The growing season is officially underway! Why do some plants grow really well, while others grow really slow and sometimes die? Many factors affect plant growth, but one of the most important is the soil quality. The type of soil that a plant is grown in affects how much water, air and nutrients the plant receives. Complete this activity to see the difference that soil can have on grass growth and also create a funny head of “grass hair”!
- Clear plastic cups- preferably clear
- Soil samples – collected from locations near your home or in your community
- Shovel or trowel
- Permanent marker
- Grass Seed
- Pictures/photos of people involved in the project – preferably with crazy faces!
- Use the scissors to poke or cut 3-5 small holes in the bottom of at least 3 plastic cups.
- Use a small shovel or trowel to collect different types of soil to put in each of your cups. We suggest the following:
- Fill one of your cups about ¾ full of sandy soil. Sandy soil feels gritty and water drains through it quickly. Use the permanent marker to label this cup “sandy soil.”
- Fill one of your cups about ¾ full of clay soil. Clay soil feels sticky and it holds water. Collect this soil in locations where you might see standing water after it rains. Label this cup “clay soil”.
- Fill one of your cups about ¾ full of loamy soil. Loamy soil is a combination of sand, silt and clay. Loamy soil is ideal for most food plants because it holds plenty of moisture but also drains well so that air can reach the roots. Collect this soil in locations where you can see plants growing well. Label this cup “loamy soil”.
- Sprinkle grass seed over the top of the soil in all of your cups. Follow the directions for planting depth and spacing on the seed package.
- Lightly cover the grass with soil.
- Water the soil and grass seed. Add water until it begins to drip out of the holes in the bottom of the cup. Be sure to place the cups in a sink or on a tray to catch the dripping water.
- Use tape to attach a photograph of a person’s face to each cup.
- Place the cups in a warm, sunny spot.
- Observe the cups and watch the grass grow. Make observations about which soil causes the grass to sprout first and grow the fastest.
- Feel free to use a scissors and “sculpt” the growing grass into any sort of crazy hairstyle you would like. Grass grows fast so you can try out many styles throughout the growing season.
- Why is soil important to humans? Soil is necessary for our survival! It provides the medium for plants to receive water, air and nutrients that allow them to grow. These plants provide humans with food, fuel, clothing and shelter.
- What impact does soil have on plant growth? Soil affects the nutrients, water, and air that plants receive. It also provides support for the plant’s roots.
- Record your prediction about what will happen with your Grass Heads. Think about what will happen to the seeds in each of your soil cups. Record (with drawings and written descriptions) what occurs with your Grass Heads in a daily journal to see if your predictions come true.
- Try a similar experiment planting vegetable, flower or herb seeds in different types of soil and observe what happens.
- Collect soil samples from your yard or garden and have it analyzed and tested at the University of Minnesota soil testing laboratory.
- Visit Dig It: The Secrets of Soil exhibit at the Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota campus. Or explore their website: http://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/ForAdults/Exhibits/DigIt/index.htm
For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc or contact Al Withers, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at email@example.com.