Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brian’s Science Fair Project - 2012

Hydroponics Thyme! Brian volunteered for the science fair this year because he enjoys science so much and because he had fun with last year’s fair. His subject this year was about growing plants in different mediums. Jordan is a very dry country, and his idea for the project came from brainstorming ways to preserve water and yet grow crops and other plants. Irrigation can use up a lot of water resources. Of course, hydroponics takes water too, but maybe it might be more controlled. This led him to the question of how is growing plants in dirt, different from growing them in plain water (he used RO filtered so he’d have a constant variable) and from growing plants in fertilized water.


Well, we had some limitations. We were very limited on the seedlings available for experimenting on. We had no idea what their nutrient needs were. We do not have access to a big lawn and garden shop where we might have been able to get fertilizer specifically designed for aqua-culture. We also did not have the resources or time to build a real hydroponics set-up with pumps and filters! But, he decided that he could take a number of seedlings and grow them under the three different conditions, and track how well they did.


Brian picked out Thyme plants because the seedlings looked very healthy and we’re all about the same size (each pot had several seedlings). We removed them from the unknown dirt that they were grown in and carefully washed the roots. Three he potted three of them in basic potting soil, three in plain RO water, and three in RO water with a little water soluble house plant fertilizer (which seemed to fit all of the recommended nutrients needed for hydroponic planting, and was recommended on various websites).

Carefully removing the dirt and separating the seedlings was tough… it was hard packed, and it was a wet 40F outside when we were working on this!



Brian measuring the water and fertilizer.


The many uses of barred windows! This really made a great place for the experiment. The big sign on the window was to let the gardener know not to water these plants. The little tags on each plant was because Brian let his little sister name each plant!

DSC02285 Ninja supervised from inside.
DSC02282 To keep the seedlings from falling into the bottles, each was wrapped gently with cotton and tied with string.

Well, unfortunately, the fertilizer plants quickly died, probably burned up with too much fertilizer, which proved that you really need to know what you are doing to make this sort of growing system effective!! This was disappointing, but still, it taught a good lesson. The plants in the potting soil did very well. The plants in the plain water survived, but after a month or so, many leaves went very yellow and the plants are not as healthy as the ones that were able to gain nutrients from the dirt. These results were as expected. Later, when Brian read more about Thyme, he learned that they prefer poor soil and very little water, so I guess he was lucky to keep them going so well for so long!

After a month of growing, sand storms, snow, etc.


Potted plants are doing great.


Plain water plants are ‘ok’


(over-)Fertilized plants, um, not so ‘ok’.. oops!


Brian also researched some of the pros and cons about hydroponics and possible uses and benefits. He had results and reports to do online, and also had a (great!) e-mentor from a college in the US to coordinate his work with. He did a good job on his poster too!
End result is that he learned a lot and seemed to have a good time with the whole thing. No idea what the results of the judging is yet, that was done just yesterday, but that he enjoyed it, is good enough for me!

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