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The Haupt Conservatory will close at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 30.

Tomatoes growing at the Edible Academy

CGP at Home

We are delighted to share fun, age-appropriate activities and updates from our garden with our past participants of the Children’s Gardening page. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to send our favorite recipes, crafts, explorations, and gardening projects. Grow with us!

WEEK 1: SUMMER & SEEDS

Garden Journal

WEEK 2: OUR GARDEN COMMUNITY

How to Build a Worm Bin

  1. Worms are nature’s recyclers. They  break down organic matter – such as food scraps, leaves, and animal waste – into smaller pieces.  With the help of other decomposers (other insects, as well as fungi and bacteria), they turn the food chain into a food cycle, making new soil. Anything that grows from the Earth can be turned back into earth: instead of throwing away kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and raked leaves, you can help complete the cycle by composting at home.  One of the cleanest, simplest, and least smelly ways to do this is with vermiculture – building a worm bin!

    What you will need:

    • A shallow, wide plastic container 
      • Durable plastics such as #’s ♴,♷,♹ (2, 5 and 7) are best.
      • Opaque containers are best, but if you use a clear one, just keep it in a dark space.
    • Shredded, soaked brown paper or newspaper 
      • You need enough to cover the bottom of your container(s) with 2-3 inches.
      • Bleached office paper should be used sparingly or not at all. Bleach kills good bacteria! 
    • A scoop of soil
    • Food scraps (banana peel, discarded lettuce greens, carrot tops, crushed egg shells)
      • Note: Too much fruit can cause moisture buildup or attract fruit flies.
    • Spray bottle for water.
    • Drill with ⅛” drill bit (Adults should operate).
    • Red wiggler worms

    Optional upgrade (see instructions at the end of this document):

    • Screening material (like window screen or other metal meshing)
    • Waterproof glue
    • A second bin that stacks with the first (allowing 1-2” gap at bottom when stacked)
    • A cooler spout (for worm tea drainage) & corresponding sized drill bit

    To build a simple worm bin…

    Worms breathe air just like us.  Start by putting air holes along the top strip of your container’s sides. Have an adult help by drilling ⅛-inch holes. Four on each side should do.* Shred and soak your paper scraps in water. Once thoroughly soaked, gently squeeze out excess water. Layer them 2-3” deep at the bottom of your container.  Pour in a scoop of soil and mix it into the paper scraps.  Add your worms.  Depending on the size of your bin, you can add between 10 – 1,000 worms to your bin! The worms will begin to make the paper and soil their home, and can also eat both.  

    Feeding your worms…

    You can feed your worms kitchen scraps (you can save in the freezer) once a week by simply opening the lid and placing some at the top.  Be sure to cover with more moistened paper scraps each time you feed them. Compost works best at a 60-40 mix. 60% of this mix should be carbon-heavy, “brown” organic material and 40% should be nitrogen-heavy, “green” material (includes fruit peels/cores).  Worms cannot eat meat or dairy, however! See this list of acceptable food scraps for worms.

    Maintaining your worm bin…

     If your worm bin looks dry, dampen with your spray bottle or add moistened paper strips.  If it looks too wet and clumpy, mix in dry paper scraps and reduce the amount of water-heavy food scraps (like fruits).

    By moving around the compost, worms can create air pockets throughout.  This is good for aerobic bacteria and fungi as well and will keep your worm bin from getting stinky.  Still, every few weeks you should make sure there is enough oxygen by gently mixing the contents of your worm bin with a garden trowel. If too much brown liquid (we call it “worm tea”) collects at the bottom, carefully scoop or pour it out.  You can dilute worm tea and use it to fertilize house or garden plants! 

    To collect and use your worm compost…

    Over time, the worms will make more and more nutrient-rich castings (worm poop). This is a great plant-fertilizer. To collect, prepare your worm bin 1-2 weeks in advance by pushing all the old material to one side of your bin.  Then add fresh moistened paper and some of their favorite food scraps to the other side (melon rinds, banana peels, tomatoes).  The worms will leave the more “finished” compost and migrate to the side with the fresh paper and food scraps.  After a week or two, you can scoop out the side with finished compost without taking all of your worms with it!  Be sure to even out the remaining paper and food scraps along the bottom of your bin and top off with new paper.  The collected worm compost can be incorporated into the soil in your garden or home planters as fertilizer.

    How to upgrade your worm bin:

    When building your bin, use two of the same style containers that will create a 2-3 inch gap at the bottom of the lower bin when stacked.  Have an adult drill 4 ⅛- inch holes around each side of both containers (along the top 1-2 inch) as well as the bottom-floor of one (upper container).  These bottom holes are so the worms can travel back and forth between bins.  Then, drill a larger hole (¾ -inch to 1-inch) on each side of the lower container. Cut out mesh strips to cover each of these larger holes and attach on the inside by gluing with waterproof glue.  Let the glue dry.  Now, drill a drainage hole that matches the fitting of your cooler spout along the very bottom edge of the lower container.  Fit with the cooler spout.  Use waterproof glue where the spout touches the container to create a tighter seal and let dry.  Fill both levels (upper and lower) with shredded paper as instructed above.  Finally, place the worm bin on a shelf with the spout hanging off. Use this spout to drain the worm bin periodically and collect worm tea.  

