Hummingbird Habitats

hummingbirdBeija Flor, Flower-Kisser, Chupaflor, Flower Sucker, Joyas Voladoras, Flying Jewels, El Zunzun, The Hummer… in any language, hummingbirds are as important to the environment as they are delightful.

Hummingbirds have a rich history. The Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans and fetishes. Their god Huitzilopochtli was often depicted in Hummingbird regalia, which was emblematic for their vigor, and energy, and the beak mimicking weaponry. The talismans giving the idea of potency, skill at arms, and bringing warfare to the wearer.

These flower kissers can live up to at least ten years, though most are crushed in the first year, so a safe residency is key for these little travellers. Since many plants depend upon Hummingbirds as their pollinators, their continued company means a perfect symbiosis. Building a Hummingbird Habitat is both easy and helpful, insuring your landscapes future health, and hours of entertainment. Plus you get a beautiful yard from the deal.

Hummingbirds are specialized nectarivores, besides soft-bodied bugs, such as gnats, spiders, and mosquitos, their main food source is nectar, which is produced by flowering plants to attract pollinators. Hummingbirds pollinate flowers by rubbing their foreheads and faces in each flower as they lap the nectar with their “W” shaped tongues. They can visit up to 1,000 flowers in a day, and since they need to eat from a 1/2 to 8 times their body weight a daily, a well-stoked habitat is key.

Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any homeothermic animal. Since Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, but excellent vision (they love the color red), a habitat of brightly colored, herbaceous perennials, shrubs, trees and vines is required. Just as humans rarely eat the same things each day, hummingbirds like to shop around. It is believed that hummingbirds can remember each flower sipped, and how long till it is ready for a second go. It is also believed they see wavelengths in ultraviolet light, so the more vivid a hue, the more trafficked the blossom. Which makes a gorgeous garden!

To maintain a friendly space for our flitting friends, the addition of a hummingbird feeder is key during times of limited flowering and right before and after their migrations. But the recipe and the caveats around this are real. Hummingbird feeders must be changed out often, especially in hot months, cleaned with boiling hot water, rinsed and thoroughly scrubbed before refilling. Mold, sedimentary deposits, or even fermentation could sicken or kill your fast little gems. The recipe for this nectar is quite simple- a ratio of one part sugar, to four parts water, (20% sugar) is the basics, but use only granulated white sugar, no artificial sweeteners, turbinado, or honey. All are susceptible to fermentation and lead to sickness for the little buddies. Contrary to popular belief, never use red food color,it can poison their tiny kidneys. Fear not, most feeders are covered in bright red and orange plastic and are attractive enough.

Hummingbirds are also an effective exterminator for your garden. Hummingbirds have been known to steal little bugs from a spider’s web, then eat the spider, and finally steal the web for their nest. They delight in aphids, mosquitoes, and gnats. As a Central Texas Gardener, this assistance is much needed. Always avoid using pesticides around our bird buddies, ingesting a bug treated with these substances can kill more than those pesky insects. Besides, the hummingbird is willing to do this job totally for free.

Apart from access to healthy meals, the setup of a habitat is incredibly important to the Hummingbird’s success. Shelter, sunlight, flowers, water for bathing, and space are ideal. Trees and large flowering vines can provide a safe place to perch, sleep, and a great nesting spot. Hummingbirds spend 80% of their lives perched on twigs, branches, etc., as their feet are weak, and they can barely walk. So perching is crucial.

Cozy little nooks are super important. When Hummingbirds sleep, they fall into a hibernation-like state called torpor, which slows down their metabolism and heart rate, and conserves their desperately needed energy as much as up to 60%. Their body temperature drops, and as it can take up to an hour to wake from this condition, hidden nooks, and shady tree limbs are perfect. Hummingbirds have even been found sleeping upside down in Fir Trees. Willows, and Eucalyptus Trees also provide soft materials for their nests. The females build this round, cup-shaped home in branches, and are sometimes attached to leaves.

Space is key for our tiny friends. Hummingbirds can rotate their wings in a full circle, hover in mid air, fly backwards, even sideways, so a well-spaced area is important. They are also very solitary and territorial, turf wars at times can occur (picture West Side Story, or Micheal Jackson’s Beat It. Tiny Leather Jackets.) More space can help avoid more fights than necessary.

Our little gem like friends also love water! A mister, water sprinkler, or water feature gives the hummingbird a place to freshen up, attracts butterflies, moths, and a variety of wildlife to the habitat, encouraging the growth and creation of a varied environment.

Hummingbirds not only pollinate your flowers and vegetables that provide your food, they dine on insects and provide free bug extermination. Their firm commitment to beauty, demands that you and the hummingbirds both exist in a vivid and glorious environment.

A great garden guest, they have no problem providing endless entertainment.

