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    Home / Science projects / Gardening Science Projects
    • Gardening Science Projects

      Gardening Science Projects

      Watch Roots Grow

      You may know that plants grow roots, but usually we just see the part of the plant above the ground. Here's an easy way to watch seeds sprout and roots start to grow.

      What You Need:

      • Plastic zip-top sandwich bag
      • Paper towel
      • Dropper
      • Seeds (sunflower or radish seeds work well)
      • Tape

      What You Do:

      1. Fold the paper towel in half and then in half again into a square.
      2. Get the paper towel square wet and then gently squeeze it out. It should be wet but not dripping.
      3. Place the wet paper towel into the plastic bag.
      4. With the bag laying flat, place 3 or 4 seeds between the plastic bag and the paper towel. They should be in a row near the center of the bag.
      5. Use a dropper to add a couple drops of water to the paper towel just above your row of seeds.
      6. Close the top of the bag keeping a space in the middle unzipped.
      7. Tape the two closed sides of the top of your bag so a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Make sure the seeds face outside (towards the sun).
      8. Carefully lift the bottom of the bag up to peek at your seeds each day. Depending on what kind of seeds you planted, they should sprout within a few days or a week. (Our sunflower seeds began to show roots after just three days!)

      What Happened:

      Seeds need certain conditions in order to start growing. Until it is in the right conditions, the seed is dormant - it's kind of like it is asleep. When the seed has everything that it needs to start growing (warmth, oxygen, and water), it will "wake up" and sprout, or germinate. Once the seed germinates, it will begin growing roots going downwards and a stem going up. As the plant continues to grow, it needs sunlight, oxygen (from the air), water, and nutrients from soil.

      Check on your seeds each day and notice how quickly the roots grow once they appear. At first they might just grow as one root that keeps getting longer, but after a few days, it will likely start to have other little roots growing in different directions. Those additional roots help the plant reach more soil to find water and nutrients and also help keep the plant stable, so it won't easily fall over or be pulled out of the ground. Even though your seeds aren't in soil, the roots know they need to grow that way. After about a week, you can carefully take the tiny plants out of the bag and plant their roots in the ground outside or in a pot with potting soil if you want to continue watching the plants grow.

      How Do Plants Drink?

      You can watch a root (a carrot) "drink" up water with this easy experiment.

      What You Need:

      • Carrot
      • Glass of water
      • Blue food coloring
      • A sharp knife & a cutting board
      • An adult to help

      What You Do:

      1. Mix a few drops of the food coloring into the glass of water.
      2. Place the carrot in the water.
      3. After a few hours, pull the carrot out and have an adult cut off a small section near the tip.
      4. Look at both the carrot and the piece that was cut off. You should see blue dots on the inside of those two pieces.

      What Happened:

      The blue dots show where the water is being carried through the root. A plant's roots bring water and nutrients up to its stem and leaves through hollow tubes. A carrot is a root vegetable. Since you added coloring to the water you put your root (the carrot) in, the tubes showed up as blue dots when you cut the carrot's tip. All plants need water and nutrients in order to grow. Cut off another piece of  the carrot, looking for the same blue dots again. Keep cutting sections off the carrot. How far did the water travel up the carrot? If the carrot you used had a green top still connected to it, the water probably traveled all the way up to the top part, which is the stem of the carrot plant.

      In order for a carrot to grow when it's in the ground, the green plant part above the ground needs to be healthy. It stays healthy by getting water and nutrients from the root, which eventually grows into a thick orange root that's good to eat!

      Build a Wormery

      Want to learn about worms? We think the best way is to watch them! Here's how you can collect some worms and watch what they do.

      What You Need:

      • Clear plastic 2-liter soda bottle
      • Scissors
      • Sand, soft soil, garden soil, compost (as many different types of soil as you can find)
      • Water
      • Earthworms (about 5)
      • Leaves
      • Piece of construction paper or cardboard
      • An adult to help

      What You Do:

      1. The first thing you need to do is prepare a place for worms to live - called a wormery. Clean the soda bottle and remove the label the best you can. Have an adult help you cut off the top of the bottle where it starts to get smaller to form the neck of the bottle.
      2. Fill it with alternating layers of soil and sand. Use at least two different types of soil, but the more you have, the better.
      3. Add water to the soil to get it damp, but not too wet or goopy. Place some leaves on top of the soil.
      4. Once your wormery is ready, you'll need to get some worms. The easiest way is to buy some from a local bait shop or pet supply store. However, it's not hard to find them out in your yard! If you have a bare patch of earth, try watering the area and then placing a piece of cardboard, carpet, or wood over it. Leave it for a day and then lift the cardboard off the dirt to find the worms hidden underneath. You can also just start digging in the dirt to find worms. (Just make sure you get permission from an adult before you start.)
      5. As you find worms, carefully put them into the wormery. You can use a twig or a plastic cup to gently scoop them up and move them. Try to find 4-6 worms.
      6. Once your worms are in, cover the top of the bottle with construction paper or cardboard to make it dark for your worms.
      7. Over the next few days and weeks, watch them tunnel through the soil and leaves and see how long it takes for the layers of soil to become mixed together. You may even see the worms tunnel along the side of the bottle.
      8. Worms need their soil to be moist so that they can breathe and not dry out. Check on the soil every day. If it looks like it is starting to dry out, add a little water to keep it damp.
      9. When you are done watching the worms, simply dump the entire contents (worms, too!) back in your garden or a patch of dirt in your yard.

      What Happened:

      Worms can move an amazing amount of soil for their small size. An earthworm can eat its own weight in soil and other matter every day! As you saw in this project, worms help till or turn up the soil as they tunnel through it. Worms make a natural fertilizer. If you place compost (plant material like fruit or vegetable peels) on your garden you can be sure some friendly earthworms will help get it down to the roots of your plants and provide your soil with lots of important and rich nutrients, which in turn will help your plants grow.

      To learn more about roots and worms, visit this Teaching Tip.

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