At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Connect vegetables with their plants and seeds
- Explain recycling & re-use
- Connect soil health, plant health, and their own health
- Monitor plant health and growth
Recommended grades: 5-8
- LS1.A Structure and Function
- LS1.B Growth and Development of Organisms
What you’ll need:
- Potatoes with eyes (green or pink sprouts)
- Planters (large enough for planning 6-8″ deep in soil
- Chart (provided)
- Grow a potato plant to use for demonstration purposes
- Cut up sprouted potatoes into pieces with 1 or 2 eyes each or purchase seed potatoes
- Lay cut potato pieces in a sunny window for a few days to subserize, allowing a callus to form so the soft potato material does not rot when planted
- Germinate: when a seed or bulb puts forth shoots
- Harvest: to gather ripened crops
- Organic: food grown without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers
- Produce: agricultural products, i.e. vegetables and fruits
- Recycle: to re-use an item
- Shoots: new grown from a plant or seed
- Show students the potato plant. Have them guess what kind of plant it is.
- Ask how potatoes grow. How can you plant a potato?
- Show students the potato eyes. Do you eat potatoes like this?
- What can you do with kitchen scraps or old produce?
- Divide students into groups. Provide each group with seedling potatoes, two planting containers, compost, and soil. Have students label each planter, one with “soil” and one with “compost.”
- Instruct students to fill one planter with only soil and the other with a combination of soil and compost (about 50/50).
- Have students plant one or two seed potatoes in each planter (depending on the size of the container) 6-8 inches deep.
- Water and place under grow lights.
- As the potatoes grow, continue to add soil or compost mix; leave 4-6 inches of the sprouts uncovered. Continue to add soil as needed until it reaches the top of the container.
- Have groups rotate which group member tends to and monitors the growth of the groups’ potatoes. Have each group enter their plant monitoring findings into the growth chart provided.
- Harvest after the tops of the plant start to yellow and wilt–about 70 days, depending on the type of potato.
- Have groups present a summary of the data they have complied in the growth chart to the class.
- Which potato do you think will be healthier: the one in the soil-only container or the one in the compost-soil combination? Why?
- Which container will produce more potatoes? Which ahs the denser growth of leaves?
- What other vegetables can you re-grow from scraps and seeds? (see list below)
Plants to Regrow
There are a number of plants that can be re-grown from seemingly spent kitchen scraps. Please note that not every type of produce will work and that some are easier to regrow than others. Seeds from cucumbers, yellow squash, and zucchini are a few of the store-bought vegetables that you will most likely NOT be able to regrow from your kitchen scraps. These vegetables are usually harvested before their seeds have matured.
Plants you can try to grow from kitchen scraps and what part to use:
Green Onions/Scallions (shoots with roots)
Lettuce (base of lettuce)
Celery (base of stalks)
Potato (tuber with eyes)
Pineapple (top of fruit with leaves)
Ginger Root (rhizome)
Lemongrass (stem with roots)
Sweet Potato (tuber with sprouts)
Tips on how to regrow common food scraps:
- Place the root (white) end in a small amount of water (approximately 1/2″ up the base).
- Change water several times a week.
- New shoots will grow–harvest when ready.
Lettuce and Celery
- Place the bottom/root end (1″ plus) in water reaching approximately 1/2″ up the stalk.
- Change water every few days.
- After seven days, place the root 1/2″ deep in soil and wait for new shoots to appear (or you can keep it in the water if you prefer).
- Harvest when ready or wait for a whole new head or stalks to appear.
- Plant cloves about 1-2″ deep in soil with the neck (slender part) at the top.
- Plant garlic outdoors in the fall and harvest in the summer.
- Clean and remove tomato seeds; let soak in water for a few days.
- Plant the seeds 1/4″ deep in potting soil and water as needed.
- Cut open the fruit and find the seeds; keep them moist and do not let them dry out.
- Plant the seeds 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in potting soil.
- Water as needed.
- It will take several weeks for the seeds to germinate and years for the plant to produce fruit.
To develop fruit highlight is required. Place plant under grow lights or in a greenhouse.
It takes 2 – 3 years for fruits to form.
Pineapple plants can be grown outside in containers and brought indoors when temperatures are below 50 degrees. Keep containers in a sunny, south-facing window or under grow lights.
- Clean the pit and insert four toothpicks into the sides of the pit. Suspend the pit in a glass or jar filled with water so that the water covers about half of the pit.
- Change the water every few days.
- It will take several weeks for the pit to germinate.
Download these scenes from Smithsonian Gardens to use as your desktop background, or on your next Zoom meeting!