Here is a twist on an easy plant growing experiment.
Using bought produce, we compared the growing abilities of organic food vs traditional supermarket vegetables. It is an easy experiment to set up and try as it uses easily available produce.
What I loved about it was that we could formulate hypothesis before we started - and then test our assumptions. And it got the children interested with why we got the results we did - as well as making them much more interested in the food we eat (and eating a healthy diet!)
A perfect experiment for homeschool science!
Many vegetables today are sprayed with chemicals that stop them growing further - nobody likes to see their vegetables sprouting in the supermarket!
These plant experiments show children how these growth inhibitors work - by comparing fresh and organic produce to 'ordinary' supermarket vegetables.
Step 1 - choose your produce! I have listed below the easier varieties for you go grow at home (and how to do it!). Step 2 - purchase 2 or 3 varieties of your vegetable. Ideally you need a supermarket variety, an organic version, plus if possible a home grown or locally sourced (fresh) version of your vegetable. Step 3 - follow the instructions below to grow your plants under the same conditions - and compare the results.
Got small children? - just growing plants from produce is exciting in itself and will teach them a lot about how plants grow and what conditions are needed.
Plant Growth Experiments
To keep the experiments easy I have used a method of growing the vegetables in jars - but you could easily plant them up in compost instead!
You can sprout your sweet potatoes by suspending them in a jar of water. Put 4 toothpicks into the potato so that it doesn't slip into the jar - see the video below. Use a clear jar so you can watch the root formation as well as the sprouts from the top of the plant.
Make sure you clearly mark which is the organic/non organic plant. Put on a sunny windowsill. Change the water as necessary to keep it clear and fresh.
You can use the same method with potatoes as you did for sweet potatoes - but we have had success by just placing them in egg boxes (with the 'eyes' up) and leaving them in a cool but bright place. This is called 'chitting' potatoes and is something gardeners do a lot to start them off before planting them.
Peas and Beans
Gosh, I remember doing this as a child, don't you? Peas and beans are easy to grow in a jar. You will need to line a jar with a wad of damp kitchen towel. Use 4 or 5 sheets of kitchen towel and dampen thoroughly then gently place it inside the jar so that it is pressed to the glass - leaving the center of the jar empty. We used to also add a roll of cardboard inside the jar to hold the towel in place - but I don't know if that is really necessary.
Next push some peas or beans between the glass and the towelling. The kitchen towel should hold them in place. Put a little water in the bottom of the jar (the kitchen towel will absorb it) and put it in a sunny position.
You can use dried beans and peas for this (not split peas) but we usually soak them overnight before using them.
Keep the tissue moist by pouring water into the bottom of the jar as necessary.
Avocado make a great plant to grow - once it begins sprouting you can almost see it growing it is so fast!
Use the same method as sweet potato by suspending the avocado seed over a glass or jar using toothpicks, so the bottom of the seed is in the water. Keep the water fresh by changing it as needed. Put it somewhere sunny.
The tops of pineapples can also sometimes be persuaded to grow. Simply put the sliced off top in a saucer of water - or on the top of a pot of compost. Keep moist.
Ginger root grows well - and you can sometimes see 'buds' on pieces of bought ginger root. Place the root half in and half out of a tub of water and keep it warm.
Carrot tops are very easy to grow. Just place the sliced off tops in a tray or saucer of water and keep well watered. We usually place ours on the windowsill.
Garlic and Onion
Onion and garlic bulbs can be placed in the bottom tray of an egg carton and left in a sunny place to sprout. Or place them in a glass and just cover the bottom part (where the roots would be) with water. Top up the water as needed. We found placing them in small wine glasses worked best as this helped to keep the bulb upright.
This technique would also work for spring onions (scallions) and leeks if you cut the bottom (root part) of the plant off and use that. Put them root down in a tray and water.
Here is a great video showing the plant experiment using sweet potatoes.
Food Experiments Results
You may not get the same results as the video - but that is all part of the learning process with science!!
If you keep careful track of your experiments you may get some ideas about why you got the results that you did. Perhaps your growing conditions were not good so your plants did not thrive - experiment with different conditions. What happens if you place the plant in a dark place for a while? Or perhaps you live in an area where the use of chemicals is limited so your produce all grew well. See if you can determine WHY you got the results you did from your plant experiments!
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