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Plants Without Soil?

You know the importance of soil in providing nutrients to plants. When a plant does not get enough water, it becomes limp. Water is needed to bring nutrients from the soil into the plant and help keep it alive. The challenge of this activity will be to provide nutrients to grow a plant without using any soil!
 
TRY IT!
You will grow plants by hydroponics! Hydroponics means growing plants without soil in sand, gravel, or liquid. The nutrients that usually come from soil are provided artificially. Your plant will receive its nutrients from a fertilizer solution you mix up. Here’s how:
 

Materials:

  • Nutrient solution ( MiracleGro® is a fertilizer which dissolves in water. You could try to use MiracleGro® or another type of fertilizer to make your nutrient solution.)
  • Container without holes (bottle or plastic container - like a yogurt or cottage cheese tub)
  • Small plant (You could buy one at a store, or just carefully pull up a weed from the yard making sure you get the roots)
  • Material that will not dissolve in water (examples: styrofoam packing "peanuts", cotton balls, cloth, rocks, gravel, sand, etc.)
  • Ruler
 

Procedure:

  1. Make sure your container is clean and empty.
  2. Wash all soil off of your plant's roots (remember to not let too much go down the drain.)
  3. Count the number of roots on your plant, and measure the length of each root.
  4. Count the number of leaves on your plant, and measure the length and width of each leaf.
  5. Record your data on a chart like the one below.
  6. Hold your plant upright inside the container, and fill around it with your packing material.
  7. Measure and record nutrient solution. Pour this over the plants roots.
  8. Observe your plant daily.
    • Watch for any signs that you need to add more nutrient solution (it looks dry, the plant is wilting, etc.)
    • Record any changes in your plant (number of leaves, length of leaves, width of leaves, or height of plant.)
  9. At the end of two weeks, carefully remove your plant from the packing material.
  10. Count the number of roots on your plant and measure the length of each root .
  11. Count the number of leaves on your plant and measure the length and width of each.
  12. Record your data on a chart like the one below.
 
Data Before Experiment
Data Before Experiment
Leaf #
Length
Width
Root #
Length
1

1

2
2
3
3
4
4
5
5
6
6
7
7
Data After Experiment
Data After Experiment
Leaf #
Length
Width
Root #
Length
1
1
2
2
3
3
4
4
5
5
6
6
7
7
 
  1. Write a conclusion.
 

Analysis:

  1. Did your plant grow or die without soil?
  2. Why did you need to make a nutrient solution?
  3. Did the number of leaves increase or decrease during the experiment?
  4. Did the number of roots increase or decrease during the experiment?
  5. Did the leaves lengthen or shorten during the experiment?
  6. Did the roots lengthen or shorten during the experiment?
  7. Is soil really necessary? (This is a TRICK QUESTION!)


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Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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