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MIsprouts Learn: What Is Good Soil?

Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener 

My goal with this series is to make accessible material for parents who want to teach their kids about gardening from the ground up (haha). These guides will consist of a short reading section about a gardening subject, followed by ideas for projects and experiments that can be performed at home to make the concepts more concrete for the kiddos! I hope they can be a source of fun for you and your family.  

Read aloud: Everything on Earth depends on dirt. Humans build on it, animals play on it, and plants grow in it! The ground might just look like dirt to us, but scientists have a special name for the top layer where everything grows: soil. Some soil is better than others when it comes to growing food. Today we will be learning about what makes up the perfect mix of soil for planting a garden.

Four Elements of Healthy Soil:

1. Minerals

Minerals are tiny pieces of sand and rocks found inside the soil. Putting more minerals into the soil helps water spread to the roots of the plant. When water can spread through the soil evenly, gardeners call that good drainage. Good drainage means your plant won’t flood when you water it!

soil

 

2. Water

Soil’s main job is to keep water close to the plant. When the plant is thirsty, it pulls water from the ground and delivers it to the roots. Clay is a type of soil that holds a lot of water at one time. To have balance in your soil, adding clay can help to keep water near the roots.

soil

 

3. Air

Plants need air to breathe, just like people do! Air fills the spaces between every part of the soil, but sometimes soil can become hard and pressed down so that no air can get to the roots at all! To avoid this, bugs, mushrooms, tiny animals, and worms all make holes in the soil so that air can move around and help the plants breathe.

soil

 

4. Organic Matter

Did you know we can recycle food like we recycle plastic bottles? Old food can be turned into something called humic, which is a fancy word for plant food. Ants, worms, living things, and things that used to be living make up the nutrient-rich part of the dirt. Nutrient-rich means the part of the soil that feeds the plants to keep them healthy! Here’s an excellent video that shows how plant food is made!

healthy compost

 

Project: Creating a Perfect Soil Snack

soil cups

You’ll need:

3.9 oz packet of instant chocolate pudding

15 oz of crushed chocolate cookies

2 c cold milk

Approx 24 gummy worms

When you mix these ingredients by following this recipe, use each component as a visual aid to the lesson. Mix together minerals (pudding mix) and water (milk) to create pudding. Fill individual cups or a cake pan with pudding, and layer with organic material (crushed cookies) and add air to your soil by providing it with worms (gummies).

This is an easy hands-on project for any age group. For more options for crafts and experiments for this lesson, follow our MIsprouts Pinterest page.

Projects recommended for:

Ages 3-5: Pipe Cleaner Worm | Craft

All Ages: What Lives in Dirt? | Backyard Project

Ages 7+: Sand, Clay, or Soil? | Growing Experiment

Ages 7+: At Home Soil Test | Soil Experiment

 

I hope this post was helpful! Please leave me some feedback in the comments on Facebook to let me know if any changes can be made to posts like these in the future!

Check us out at MIgardener.com or on youtubeInstagram, and Facebook.

Main sources:

SciShow Kids

MIgardener

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