Garden Ecosystems – Observe

Design | JournalObserve | Identify | Research | Experiment |

One can only love what one stops to observe.~ from The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden C. Lane

Success in gardening and environmental stewardship begins by cultivating your observation habits and skills.

What do you find in your landscape?

Take time to sit outside or walk around your garden or property. Rally all your senses for this experience. Look, listen, smell, touch and taste (do skip this one if you are unsure of toxicity). In your first go around you might make it an introspective or meditative experience and simply observe. Then consider documenting your observations (for format ideas see Journal).

Do not worry about specifically identifying each species or cultivar. Your initial description might simply be evergreen tree, weed, grass or flowing shrub.

Add details about individual and groups of plants such as do they look healthy, eaten by herbivores, crowded, or out of place. Are any plants putting out buds, flowering, or fruiting?

Activity – A Close Look: Cultivating Plant Observation Skills and boy & swaleBotany Language Basics for Identification of Flowering Plants

Expand your observation to note common creatures such as spiders, insects, pollinators, wildlife, domesticated animals and even other humans. Include how they are interacting with plants or other landscape features.

Look at your landscape including water features and the shape of the land. Are there steep slopes or low spots? Do you see water drainage patterns and areas susceptible to heavy runoff or top soil erosion?

Activity – Sector Analysis

Sharing your phenology observations

Phenology is the study of reoccurring biological events influenced by weather (e.g. sunlight, precipitation and temperature). The flowering sequence of plants can be used as a biological calendar to predict insect activity, and to time other gardening practices that are dependent on a particular stage of plant development, such as propagation or weed control.

There are several citizen science projects that offer you opportunities to report on the phenological stages of specific plants including:

Here are a few of the other projects that offer information, handbooks, guides, data sheets and organism profiles to support you becoming an observer of your landscape:

vegetable varieties
More citizen science projects that will be of particular interest to gardeners:

Check out this database of projects. Try using search terms like garden, soil or invasive.

Tell us in the comment where you like to share your garden observations?


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