According to the calendar, spring is just around the corner (Thursday the 20th is the first official day of spring!). However the weather outside is decidedly unspringlike with blustery north winds and snow. It’s the time of year when gardeners start looking at their seed packets and deciding which seeds to start indoors and which to start outside once the ground is workable. It’s also a good time of year to investigate for yourself what plant seeds need in order to sprout and grow: water, warmth, and sunlight in some combination. Given the droughts of recent past years, we’ve probably all seen the effects not enough water has on trees, grasses, shrubs, and food plants. Late April and early May snows, such as we had last year, readily demonstrate what happens when new plants are shocked by sudden cold. But have you ever wondered how plants would grow without plentiful sunlight?
For this experiment you need the following:
Plastic cups or containers (single-serve yogurt containers are the perfect size)
Bean seeds (make sure you’re using bean seeds and not dried edible beans)
Potting soil or garden soil (make sure to use the same soil for all cups)
Masking tape and a marker for labeling your plants.
Fill each of the cups about 2/3 full of soil, place in two bean seeds, and fill to the top. Sprinkle water on top and lightly pat down the soil over the seeds. Place one cup in a sunny window, preferably a south-facing or west-facing window that receives plenty of sunlight. Place one cup in a dark closet or cupboard where it will get little to no light. Place your third cup in a room that gets little to no natural light, but a good amount of electric light, such as a bathroom with no windows.
Check on your experimental beans every day and record your observations. Which beans sprout first? How quickly do they grow? Are there visible differences between the seedlings? Do the differences in light availability affect how your seedlings grow?
Run your experiment for 4 weeks or so, and create a chart of your observed results. Now you can try a second experiment by placing all three cups in the sunny window. How do the seedlings change with the added sunlight? What conclusions can you make based on your experiment and observations?
When the weather warms up, and summer approaches, you can move your been seedlings outside and plant them straight into the soil. Give them plenty of water and a structure to climb (if they are pole beans), and in a few months you’ll have tasty beans to eat straight from the garden!