Growing plants and gardening are great pastimes for kids. The process of preparing a seed, tending, and nurturing it until it blooms or produces a crop of vegetables, provides a wonderful lesson in science as well as helping kids understand the origin of food. One simple project, an upside-down planter, also interjects a bit of fun and fascination into growing a plant. What child won't be challenged to think about how a plant actually grows when the soil is above the plant?
What You Will Need:
Although this is an easy project, a few steps will require the efforts of an adult and should be completed before starting the project. Before involving your child, prepare the soda bottle that will become the planter. Remove any labels and wash the bottle thoroughly. Carefully cut just below the spout of the bottle to make an opening just large enough to let the seedling pass through without breaking its leaves. Then carefully cut the bottom of the bottle off to allow the plant to be watered from (what will ultimately be) the top. Finally, punch four holes around the bottom of the bottle (about 1/2 inch down from the edge at equal distances—string or nylon line will be threaded through the holes so the planter can hang from an S-hook).
Take your child out shopping for seedlings. Many supermarkets and garden centers have a wide variety of plants to choose from. For this project, flowers such as impatiens or begonias are good choices as well as herbs like oregano, basil, or rosemary. Try to choose a seedling that is small and fairly flexible since the leafy part of the plant will have to go through a small opening in the top of the bottle.
Now that the bottle is prepared and your child has a seedling chosen, you can begin assembling the planter. Using safety scissors, cut a round piece from a piece of thin foam—just slightly larger than the opening that exists in the neck of the bottle. This disk of foam will go around the stem of the seedling and help keep the potting soil from falling out around the plant. When the disk has been cut, make another cut with the scissors halfway into the disc. This will allow the plant stem to be surrounded by the foam.
Gently remove the seedling from its container. Holding the seedling upright, place the foam disk around the plant stem and slide it through the notch into the center of the foam. The foam should be toward the bottom of the seedling where it touches the existing soil. Carefully slide the seedling and foam disk into the bottle from the bottom and up through the opening in the neck of the bottle. Carefully hold the leaves back as you work the plant through the opening.
Once the plant is in place, begin filling the bottle with potting soil—gently pressing to compact the soil with each addition. Be careful not to press too hard and push the seedling out of the bottle! The potting soil should be moist, if not, add a little water between each addition of soil. Add soil to fill the planter just below the holes that were punched when preparing the bottle.
Now, with one person holding the planter with the seedling hanging down, string cord or nylon line (roughly 18 inches in length—to suit the desired hanging location) through each hole and tie each securely to the bottle. Gather the strings together and tie them securely so the hanger can be placed over the S-hook.
Find an appropriate location in a partly sunny location, install the S-hook, and hang the planter. Given its small size, the upside-down planter should be watered on a regular basis (when the surface soil feels slightly dry to the touch).
Soon, your child's upside down growing experiment will begin to grow and everyone can marvel at how plants know which way is up!
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