Come join us for our Hummingbird Class February 22nd to learn more on how to make a great environment for our good looking, and hard working buddies, The Hummingbirds.

Seed Starting, Finale. Plant Details

The wonder of spring and summer edibles begins now!

The wonder of spring and summer edibles begins now!


Start basil seeds in a sterile, fluffy, soilless mix of your choice. It’s best to make your flats four to six inches deep to insure that the plants have plenty of room to spread out as they grow.

When planting, make sure that your soil is evenly moist before introducing the seeds. Then, lightly disturb the first quarter inch of the soil surface with a fork, or your fingertips. Next, broadcast the seeds either at random, or in rows depending on your personal preference. I like to spread them in alternating rows so that they have lots of room, and are relatively even after they are thinned. This will make life easier when it comes time to transplant a larger flat.

Basil seeds are particular when it comes to their germination environment in that they like it warm, humid, and dark. The darkness is important up until the seeds first germinate, then they need to be moved as quickly as possible to a bright window. From this point on, you will treat your new basil plants as you would any other seedlings, gradually getting them ready for outdoor growth, and transplanting them into larger pots or flats as they grow.


Tomato seeds like to be planted about a ¼ inch deep in their flats. To do this, take a pencil, and draw a ¼ inch deep trough in the surface of the soil. Then set seeds about a half inch apart. Given adequate soil warmth and moisture, tomatoes should germinate with 7-10 days.

As soon as the seedlings start to break the surface, it is important to provide very bright light so that they grow strong and stocky stems supporting bright green leaves. Weak, stretched out stems and pale leaves are all symptoms of inadequate light, and will result in stunted plants. Thin out week plants, and transplant the rest into four inch pots once all of your seedlings have developed their their first sets of true leaves.

Tip: Tomatoes like it hot and humid, so utilizing a humidity dome can insure timely germination, and vigorous growth.


Provided that they receive enough moisture and warmth (80-85 F.), eggplants should germinate in 7-14 days. Because they require such high temperatures, I strongly recommend using a heating mat and humidity dome to germinate these seeds.

Make sure to warm and moisten your seed starting mix before sowing seeds, as this will give them a head start. Once the mix is hot and moist, sow seeds on the surface, and provide a very light dusting of potting mix on top. Be sure not to cover your seeds completely, as they benefit from light during the germination process. Once germination has been achieved, bright light needs to be provided right away. In terms of light, eggplants can be treated the same as you would tomatoes. Gradually harden off your seedlings, and transplant once all starts have two sets of true leaves.


Bell and sweet peppers- Bell and sweet peppers can be germinated in much the same way as tomatoes. Sow seeds on the surface of your sterile mix, and lightly sprinkle mix on top to provide about 60% coverage. Like eggplants, peppers need light to germinate successfully. Thin out week seedlings, and transplant into 4 inch pots once each start has two or three pairs of true leaves.

Spicy peppers- Speaking generally, the hotter the pepper, the more heat it will require to germinate. Treat the seeds of hotter peppers, such as ghost and scorpion peppers much as you would treat those of eggplant. Sow on surface, providing 40-60% coverage, and maintain high heat and moisture levels until the seedlings have developed their “seed leaves”, then gradually harden off over a week’s time. Transplant to four inch pots once all starts have two or three pairs of true leaves.

Tip: Since the hottest peppers tend to have low germination rates, it is worth growing these rare peppers in large pots throughout their lives. Note that peppers in general get much larger over years of growth than they do when grown as annuals, and may require winter pruning to fit in your home or greenhouse. Peppers appreciate warm temperatures with plenty of water and food throughout the growing season. Most peppers will benefit from a winter dormancy in which they will lose their leaves. During this time, you can cut back on the water to just a few times a month, provided that the plants are kept in a warm and humid environment.

Starting garden plants from seed is a very important, and fun skill for the gardener to have. In addition to saving you money on plants, starting your own seeds will give you access to a far greater variety of delicious edibles than you will ever find at your local nursery. As you become more adept at seed starting, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of what your plants need to survive and thrive in a garden setting, making you a happier, and more successful gardener. I hope that this article has answered your questions, and shed some light on the finer points of starting garden plants from seed.

Seed Starting Continued

Part 2 in our Seed Starting Series!   Light: Though most seeds will germinate in poor to no light, it is very important to provide bright light as soon as you see that the seeds have sprouted. Providing bright light early on in a seedling’s life insures that the plant develops healthy, compact growth with […] Read more »

January Seed Starting for Spring and Summer

How to start your seeds for Spring and Summer.

Enjoying fresh fruits and veggies from your own garden is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures, and many of us have fond memories of vine ripened tomatoes which seem impossible to recreate with the store-bought variety. Recently, thanks to a dramatic increase in popularity, nurseries have started to carry many delicious garden plants for us […] Read more »