24 January 2012

Gardening with Kids - Have Fun with Cress

Children love to watch seeds grow, and even better if the seeds they are growing are scattered in the shape of their name or favourite shape (am thinking hearts for Valentine's Day here...).

Here’s a simple project that can be grown at any time of the year – as long as you have a light windowsill to grow them on.

What you will need:

Cress seeds
Watering can or spray bottle
A container – margarine tubs, mushroom container – anything that will hold your seeds
Compost, kitchen roll or cotton wool

What to do:

Place your compost, cotton wool or kitchen roll on the bottom of the container and soak with water.

Shake some seeds into your (or your child’s) hand and carefully shape them into the desired initial or shape (beware as they are easily scattered!)

Place the container on a windowsill, preferably where the child can see them.  

Make sure the compost, cotton wool or kitchen roll is kept wet as the seeds won’t grow if they’re allowed to dry out.

In just a week’s time, when the cress has reached about 5cm, it will be ready to eat! (Tastes delicious in a sandwich with egg or cheese.)

Older children might like to try growing the seeds in more than one container at the same time, with say compost in one and cotton wool in another so that they can compare the results. 

Some of the things you can talk about as you watch the seeds grow are:

  • How the seeds all bend as they reach to the light. If you turn the tray they will bend back. There's a special word for this which I love called Phototropism. There are lots of 'tropisms'. Another one I like is Thigmotropism where a plant moves or grows in response to being gently stroked or touched.

  • If the seeds are sown too thickly they might not grow as strong or healthy as they will all be fighting for space and light.

  • If they forget to water them they might not grow as strong or healthy as they will all be fighting for space and light.

  • If they forget to water them they will become limp (as we do). If they are overwatered they might not germinate as they will be starved of oxygen and drown!

  • If two experiments are carried out, do the seeds that were grown in the compost look healthier, greener or larger than those in the kitchen paper or cotton wool? Did they grow more quickly? (If so it's because there are nutrients in compost that will feed them, whereas there are no nutrients in compost or kitchen roll!  Seeds don't need nutrients to germinate as everything they require to do this is contained within their seed shell. However, once they've sprouted and grown their first leaves, they will be looking for those precious nutrients.

Have you ever grown cress seeds in different ways? What's your favourite way of eating it?

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