Fall In the Venable Garden

Posted by on Oct 24, 2019 | Comments Off on Fall In the Venable Garden

Fall In the Venable Garden

written by Sarah Wayne

October is a month filled with change. Elementary school students frequently go outside to observe these sometimes-subtle changes to the world around them. In Kindergarten, students observe the changing leaves and temperatures. Older grades focus on plant life cycles and how they revolve around the seasons.

Fall is a great time to look for seeds. Maple trees drop their helicopters, milkweed sends its seeds out into the air, and squirrels rush to bury fallen acorns. There are many seeds in the gardens that are ready to harvest in the fall. This month, 2nd and 3rd graders at Venable saved echinacea and hibiscus seeds.

After they bloom and are pollinated, flowers set their seed. The native hibiscus, also known as swamp rose mallow, sets its seed in a capsule with five sections. To collect the seeds, students tapped the seeds out of the pods and into their hands.

The echinacea seeds are nestled inside the spiny centers of the flower and require a different approach. After the seed heads were harvested by Isabel Smith’s 3rd grade class, Samantha Kayser’s 2nd grade class separated the seeds from the seed heads. By placing a few seed heads in a closed container and then shaking it, the seeds separate and can be collected.

Many kinds of seeds must overwinter in order to sprout. This is called stratification. Both hibiscus and echinacea fall into this category. The freezing and thawing help to loosen the seed coat and wakes the seed out of its dormancy period.

Isabel Smith’s class discussed why this requirement may have an advantage over a seed like corn, which does not need to overwinter in order to sprout. If a corn kernel was planted during a warm day in October, it may sprout, start growing, run into a chilly winter and die. Echinacea and hibiscus, on the other hand, avoid sprouting during the wrong time of year, by lying dormant.

Do any of your favorite plants produce seeds that require stratification? Now is a great time to plant them so they can overwinter and sprout in the spring!