    Resources:

    Ordering worms: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

    Worms Eat My Garbage! By Mary Applehof 

    New York City Compost Project

    Timelapse video: Around the Worm Bin in 80 Days

    Video: How to Make a Worm Compost Bin

WEEK 3: S.T.E.A.M. IN THE GARDEN

Phototropic Beans

  1. Have you ever wondered how plants “know” where to grow?  How do they always seem to manage to put roots down into the soil (or other substrate) and point their stem towards the sun? Even at the international space station without gravity as a guide, astronauts found that seeds grown on nutrient-rich gel in a petri dish still oriented themselves the same way as plants do on Earth!  So, what cues do plants use?

    It turns out, there are many!  In science, we call those cues “stimuli” because they stimulate organisms to respond to their environmental conditions.  When living things respond to a stimulus by “turning” in a particular direction, the response is a tropism.  You may have noticed these examples of different tropisms before:

    • Hydrotropism – roots seeking out water.
    • Geotropism – roots growing down, away from the seed and into the soil. (also known as gravitropism).
    • Phototropism – plant stems and leaves growing towards light.

    Observe phototropism in action:

    Part 1: Bending Beans

    • 2-4 Large dry beans (Peas and corn seed works as well).
    • Resealable plastic or silicone bag.
    • Moistened paper towel or sponge.

    Part 2: Phototropism Obstacle Course

    • Small pot and potting soil for sprouted bean(s)
    • Tall cardboard box
    • Scissors and tape

    When scientists perform experiments, they follow a set of steps that ensure better accuracy for their results. Known as the scientific method, it begins with a simple, well defined question. We are interested in studying phototropism, so we can ask questions such as: “will bean seedlings orient themselves toward the sun in the absence of soil or other substrates?” Or we might ask: “does the orientation of a light affect bean seedling growth?”  Next, we would draw on our previous knowledge and observations, as well as additional research on the subject to come up with a hypothesis. A hypothesis should be our best assertion of how we think the phenomenon will play out – so it should be a narrow statement that we can test.  We might hypothesize that the bean plants are able to respond to light and orient their stem and leaves towards the light source, even without soil. To test this hypothesis, we run an experiment with limited variables.  First, we need to set it up!

    Soak your dry beans overnight in water.  Place them on a moistened paper towel or strip of a clean sponge (no soap) and insert into the resealable plastic or silicone bag.  Hang or tape them in a sunny window. (If you did the Week 1 Sprouted Bean Dissection activity, you will start this experiment the same way.) Once your beans (or whatever seed you are using) begin to sprout, take note of the orientation of the emerging radicle (first root) and plumule (first shoot). Continue to observe the growth of your bean seedlings and record what you notice.  

    After about two days of growth, carefully rotate the resealable bag clockwise between 90 degrees (1/4 turn).  Be sure to add water and/or air to the bag if the beans are too dry or too moist. Record observations for the next two days.  Repeat these steps as many times as you desire for the course of the experiment. How are the beanstalks growing?  Do the stems change direction depending on the direction of the light source (such as the sun)?  Looking over your experiment results, what is your conclusion? Was your hypothesis supported or refuted by the results?

    When something turns toward the light, we call it positive phototropism.  Plants have a hormone in their cells called auxin that helps to stimulate cell reproduction and elongation in the stems.  Because plants do not have muscles to move toward the light, when they bend toward the light, it is actually an act of rapid growth!  Auxin builds up on the shady side of a stem or petiole to have it grow more quickly than the more illuminated side, so the plant can begin to bend toward the light.  Amazing, right?

    Phototropism Obstacle Course Experiment

    We can do another experiment to see just how effective this plant response is, even in very low light. You can continue to follow the scientific method for this experiment as well. See additional resources below for more about the steps of the scientific method. Refer to the diagram for help with the procedure.

    Tropism box
    Start by potting up one or more of your sprouted bean seeds and watering it in thoroughly.  Seal the bottom of a tall cardboard box, cutting a small slot or hole into it so just a little sunlight can get in.  Cut off the flaps to the other, open top. Next, make a door by cutting down one side of your cardboard box. Then, use a strip of tape to close it. The flaps can be used to make obstacles for the plant to grow around on the inside of the box. Place them by taping them to alternate sides and levels of the inside of the box.  Alternatively, you can make horizontal cuts across the sides of the box and wedge the flaps in.  Note: the obstacles should be placed above where the plant pot will sit once the box is inverted.

    Finally, place your plant either outdoors or in a sunny window and carefully cover with the inverted cardboard box, with just the small hole letting light come through the top. After 2-5 days, open the door on the side of the box to see how your plant grew! Did it make it around the obstacles? What are your observations and conclusions?

    Additional Resources:

    Video: The Steps of the Scientific Method for Kids 

    Video: Positive Phototropism | Demonstration

    VIdeo: Biology Lesson Idea: Plants, Tropisms, and Hormones

    Article: Plants Grow Fine Without Gravity

WEEK 4: SALAD DAYS

T-Shirt Harvest Bag

  1. Materials

    • 1 t-shirt (upcycled: use an older shirt of your own!)
    • 1 pair of scissors
    • 1 rubber band or 1 x 10” length of strong string/cord

    Instructions

    Decorate your t-shirtFirst, decorate your shirt as you please using washable markers, ink pads and stamps, paints, or with embroidery. 

    Cut off the sleaves of your t-shirt

     

    Cut off the sleeves.

     

    Tie the bottom of the shirt

    Invert the shirt (turn it inside out) so that your design is on the inside. Tie the bottom of the shirt off, as shown, using a rubber band or strong sting. Turn the shirt right-side out again, so that the tied-off part is hidden.

    Finished t-shirt bag

     

    Bring your bag with you wherever you go!