MOST GARDENERS I know retain an almost childlike sense of curiosity. What if, in the middle of this very-adult reset that we are collectively navigating, we gave ourselves permission to lighten up, relax and recover wonder.
Welcome to summer camp — garden-style. Taking a page from past experience — and skipping over the swim test and homesick part — I came up with a list of camp-inspired ideas and activities to help you reclaim the spirit of summer. Invite the kids to play along and tap into their natural embrace of these barefoot, choose-your-own-adventure days.
Wondering where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Keep a scrapbook
Whether you record observations in a garden journal, jot down notes on a calendar or simply use your phone-that-thinks-it’s-a-camera to keep a visual diary, a scrapbook is an easy way to document seasonal highlights and hold onto favorite moments. Track how tall the sunflowers grow. Keep a tomato tally (with tasting notes). I plan to keep a list of all the birds that visit my garden this summer. Take pictures on a weekly basis to track how your plantings’ progress. Nothing triggers memory like a snapshot. Well, actually, fragrance is the most direct line to memory, but no one has been able to replicate the scent of sweet peas, so a photo will have to do.
Start a collection
Ours is an oyster-loving household. A spot in the garden mulched with (thoroughly cleaned) oyster shells makes for a quirky garden statement, and those remnants of shucking and feasting always make me smile. On a more practical note, I collect seed packets and plant labels from year to year, stashing them rather unceremoniously in a container on my potting table. It’s a far cry from disciplined garden journaling, but it’s a surprisingly easy way to remember that favorite garden marigold (‘Strawberry Blonde’ — so good) and avoid repeating past mistakes; life is too short for disappointing tomatoes and spotted roses.
Late in the season, collect seeds of your favorite plants to grow next year and share with friends and family. The seeds of sweet peas, honeywort, beans and poppies are child’s play to gather. Allow seeds to ripen on the plant until fully dry, then collect and store in small envelopes — and don’t forget to label.
Decorate those seed packets, and you can check off two boxes — collection and craft — with one project. Press flowers between the pages of a book with porous pages (that recent beach read will do nicely), then use your dried blossoms to decorate cards or the pages of your garden scrapbook. I often forget where I’ve stashed my pressings, but it’s thrilling when I discover the blooms months or even years later. Weeding can wait — lazy afternoons are for crafting daisy chains, lavender wands and flower crowns. Online instructions abound. Or gather stems of lavender, garden pinks and fragrant rose petals to concoct a simple potpourri. Dry the plants thoroughly, then crumble petals together and keep in a bowl placed where you’ll catch a whiff of summer long after the rains have returned.
Go on a scavenger hunt
I love a good scavenger hunt, that birthday party staple guaranteed to harness kids’ attention. One of my favorite summer mindfulness rituals is collecting backyard bits and pieces, and arranging my finds into a rainbow display. It’s still fun to do with children, who bring a sense of discovery to the task. It’s all about savoring the season and creating memories that will keep us company next winter when we’re all on the flip-side of this week’s Solstice. Happy Summer!