. Too much water can cause root rot, and not enough water they can die quickly. Seedlings must be watched closely in the first couple weeks to keep them alive. An all purpose fertilizer can be used after the seedlings have developed a second set of leaves. Use the fertilizer only once every 2-4 weeks after that. It is good to keep the lighting as close to the plants as possible in order for them to get the maximum amount of light and to increase their grow rate. Without enough lighting, seedlings can grow long and leggy, because they are desperately searching for light. It is not long before they develop a good root structure and then just your regular waterings are required. Try to keep your soil moist but not wet. If your soil is too wet you may create the problem of fungus gnats. These can eat the roots of the seedlings and destroy a little plant in no time. I like to use a spray bottle to water in the first few weeks as to not over water them. With these simple tips you will be well on your way to growing a successful garden. Don't forget to start your annual flowers at the appropriate times. Check on the seed packages for these times.
Which Hummingbirds Live in Canada?
If you live outside the Americas you would be one of the less fortunate when it comes to hummingbirds. They have been specifically placed in North America through to South America. Of the 300 + species that live on these continents, a small percentage make it up to the U.S.A, and even a smaller amount up to Canada. If you live in British Columbia, you are among the privileged in this country. They will get 5 different species: Rufous, Calliope, Black Chinned, Annas, and the Ruby Throated. There is the odd occasion where a broad tailed and Allens will make it up there, but they are a rare surprise. If you live in Alberta right through to Newfoundland, then you will get only one REGULAR...the Ruby throat. This is not to say that you won't get any others. The Rufous tends to wander all over the place at times and end up in places never seen before. They are a pleasant surprise and noticeably different looking than the Ruby throat. Ruby throated hummers are olive in color on the backs. Rufous have a copper/rust color on the Males. If you are not familiar with the Rufous, you may not even know you had a female or juvenile in your yard. They tend to have very similar coloring to the Ruby throat female, but get small patches of Rufous coloring amongst the olive, and at a distance you may not know it. They also have small specks of red on the throat to differentiate them from the female Ruby throat. If you are familiar with the sounds of the Rubythroat, then listen for different sounds of the Rufous. They have a distinctive buzzing whistle when in flight and when chasing other hummingbirds. Once you hear it, you will know what I mean. Even though we have only one regular across most of the country, consider yourself blessed, you could be without them altogether. The Yukon gets the Rufous and the Northwest Territories can get the Ruby throat and Rufous, but far less likely than the remainder of the country. These birds are amazing creatures, and were well thought out in their design. If you spend enough time trying to attract them to your yard, you will see just how marvelous they really are. This is only one of kazillions of masterful pieces of artwork.
With fall in the air, and the majority of hummingbirds well on their way to their winter homes, it leaves most gardeners thinking of cleaning up their yards and calling it quits for another year. Most plants are showing signs of giving up, but ideally this makes it the perfect time to collect seeds for next years garden. Whether you are doing it to save money or just for the rewards of it, it is well worth it in either aspect. You can literally save hundreds of dollars if you are doing it for the money. A good way to collect seeds is to gather together box lids or large trays to lay out your seeds for drying. You don't want plants bunched together or else they will mold. You also want them to dry for a good month or so before placing them in a paper envelope. Not all plants produce seeds that grow. Some seeds require a process of stratification in order to germinate. This may take a bit of trial and error to figure out which produce well and which require further care and attention. Of course it makes more sense to collect the seeds from plants that did extremely well and produced many flowers, and which are essential for the hummingbirds' discriminating palate. There are a few plants which are a must have for taste and several for merely attraction. Petunias have volumes of flowers and brilliant colors, but they need to be started indoors about 8 to 12 weeks early in order to have large blooming plants by summer. They are a bit tricky as well to grow indoors. Lighting must be sufficient. Anyone who knows me, knows delphiniums are essential. You may get a flowering plant the first season if you start it indoors about 8 weeks early. But given 2-3 years, you will have marvelous plants. Try to gather seeds before frost. Some seeds do not tolerate the cold. The rewards are great of doing your own seed collecting, and it extends the hummingbird hobby even longer throughout the year, especially when you start planting your seeds indoors in February or March.