A few weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to get some starts going for our garden. I bought some soil and those little biodegradable pots and used some seeds I already had and then planted two of each kind. I made sure they were watered, got plenty of sunshine during the day and brought them in at night because it was still pretty cold. This lasted about three days. One afternoon, we had a crazy windstorm and guess what got left outside. My little plants. My daughter discovered them and came running inside with tears streaming down her face: “Mom! The seeds! They blew over!” She was really sad about it. Sure enough, there was dirt all over the patio and no seeds to be seen.
Since then we’ve had some snow and rain and sunny days and I haven’t attempted to start any more plants, not sure if it was really springtime yet. One day, I remembered a time in first grade starting seeds in a plastic bag using a wet paper towel to keep the seeds moist, then sticking it in the sun and watching the seeds sprout. Duh. Why didn’t I think of this before? (Answer: Probably because even though I’ve had a garden for the last few years, I’m still an amateur gardener.) Turns out this is actually a viable way to start seeds for your garden and not just an elementary school experiment.
I decided to turn it into a little activity for my kids so they could see how plants grow. I gathered the supplies: seeds, zip-top bags and paper towels. (I’ve also read you can use coffee filters instead of paper towels.)
This was a super easy project to have the kids help out with. I simply chose three different kinds of seeds out of my stash (which I keep in the freezer). Then I got a paper towel and folded it down to size so it would fit inside the bag. Using a spray bottle, I got the paper towels wet but not soaking, then placed them inside each bag. My kids loved squirting the water out of the bottle and had lots of fun with this step.
I poured a few seeds into their hand which they put inside the bag on top of the damp towel. I helped space them out, then pressed out most of the air because I wanted to tape the bags to a window and didn’t want the seeds shifting. Another site I looked at showed them actually blowing air into the bags and then sealing them before setting them in a warm spot. Either way you do it, the bag acts as a mini greenhouse and you shouldn’t have to open it to add any water during the germination process. I labeled each bag with the type of seed and then taped the bags to my kitchen window.
And let’s be honest: this was just as much an experiment for me as it was for my kids. They wanted to see things grow. I was curious to see which seeds would sprout (if at all), which would sprout soonest, etc. It took me back to my little first grade self, learning about how seeds grow and the excitement of watching my own seed sprout.
I took pictures on day 1, 3, 5, and 7 and you can see in the pictures how much, or how little, they grew in a week’s time.
I didn’t do anything scientific with my kids in terms of measuring the size or drawing a picture of the seed, but I might do this activity/experiment next year when they are a little older and my daughter will be five. You could easily adapt this activity depending on age group. I found a website that had a lesson plan about growing seeds in a bag and a worksheet included.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to try and plant these seeds in my garden but I think I’ve still got a little time to leave them in the bag before they start to go bad. (Garden Betty’s website gave a lot of great information on how to do this. Check out her post for more information.)
Do you have a favorite method for starting your seeds in the spring?