Unit 1B - Growing Plants, Section 1-8.
Unit 2B - Growing Seeds, Section 5.
This section of the Science Curriculum in the DFES scheme of work suggests taking the pupils on a tour of the school site, planting seeds and observing their growth. Why not further involve the children in the growing process? By planting and caring for a crop, such as carrots, the pupils can meet all the requirements of the above units.
First consider where to grow your produce. Find a small plot or, if not available, a space for containers.
If you're growing in a plot, don't make it too wide. Deep bed cultivation is preferable; the plot is surrounded by small borders providing access meaning there's no need to walk on the plot. This prevents soil compaction enabling closer planting, resulting in more crops and less weeding.
Prepare the soil by covering an area of grass with black polythene during autumn. This will leave you with weed/grass free soil ready for cultivation in spring.
When spring arrives begin by digging your trenches a shovel's width and depth. Save the soil from each trench you dig. After forking each newly created trench and after adding well-rotted manure, replace the original soil. Finish with a light forking over and raking to level your plot.
Containers are a workable alternative to using a plot. They can be made using a number of materials including: wooden rails, railway sleepers and old tyres (bolted together). The general rule of a shovel's width and depth still stands. Fill your containers with free draining soil or compost.
What to grow
While you can grow other vegetables, carrots are ideal. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and even colours. They can be eaten raw, there are many varieties to choose from and they're a good source of vitamins.
Begin sowing in early March with the aim of having your crop out by the end of the summer term. If the soil is dry, work with a rake, resulting in a nice crumbly surface. Use a meter-rule to make and measure shallow drills in the surface of the soil, 2cm deep and 15cm apart. Distribute the seeds thinly to avoid unnecessary thinning out, which encourages carrot fly. Mixing the seed with sand makes it easier to spread along the row.
A degree of thinning out will still be required; the carrots should be 5-7cm apart. Don't waste your thinnings, washed and topped, pupils will love eating these little delicacies.
Where do carrots come from?
Carrots originated in Asia, in an area we now know as Afghanistan. They were originally white in colour, the common orange carrot was bred in the Netherlands in the 17th Century, where it was popular because of its connection to the House of Orange and Dutch independence.
Do carrots help you see in the dark?
This story originated in the second world war as a rumour to stop the Germans investigating how British fighter pilots were able to find their bombers in the dark. It was a cover to hide the fact that the British had developed radar.
Why do my carrots grow in funny shapes?
Fanging describes carrots that grow with many fork-like legs. It is caused by damage to the developing root in the early stages and is common in stony ground.
Periodically measure the growth, amount of visible carrots and the varying types. Using the data gathered you will be able to identify the rate of growth, the amount of carrots your crop has produced, the most successful variant and ultimately the success you've had.
You could also leave one row un-thinned, observe how this impacts the growth of the carrots and allow your pupils to identify the reason(s).
It's only fair that the pupils have the opportunity to taste the fruits (or in this case, vegetables) of their labour. What about blind-folded tasting sessions? The students can note down the characteristics of each carrot they taste and discuss their findings.
Watering your crop is a necessity, but what if you forget? Why not leave a row un-watered in dry weather and discuss the consequences of your actions. Don't worry they'll recover from a short period of drought.
By covering a row of plants with a light-proof box, it becomes apparent just how important light is for their continued growth. They become taller as they search for light, but lose their green colour turning yellow in its absence.
During the course of the unit certain environmental issues could be raised, these might include:
- Organic vs. Inorganic - should we use chemicals on our crop?
- Grow your own - Is it better for the environment to grow your own vegetables or to buy them from the supermarket? Where do our bought carrots come from and how do they get here?
- The healthy option - Is it healthier to grow your own vegetables?