Label: Gardening

July 1, 2011


I was so excited to see my first big butterfly of the season in our garden. I took the photo while it was sunning itself on a bush. (Perhaps getting ready for the upcoming July 4th weekend celebrations?) It’s an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a common butterfly here in the northeast. You can usually easily identify it by its large size, black tiger stripes over yellow-tan color and blue/red spots near the tail. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Butterflies, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 20, 2011

Good morning, campers! It’s time for SUMMER VACATION SCIENCE!

It’s still not too late to plant, and this week we are talking butterfly gardens. Would you like to have a special habitat, right in your own yard or nearby lot, where butterflies, moths and hummingbirds visit regularly and return?

Click here to download the full project guide, which has everything from how to find the right plants, how to plant them, and what butterflies need to thrive and return. Get started today and create your own, personal, very unique butterfly garden!


This summer, our goal is to get kids outdoors, exploring and enjoying the world around them. Check back here throughout the summer for new installments of Summer Vacation Science.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Summer Vacation Science, Insects, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 15, 2011

Back in April, Seymour wrote about his Earth Day pledges, and one of them was that we were going to build a garden that would be a butterfly habitat. We had a spot, under a big elm tree, that was completely overgrown with weeds.


  Two months, a lot of hard work and one terrible case of poison ivy later, we have a butterfly garden! Now, we just need to wait for it to stop raining, for the weather to get a bit warmer, and for our new seedlings to grow and flower. Hopefully, we will soon see many butterflies, moths and hummingbirds in this peaceful place.



Next week’s SUMMER VACATION SCIENCE unit will be about how to create your own butterfly garden. Be sure to check back here to learn more!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Butterflies, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 19, 2011

        My wife, Liz, and I have been making our own list of Earth Day pledges this week. No matter how much you love our planet Earth - and we certainly do - you can always do a little bit better. Here is what we have decided to do this year:


1.    We are going to plant a few trees when it gets a little warmer this spring. Did you know that a single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime? Planting trees is an effective, important way to help the environment by reducing the greenhouse effect and combating global warming.

2.    We have also decided to observe Meatless Mondays in our house. This will reduce our carbon footprint because the raising of livestock generates a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Liz posted some great "meatless Monday" recipes on the website this week, for families who would like to try this, too. I can testify to how delicious they are!

3.    We will keep trying to use less water, running the dishwasher only when it’s full, doing laundry in cold water only when we have a full load, and (this is the hardest part) taking shorter showers (but not with cold water, some things are just too difficult). 

4.    And (Liz is particularly excited about this), we are building a butterfly garden, to provide a habitat for these beautiful creatures! 

I am too, because my new book BUTTERFLIES is coming out soon. I’m constantly trying to photograph butterflies and I hope our new garden will attract many different kinds of these beautiful flyers.

On the left is a photograph of the spot, currently overgrown, that we are going to clean out and plant. We will post more photos over the spring and summer, as our butterfly habitat comes to life. 

I would like to hear from all you readers of my Seymour Science blog about what you are doing to reduce their impact on Earth’s resources. A big group of you contributed to Friday’s story, telling us what you are doing to reduce your carbon footprints. Your commitment to our planet Earth and your promises are inspiring!

Now, how about Humble, Texas students? We spent time together in January, and I KNOW that you all care about the environment! Click on "Comments," at the bottom of this story, and tell me what you are going to do, not only in honor of Earth Day, but ongoing.  We will publish all your comments in one big article at the end of Earth Week, to recognize your efforts and inspire other readers to do the same.


Do you need some help to get you started? Some ideas about what you can do to help our environment? Some of my earlier articles, like this story on Global Warming, or another one called "Earth by the Numbers" both have lots of simple ideas for things you can do to make our planet home a greener place.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(16) Comments  •   Labels: Teachers and Librarians, Kids comments, Earth Day 2011, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 22, 2010


I never quite seem to finish my fall cleanup in the garden. One thing leads to another, and suddenly there is snow on the ground with broken stems and brown leaves poking through. I used to feel guilty about it, but a number of years ago I came to embrace the winter garden, even throwing some Christmas lights on a bean trellis that never made it into the barn for the winter!

Of course, you should remove any foliage that has scabs, fungus or other evidence of disease in the autumn. But leave some of the rest so that birds have a place to forage for food, and you will enjoy a winter of bird watching as part of the bargain.

Beneficial insects such as ground beetles, centipedes, millipedes, pill bugs and spiders will also crawl inside leaf piles or dead stalks in order to survive the cold, wet months. Garden spiders, which catch mosquitoes and other harmful insects, often overwinter as eggs. Keep them around by providing safe hiding places for their egg sacks. All of these creatures are our gardening partners, breaking down and adding organics to the soil.

Best of all, I love the architectural quality of the brown, dry stalks, and they look great covered in frost or spider webs.

When you finally cut everything back in spring, be sure to leave them in a stack until May to allow all of the overwintering insects to emerge. I love having a garden, and it has its own special charm in the winter months.



Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: birds, Insects, Winter, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 29, 2010


We have a new posting today from Alana G., a fifth grade student and our special environmental reporter on the Seymour Science Blog this summer. The group she founded, Kids Today for a Better Tomorrow (KTFBT) has been busy all summer, pursuing various environmental activities to better their Southern California community. As I said to Alana when we first met, it is a joy to have her as a shipmate on Planet Earth.

