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Biodegradable Seedling Pots

Students build a biodegradable pot and plant a seed inside.

By making a seedling pot out of newspaper, you can reuse newspaper and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills. The biodegradable pot helps protect a seedling's root system before it is transplanted. Seedlings can then be transplanted outside once they are stronger. The pot, along with its seedling, can be placed in the ground. As the plant grows, the newspaper will break down.

All living things respire i.e. convert food into energy. Both plants and seedlings need nutrition, warmth, oxygen, and water to do this. A seed is a combination of a embryonic plant and a food store (nutrition) so it only needs warmth, oxygen, and water to start growing. But a plant must makes it's own food, it does so through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis requires sunlight and occurs in the leaves of a plant. The process converts carbon dioxide and water into food and oxygen. So plants need sunlight (not just warmth), carbon dioxide (they will make their own oxygen) and water.

Many students will say that both plants and seedlings need soil. The truth is neither really do. A seed has all it's nutrition built in and requires only water, warmth, and oxygen. Plants produce most of their own nutrition through photosynthesis. However, plants can't create the vitamins and minerals they need for growth on top of food they make for energy. The root system of a plant absorbs water, oxygen, vitamins, and minerals from the soil, these are all vital to the plants survival but the 'soil' itself is not.

Objectives

  • Describe what seeds need in order to grow into healthy plants.

Materials

  • seeds (peas, beans, lettuce, sunflowers)
    toothpicks or labels
    planting soil mix or topsoil
    newspaper
    toilet paper roll or spice jar

Key Questions

  • What do seeds need to start growing? What is different between what a plant and what a seed needs to grow? Is there anything we can do to make the plant grow faster? Where can we put the seed to make it grow faster? What did you give the seed that will make it grow into a plant?

What To Do

Make the Seedling Pot

  1. Cut newspaper into 12×22 cm rectangles.
  2. Lay the toilet paper roll along the short side of the newspaper rectangle.
  3. Roll the newspaper around the roll. Slide the newspaper so that it overhangs the roll about 20 cm.
  4. Fold the overhanging newspaper up inside the toilet paper roll, overlapping it or twisting it to create the “bottom” of the pot.
  5. Grip the paper in one hand and the roll in the other. Gently twist the paper pot off the roll.
  6. Fold over the top newspaper flap to “lock” the top rim of the pot.

Want a simpler biodegradable pot? Line a section from a cardboard egg carton with newspaper.

Plant the Seed

  1. Fill the paper or egg carton pot with moist soil.
  2. Plant a seed in the soil (check the seed packet for suggested depth).
  3. Attach a label to a toothpick to identify your seed.
  4. Once the shoot has pushed through the soil, the seedling, soil and biodegradable pot can be placed into a bigger pot with more soil, or into a garden.

Extensions

  • Grow different types of seeds and get students to record seed growth on a chart. Which seeds grew faster? Which grew slower? Take photographs or make detailed drawings of the seedlings every day. What changes do you notice as the plant grows? Experiment with different types of soil or dirt (ie. sand, gravel, peat moss, clay, etc). Does different soil make a difference to the growth of the seed? Design experiments to test what seedlings need (i.e. can they grow in the dark, can they grow without water, can they grow without soil?). Design experiments to test what plants need.

Other Resources

Science World Resources | Full Unit | Carbon Cycle
Science World Resources | Full Unit | Growing Food
Science World at TELUS World of Science | Galleries | Our World: BMO Sustainability Gallery
Science World at TELUS World of Science | Galleries | Search: The Sarah Stern Gallery 
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