Good to Know
Boost hummingbird activity in your backyard this summer
Hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower are a beautiful summer sight.
Gardeners often select flowering plants specifically to attract hummingbirds. But to entice even more of these beautiful birds, consider adding a feeder—or multiple feeders—to your yard or garden.
While they are among the smallest birds in the world, hummingbirds work up quite an appetite.
According to Virginia Cooperative Extension, though they weigh not much more than a copper penny, they feed up to a dozen times an hour, all day long, from dawn to dusk. They can consume the nectar of hundreds of flowers, and a female ruby-throated hummingbird can capture up to 2,000 insects per day.
Hang feeders in shady spots, spaced 10 to 15 feet apart. If feeders are exposed to excess much sun, their contents may spoil quickly.
“Feeders need to be cleaned frequently,” shared horticulturalist Mark Viette. “As hummingbirds feed on the solutions, they can contaminate the liquid. Once they ingest the soured solution they will move on elsewhere.”
Food for your hummingbirds:
- Add one part table sugar to four parts boiling tap water, and boil for 2 minutes.
- Do not use honey, artificial sweeteners or red food dye.
- Fill the feeders with the cooled mixture, and change it every three days.
If you leave feeders up into the winter, try to keep them sheltered, and bring them inside each night to prevent the contents from freezing.
Hummingbird feeders and food are readily available at garden centers, and the nectar can be prepared at home as well.
Watermelon: More than just a tasty snack
Thoughts of watermelon may bring back memories of hot summer days on the porch swing, biting into a big slice while the juices drip.
Watermelons are 92% water, so they provide a hydrating boost along with vitamins A, C and B6.
When selecting a watermelon at a farm stand or in a grocery store, the National Watermelon Promotion Board suggests looking for one that is firm and free from cuts and bruises, and lifting it up to test its heft. A ripe watermelon should be heavy.
Finally, turn the watermelon and look for a creamy yellow patch—also called the ground spot—where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Watermelons are grown throughout Virginia, but primarily in the southern and eastern parts of the state.
Savory Watermelon Pizza
Festive and creative, this recipe is perfect for a pool-side gathering.
Canneries cater to communities interested in preserving summer's fresh foods
Community canneries aren’t as plentiful as they once were, but they are still in demand.
Canning at home can be costly and time-consuming. “The beauty of a cannery is you can do 100 jars at a time instead of seven at home,” explained Sarah Griggs, Carroll County Cannery operator.
Community canneries originated during the Victory Garden era of the 1940s. Many of the canneries once were supported by local school systems because they were used for home economics classes.
Darlene Beasley, a home canner for more than 50 years, said she learned the art of canning from her mother. Beasley started using the Carroll County Cannery because “it’s so convenient, and they have everything you need there.”
Each year, Beasley brings in fresh summer produce, and her family enjoys eating fruits and vegetables throughout the winter.
Watch this video: Last season's peppers are preserved as jelly inside this Westmoreland County cannery.
Carroll County Cannery specialists show home canners how to prepare their produce, cook it and process the jars. County residents pay a $10 seasonal fee, plus 20 cents apiece for pint jars and 25 cents for quart jars.
Sandy Stoneman, a Virginia Cooperative Extension food safety agent in Wythe County, said she’s seen growing interest in canning among young families who want to preserve fresh produce. “They don’t want to learn how to can on their own, so they come to canneries or to Extension classes.”
Once the fruits and veggies are canned, they have a shelf life of at least a year, Stoneman said. “As long as the seal is intact, the food will be good.”