Gardening is the perfect way for children to experience a bit of the farm. It is also an opportunity to teach some farm vocabulary words! Grab a packet of seeds, some soil in a pot, fertilizer and a pair of gloves.
I won’t go into the gardening specifics here. Many of you can probably figure out how to poke a few seeds into the ground. Or search for websites. Try lettuce if this is your first attempt!
Before you plant the seeds check the back of the envelope. Chances are there are a few great farm vocabulary words!
“Variety” means the differences in plants that are still the same species. If you chose lettuce it could be Black Seeded Simpson or Buttercrunch. Both are lettuce, but they will look and taste a little different.
On our farm we work closely with our seed salesmen to purchase just the right varieties. Some seeds grow best on our flat, bottom ground. Other kinds produce the most on hill ground. Some will survive a drought, some have tough stalks to survive high winds, some are best for grinding into cornmeal, some are good protein for dog food. You get the idea.
Farmers have been growing different varieties for centuries, but often they had to choose the seeds with the traits they wanted by hand. Now companies and universities know all about genetics and can grow exactly what farmers need!
“Germination” means begin to develop. On your packet you should see the number of days it will take before the seed sprouts are visible above the ground.
Germination is very important to farmers. Not all seeds grow and not all seeds grow into healthy plants. There are several things that affect how a seed grows and a farmer needs to take them all into consideration so as many seeds as possible turn into strong plants.
The temperature of the soil and how deep the seed is in the ground are the most important factors. If you want to, keep track of the number of seeds you place in the soil and then record the number that germinate. What is your germination rate?
“Maturity” refers to when the plant will be developed, or finished growing.
You will want your lettuce to mature over time so you can its eat leaves for several weeks. A farmer would like all his crops to be done all at one time so he can use a combine to harvest everything at once.
A farmer also wants to make sure his crops are done growing before a frost or snow fall kills plants that could have gotten bigger. The trick is to plant late enough the ground is nice and warm for good germination, but not too late or the plants will not be mature before fall begins!
That leads us to “Culture” which means preparing the soil so you can plant. The culture date on the envelope should give you a good idea of when your variety needs to be planted for best germination and to reach maturity with plenty of time to enjoy your veggies!