IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. The time of year when we are mesmerized by the full shelves of flowers and herbs at the garden stores. The textures, colors and smells of all the new plants invite us to indulge in an armload and take them home to savor the beauty and promises of the new summer.
THEN WHAT? We debate where to put these little gems, whether there is enough sun or too much sun, and whether we should add fertilizer. With our high expectations there is almost no result that will be adequate. But we will be rewarded by most of our new plants. By August some will be bursting with blooms, and some will be tired out and ready to retire for the season.
DID WE NOTICE THEM AS THE SUMMER PROGRESSED? DID WE START RECORDING WHAT WE SAW? WHEN SHOULD WE START? Of course, there is not just one time to start. Any time is better than not paying attention. It is best to have a little journal book that you like to feel and look at. The pages can have lines or be all white so that there is room for little scribbles and pictures. You can take pictures with your telephone, transfer them to your computer and printer and tape or glue them into the journal. Also, even the most unartistic of us can add little scribbles and diagrams to satisfy the curious part of our natures. A good pencil (I like mechanical pencils. The cheap kind that are available at the stationery stores and groceries in packages of 3 or more). Also a small package of colored pencils and an indelible pen are really all that you need to get started.
Our telephones are a great resource. They now have bird apps that identify birds, and plant apps that identify plants. These are ever so helpful and amazingly accurate (though, not always). I am amazed that my Merlin Bird ID can be tuned to record a bird song from the pine tree behind my condo, and it will tell me what kind of bird is singing. Then I can look up the bird in my big bird book and learn about where it lives and what it looks like. Plants are identified from a picture taken with my Picture This app. I have learned a lot from using these free tools.
Anyone can start a nature journal. Children are very good at it too. It helps if they have a guide such as a grandparent or friend who remembers to remind them to look again. Children are so naturally curious that they see many things that those of us older people miss altogether. Children are low to the ground and may see frogs and toads, caterpillars and worms.
Be sure to encourage their observations. These little animals are mostly harmless and make lots of engaging wiggles and hops. A little book appropriate for a child also makes a great Nature Journal. I’ll bet they see different things from you!
We will be starting a Facebook group so that we can share ideas and progress with each other. But don’t wait for us to get started. By the time we get set up here, you will have several careful observations already recorded. Join us to share what you have seen in your garden. Beetles on your plant? Butterflies visiting? Were you able to catch a picture of them to share? Is your plant blooming yet? Will it set fruit? Even most flowers set fruit, even if we don’t eat it.
I will start a little guide here on my website for suggestions on materials and projects. You can visit for free and get a picture of one of my favorite wild sunflowers to print on your home computer.
Once we get our Facebook group started, you can add your insights and successes to share with us.