Teaching young children the magic of growing and sharing with them the experience of eating food they have grown straight from the garden is one of my passions.
For the youngest gardeners, what’s actually going on under the ground is quite a mystery. To uncover the mystery and make the process super simple to understand, we made root view boxes. The children found it amazing to see what really happens underneath the ground as plants grow.
Although this is ideally a great project to do during summer vacation, you can do it any time of the year – indoors or out – with a few seeds. Choose fast-growing plants like melons, cucumbers, carrots, Swiss chard, radishes and sunflowers.
What you need:
- A milk carton container
- Clear plastic to cover hole in container (I cut a square from a clear salad greens container)
- Some extra cardboard (I used a leftover cracker box)
- Seed-starting soil
- Seeds for your desired vegetables. Some popular choices are: Rainbow chard for its colorful roots, radishes for a quick harvest, and a variety of colored carrots are always fun to watch.
- Clear plastic wrap
How to create your root view box
- First cut the top off of your milk container and poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Cut about a 3×3 inch square on the front of the milk container.
- Tape the clear plastic over the square.
- Cut a square of cardboard and insert it diagonally into the milk container. It should be positioned to push the soil close to the clear plastic square for better root viewing. Tape into place. NOTE: the purpose of this step is to reduce the amount of soil in the container, allowing the roots to really show up nicely.
- In a bucket, mix some water into your seed-starting soil. Just enough to moisten but not so much that it becomes soggy.
- Fill the portion of the box between the cardboard and window with the moistened seed-starting soil.
- Place your seeds on top of the soil, close to the viewing window side of the milk container.
- Cover with soil, paying attention to the required soil depth for your type of seeds.
- Place the clear plastic wrap over the box and secure with tape.
- Place box out of direct sunlight in a safe place.
Once seeds have germinated, move to a sunny window and watch the magic happen!
Enjoy your window to what’s happening underground!
A great book to go along with this project is “Tops and Bottoms” by Caldecott winner Janet Stevens. In it, a lazy bear learns the hard way how vegetables grow.