Hummingbirds can spend as little as 3 1/2 months in many regions during their summer visit, and for most of us that just isn't long enough. I am one of those people who can't get enough of those little wonders, so I have to find ways of turning a 3 1/2 month hobby into an annual one. Towards the end of hummingbird season I start collecting the seeds to which I will be starting planting in the new year. Once all the hummingbirds are gone, I go full force into collecting seeds. They all get laid out and dried for a few months. When January hits, it's time to start them indoors.
It can be very easy to start seeds in your home if you have a bright sunny location for the seedlings to grow, however, if you don't have a bright location or you want to start a large number of seeds, then a few items will be needed to be successful. Costs can be a limitless if you wanna go all out, but it's not necessary. So I will show you how I've done it for the last 12 years and it's always been successful.
Light is an absolute necessity, and fluorescent lighting is the most effective. Without light, plants get long and leggy. With lots of light they will grow a healthy stock full of leaves. I built a system to adjust the light distance from the plants. As they grow, the light can be raised accordingly. It's nothing fancy, but it's very effective. First of all you don't have to spend 2 or 3 hundred dollars on lights. These are simple shop lights. They can be purchased for 20 to 30 dollars. You can buy the appropriate bulbs for the fixture. There are plant lights or just regular fluorescent lights, plant lights being double the price. All I've used are regular fluorescents and they've worked just fine.
Next was building a proper support for the light fixtures, one for each end. I built these supports to sit on a table, and used what ever materials I had available. It consisted of a simple upright 2x4 stand(30 inches tall) with a notched out base(not really necessary if you don't have the proper saw) that were screwed together. The T-bracket on top and the base are both about 18 inches long. I drilled a hole on both ends, 2 inches from the end. These holes have to be big enough to slide steel conduit through. Get four S hooks large enough to comfortably hook onto the steal conduit, and you can hook the chains from the light fixture on to them. The chain usually comes with the shop lights. The foam on the end of the pipes was for my own safety after I performed a murder scene from cranking my head enough times on the raw pipes. The foam isn't necessary if you want to perform Act 2 of the murder scene on your own.
The cost is approximately $75.00 for the materials. From there you can go as high as you want with a light timer, grow light bulbs or whatever else you want to improve.
There are several options out there for seed containers, and also for soil mix. There's some soil mixtures designed specifically for seeds, but they can be pricey if you're doing large amounts of seeding. I buy a large $10.00 bail of peat moss, and the largest bag of perlite available. I mix 75% peat moss to 25% perlite. I also use fertilizer, only once the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves. I apply the all purpose fertilizer once every two weeks.
Before plants can be directly planted outdoors, they need to be hardened off(acclimatize them to the outdoors). Step 1: full shade to less than 1 hour of sun for the first week. Step 2: part sun up to 3 hours for the second week. Step 3: 3 to 8 hours for the third week. Finally, planting them in their permanent summer home.
These materials will pay themselves off several times over the years, as I probably have saved myself $500 or more per year in growing my own annuals and perennials. If you have the time and don't leave home for days at a time, this is the perfect hobby to reward yourself with an outstanding hummingbird garden throughout the summer.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.