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The spring is a great time to open your blinds and shades and let a bit of sunlight in! As the weather gets better in April, May, and June, people start to work on their gardens. You can work on a garden of your own, too! With an adult's help, a bit of work, and scientific skills, you can create a small window garden of plants, flowers, or herbs. To do that, let's learn about how plants work, how seeds germinate, and what a plant needs to grow successfully:

What's Inside a Seed?

When you plant your window garden, you can either buy smaller plants from your local farmers' market, or you can grow your plant from a seed. Many people choose to plant from seeds, as this choice can be cheaper, but how do seeds work? Inside every seed is several key components: the hard shell coating called the testa, the energy or food stores called the endosperm, and the embryo or baby plant. Seeds can wait a long time and remain dormant until they're in the right environment. Then, when the right conditions have been met, they'll start to germinate, or grow.



What is Germination?

After a seed is planted in soft soil and gets all required nutrients, it will start to break up and germinate. Germination is a word that describes the process that happens when a seed begins to grow. The seed will shed its seed coat and grow in two directions. The radical burrows down into the earth to form the roots, and the plumule will go upward and try to find light and energy from the sun. The first small leaves will begin to form at that time too. A tiny, germinated seed can eventually grow into a plant, bush, or even a huge Redwood tree!



What Do Plants Need?

In order to both germinate and survive, plants need a variety of different things. First, they need the right amount of light; too much light for one plant might be too little for others. They need water in the right amount, as well (not too much or too little). The need space to grow, time, carbon dioxide (which is in the air), and key nutrients, which come from the soil.



Why is Soil Important?

Typically, thin or dry soil, like in the desert, doesn't produce many plants. Thick, dark, rich soil, which has lots of organic material, often does much better. We as humans are often blind to how important the soil is. As you find the seeds you want to use, you should take time to find the right dirt. For some, that means using compost created from a compost pile. For others, that means buying the right fertilizers. There are thirteen key nutrients that plants take in from their roots. Some of the most important ones are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.



Planning Tips for Your Window Garden

If you want your seeds to germinate and grow, you'll want to find ones that will do well in your space. Be sure you choose a window of your house that has enough sunlight. Herbs are a popular for windowsill gardens, as they don't take up too much space and can be used in cooking. Basil does very well, so long as you have sunlight. If you have a deeper pot for you windowsill and more nutrient-rich soil, you can also plant carrots, radishes, and other root vegetables. For those who love flowers, several choices are available, from marigolds to pansies. Vines, such as sweet potato vines, look very lovely from outside as well.



Ideas for the Classroom

Do you have an empty, sunny window at your school? Teachers can also have a lot of fun with window gardens too. Plants offer us a real-world opportunity to study science and see real growth from our efforts. Check out some of these projects and classroom activities:

Article written by Lexi Westingate

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