University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article

 
FEEDING HUMMINGBIRDS AND OTHER MAY GARDENING TIPS
   
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
           
Proper flowers and feeding for hummingbirds, proper watering, and correct timing on moving spring-flowering bulbs, are some of the gardening tips for this month.
           
Hummingbirds arrive back in our area usually in late April in southern locations, early May in the north.  After their incredibly long journey northward, they're ready for food.  Hang a hummingbird feeder or two this time of the year, and either use hummingbird food you can buy (a powder to mix with water), or make your own.  Add two cups of sugar to a quart of water, heat to dissolve, then allow to cool before placing out.  Don't use any other additives such as food coloring.  Refrigerate what you don't use, and replace the feeder food every few days.  If your feeder hangs from a pole, and ants find it, put vaseline on a section of the pole to deter the ants.
           
Even if you put up hummingbird feeders, also plant some of their favorite flowers, such as fuchsias, salvias, columbines, nicotiana, 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.
           
To encourage good rooting of new plants in the ground, make sure you water long enough to moisten the soil around the root zone of the plant. Sprinkling a little water on plants every day can do more harm than good by encouraging the roots to stay close to the surface where they are susceptible to drying out faster. Stick your finger into the soil and if it's dry two inches deep, it's time to water. Apply enough water to moisten the soil a bit deeper than the roots.
           
If you want to move some spring-blooming bulbs to another spot, wait until the foliage has turned yellow later in summer, then carefully dig them up and let them dry in a shady spot for a few days. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for the summer until it's time to plant them in fall. If you need to move the bulbs sooner, dig and "heel" in (temporarily plant) out of the way, marking where they are so you can find them once the foliage has died.
           
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 moving them in and out less backbreaking.
           
Brace plants that tend to flop over now, while they're still small. Use wire rings and supports, or make your own by placing sturdy branches in the ground in a ring around the plant. Then loop twine from stake to stake to encircle the plant. Or you can wrap the twine around each stake and the one across from it, to make a criss-cross pattern for the plant stems to grow through. If you set the cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast, trying to tie up toppled plants is frustrating and usually ends up looking ridiculous.
           
Other tips for this busy month include planting cool vegetable crops early, such as carrots, lettuce, peas, broccoli and cabbage.  Wait until the usual last frost is past for warm crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and for sowing seeds of melons, squash, and corn. 
             

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