On a cool April day last spring I got the privilege to watch the youth sow seeds, as many were dreaming of getting in their gardens. Heidi Swets, Youth Coordinator for Decorah Public Library found a perfect way to remind the youth of the upcoming “Earth Day” and get the youth excited planting flowers to attract the ruby-throated hummingbird in our beautiful Northeast Iowa.
At this special time with Heidi’s curious afterschool children she asks, “When will the first hummingbird buzz past you? What will you need to draw them to you in spring and summer?” It wasn’t long after their snack, that the group was busy planting seeds in pots, after learning what were good choices of flowers to plant to that attract hummingbirds. After the program, the plantings were put under a grow light on a top shelve in the Young Adult book section, so the children can continue to watch the plant grow big enough to be planted outside the library, hoping to attract hummingbirds. Heidi and her youth group will also be putting out a hummingbird feeder soon in the spot that flowers will share, doubling the chance to attract the flying flowers.
The program began as the afterschool children all arrived. They helped themselves to a table full of healthy snack choices from applesauce bars, to something a bit different, chia seeds made into a drink. As everyone sat down with their snacks, Heidi began telling them what they were going to do that day and taught them about hummingbirds and flowers to attract the birds. Heidi had photos of what hummingbirds look like and even a website migration tracking map that the children so they could see how far away those tiny birds still are. You can search the website at learner.org to find it or click here. From the map, it looks like the third week in April they have been sighted as far north as Southern Missouri, probably due to the colder than usual April we are having, they are much later than last year.
Then the fun begins! After the reusable pots are rinsed off, they each choose some their pots and begin to stir up potting soil with water. Then each youth fills their pots with the mixture. Heidi pulls out some dried flowers that were picked last fall and shows the children how to find the seeds in flowers and they have the opportunity to start searching for seeds themselves as they marvel how one tiny seed can be nurtured into growing into a beautiful flower. Besides last year’s flower seeds, Heidi also has a variety of other flower seeds that can attract hummingbirds in which each child chooses a couple varieties to plant that they can eventually take home after they are ready to plant outside their home. After they are shown how to plant their seeds, they each label the pot with their name, flower name and date planted. Then they give their seeds a tiny drink of water. All of a sudden it’s five o’clock and the parents begin to arrive to pick up their children. The children are excited to share what they were doing with their special friend Heidi.
Since the hummingbirds arrive early before the flowers are in bloom, they survive on insects, nectar from spring blooms, and tree sap dripping from holes made by wood peckers. This is a critical time to provide food for the hummingbirds, and this may entice a few to stay. Since spring mornings are cold where we live, using a feeder without perches promotes hovering while feeding helping them to stay warm. You can make your own nectar fresh using one part sugar to four parts water. Do not add honey brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavorings, or food coloring to nectar. And remember to always keep the feeders clean and nectar fresh.
You can start figuring out what you want to plant indoors too. It won’t be long before you can start your plants indoors. In the meantime, check what events are going on at your local library and think SPRING! Believe it or not, it's right around the corner!