-    Seymour

Hello fellow Shipmates,

            I’m not sure if you remember the trip that I had taken to Amy’s Farm to be part of their science of farming camp. I’ll give you a little recap just in case you don’t. At the farm I learned all about the physics of simple machines & the life science of animal anatomy, but my favorite thing that I learned about was Botany (which is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life.)  :-) It basically means I learned all about plant cells, their parts and what they do.

            I can’t believe how amazing it is. It really is so cool how such tiny little seeds can grow into such beautiful plants. I have to say…Life on earth is miraculous! I wanted to learn more so I was very happy that I was also able to work in their garden where I learned how to plant and harvest vegetables and fruits. I was shocked at how much work it takes not only to plant the seeds but how much work goes into preparing the ground for the crops. I don’t know how exactly to explain it, but they use organic compost. Organic compost helps the farm to be sustainable. Sustainable is another subject we could use Seymour’s help on. (Seymour, can you please help us out?*  grin Plus, they have to harvest and wash the crops before they are sent off to the farmers market or local food banks and homeless shelters. (I think it is so cool that they help the needy.) Overall, the life of a farmer is no easy job at all, but I love it!

            Being on the farm reminded me of something. Do you remember learning in school about our American ancestors, the Pilgrims? If you don’t, they were some of the first settlers in the colonies. The Pilgrims, just like the Indians, had to find ways to live and adapt to the land and their environment and with the help of the Indians they set up a plantation at Plymouth Rock. Now if you think back to the Pilgrims’ days, they didn’t have it easy like we do. Can you think of some of the differences...

read more

Posted by: Alana G

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Environment, Gardening   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 28, 2010















It’s late July and gardens are bursting with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and chard. Tall sunflowers lean against garden fences, berries are plentiful and pots of thyme have a profusion of tiny blossoms. It is a gardener’s happiest season, the bountiful payoff for weeks of hard work in the garden earlier in the spring.

Gardening with your children is a wonderful way to teach them about food sources and the global benefits of “eating locally”…..very locally, if you are growing your own produce!

Kids enjoy the process of planting, they rejoice as everything grows, and they will love the “treats” that they pick themselves. Even a child who thinks she doesn’t like vegetables will love eating a sweet cherry tomato picked right off the vine, still warm from the sun. And kids feel like proud helpers when you send them out to get handfuls of aromatic herbs to chop for a dressing or marinade.

Even if you didn’t plant a full garden this year, it’s not too late to have some of these kinds of experiences with your family. If you have a sunny windowsill or deck close to the kitchen, plant some herbs for cooking. You can still get basil, oregano, parsley, and mint starter plants at your local gardening store.

Of course, very few of us are in a place where we can realistically grow all our own food. But, we can choose to buy our vegetables and fruits from a local organic farmer, rather than from the supermarket. A recent study from the University of Texas/Austin’s Biochemical Institute reported that the average vegetable found in today’s supermarket is lower in healthy minerals (the range was from 5% to 40% lower) than those harvested just 50 years ago.

As an added benefit, when you buy produce that has been grown locally you reduce your carbon footprint. Think about all the greenhouse gases generated in producing food that has been chemically fertilized, stored in refrigerated compartments, flown to your area and then delivered by truck to your local supermarket. Contributing to the creation of those CO2 emissions can be avoided simply by eating sparklingly fresh, locally grown produce. And, they taste better simply by virtue of having just been picked!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Global Warming, Summer Vacation Science, Gardening, Carbon Footprint   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 25, 2010

We received an interesting letter today from Sharl Heller, who works with her husband, Dr. Eric Heller, on his art. You may have seen some of it several months ago on this blog, where we used one of his spectacularly beautiful images in a post explaining Rogue Waves and why they happen.

Ms. Heller wrote:

Since reading the Seymour Science blog,  ART & SCIENCE: "Working Together to Explain Rogue Waves", based on my husband Eric Heller’s work,  I have been enjoying Dr. Simon’s website and your postings. I am delighted to see so many interesting topics explained in a way that makes complicated issues accessible to non scientists and children.  Besides helping my husband with his artwork, I am working locally to raise awareness about global climate change, encouraging the people in our area to replace their landscaping with native plants to help mitigate global climate change and maintain biodiversity. In searching Seymour’s website I was very pleased to see that you are researching a new book on butterflies. The page mentions planting milkweed to sustain monarch butterflies, so I know you will be promoting the idea that people should plant native plants that support wildlife. I believe your book will be very important and useful to those of us who think we must all do whatever we can to mitigate global climate change. Thank you for including my husband on your blog. I look forward to your new book and the new blogs.
In fact, we’re going to be doing a whole series of posts this spring and summer about sustainable gardening, both as a nurturing family activity and as a way for individuals to move the needle when it comes to reducing their own carbon footprints and combatting global warming. And, I will be posting about the design of our new Butterfly Garden, at the same time that Seymour is finishing up the manuscript for his upcoming Collins/Smithsonian book, BUTTERFLIES.

All coming up on the Seymour Science Blog.  Thanks for writing, Ms. Heller!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Butterflies, Global Warming, Gardening, Earth Day 2010   •  Permalink (link to this article)