Get Growing! All about bulbs

I'm teaching garden class after school again this year. I am excited to try some of the activities again and bring out some new ones. This class is mostly first grade with 2 or 3 older kids mixed in, so the challenge will be to plan activities that can be enjoyed at a number of levels.

We started off the season learning about bulbs. Some bulbs, like onions and garlic are good to eat, while other are important for the flowers they make. The most interesting part of a bulb is the inside, so I cut a few different kinds in half.

I put the halves in these handy clear plastic boxes I so that the kids could observe without getting onion juice everywhere. There were a number of different bulbs - onion, garlic, daffodil, and grape hyacinth. Each student drew their bulb and we discussed the different parts. Older students labelled the leaves, roots, stem, and flowers. There was some really great art work but I was too busy to take any pictures.

Next each student brought their bulb and we did a series of "challenges" that allowed them to move around the room: Find someone with the same kind of bulb, Trade with someone with a different bulb, Sit if your bulb is edible, hop if your bulb has roots.

In preparation for the bulb forcing activity, we discussed the things plants need - light, water, air, and soil. Bulbs can be grown without soil, because they bring their own food in the round part of the bulb. (at least for one flowering, after that they have to refill that "lunchbox" by growing in some nice nutritious soil")

Forcing Bulbs:
Forcing just means tricking the bulb into flowering early indoors. This year I ordered pre-chilled grape hyacinth bulbs for forcing with the class. Narcissus don't require pre-chilling, but most other bulbs do.

Each student measured out 3/4 cup of pebbles (aquarium stones) into the wide-mouth jars. Then they placed 6 grape hyacinth bulbs. We put the lids on for the trip home. Everyone promised to give their bulbs air, water, and a warm sunny spot when they get home. Some kids also named their bulbs and vowed to sing to them. These bulbs should show leaf and root growth in a few days and bloom in 2-3 weeks.

If you are caring for bulbs at home, remember only to fill the water to the level of the roots. After the bulbs have bloomed, you can plant them outdoors and maybe get some flowers next year.