By Sam Burbach, Education & Programming Coordinator – 06/11/2020
When we think about what we like most about any given plant we usually think flowers, fruits, leaves or even stems/trunks. What part of the plant does that leave out? The roots! With the roots of a plant spreading deep below ground we don’t get to enjoy them or watch them grow very often.
Some of the most prized plant roots are root vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and beets. Not only are they tasty, but they also come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. We don’t really get to enjoy these ornamental features until the vegetable is harvested though. How fun would it be to watch these roots grow?
“Root-view” farms or growers are sort of like ant-farms for plants. You grow a plant in a clear-sided container so that as the roots grow you’ll be able to watch them. You can purchase these, but why not make one yourself out of recycled materials?
You’ll need a clear container that you’re able to punch drainage holes into. The size of your container should be determined by what you’d like to grow. I’m growing carrots so I’m using a tall plastic pretzel container. If you’re growing a shorter root, like a radish, you can try something like a strawberry clam-shell container. You’ll also want to determine how large around the root is going to get so that you know how close to the container wall to sow your seeds. You want the roots to grow along the container wall so that you can see them.
Here’s how you can try it at home!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Clear plastic container
- Hammer and nail, or drill to create drainage holes
- Potting mix
- Seeds – preferably something with a large root such as carrot, radish, beet, or turnip
- Plastic wrap
How to Make a Root-View Carrot Farm:
- Clean your plastic container.
- Use a hammer and nail or a drill to punch holes in the bottom of your container for drainage.
- Fill your container with clean potting mix and water it in to moisten the media.
- Plant seeds according to the package directions; remembering to sow several of the seeds along the side of the container (about ¼-inch from the side) so you can watch them grow.
- NOTE: I sowed my seeds about a ½-inch to 1-inch away from the edge of the container but that wasn’t quite close enough, so I moved some of the soil out of the way and pushed the carrot closer to the edge for my kids to see.
- Gently cover the seeds with potting mix and water lightly to help initiate germination.
- If starting the seeds indoors, lightly cover with plastic wrap to retain moisture for help with germination.
- Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic wrap and keep the potting mix evenly moist.
- Watch through the sides of your container as the roots grow!
I sowed my seeds about a ½-inch to 1-inch away from the edge of the container but that wasn’t quite close enough, so I moved some of the soil out of the way and pushed the carrot closer to the edge for my kids to see.