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Start Seeds for Science Projects

Do seeds like salt and vinegar? 

      A good science project can be conducted within a month’s time if you start with seeds. Such studies do not require much space or special light conditions. Seeds are readily available, inexpensive and will provide the diversity you need to make comparisons. For many studies, quart canning jars with screw lids, paper towels, water, salt or vinegar and measuring tools are all you need to study how seeds germinate in different conditions.
       Seeds are very sensitive to such germinating conditions as salts, acids and temperature. But not all seeds have the same levels of tolerance. Lettuce seeds, for instance, are more sensitive to salt levels than are tomato seeds. Marigold seeds tend to be less affected by acid solutions than zinnia seeds.
      Those differences give you opportunity to study the effects of salts or acids on the germination of seeds from various species of plants. Choose whatever seeds you like.
      For most studies, you will need 110 seeds of each variety to be compared. When you go to the store, buy enough packets to give you that number of seeds. 
      Back home, set up your experiment. Start with kosher salt.
      Pour one-fourth cup of water into 12 quart jars. Then add different amounts of salt to each jar: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 grains of salt. Stir until all of the crystals are dissolved. Mark each jar’s volume with a magic marker.
      Next, turn to your seeds. Using half a sheet of paper towel, make a zigzag fold approximately three inches from the bottom. The fold will protect the seeds from being submerged into the solution. Place 10 evenly spaced seeds inside the fold and fold again, this time lengthwise. Use a waterproof marker to identify the species being tested. Two to three different species can be tested in the same jar, each in its own paper towel wraps. Place one wrap of seeds in each jar, with just its tip in the water.
      A similar study can be conducted using white vinegar. After placing one-quarter cup of water in the bottom of each jar, use an eye-dropper to add 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, etc. drops to each bottle. Seeds follow as above.
      Loosely cover the jars with the screw lid and randomly place the jars in a warm room where temperatures will be relatively constant. Do not expose the jars to direct sunlight. Check the wraps daily at approximately the same time by unwrapping each carefully and counting the number of seeds that have germinated and how well the seedlings are growing.
       Keep separate records for each variety being tested.
       Repeat the whole experiment again in two weeks to verify the results of the first experiment.
       What did you see? What do you make of it? Analyzing the data you have gathered is the next step. For each seed type, explain jar by jar (and solution intensity by solution intensity) what you saw. Those are your results.
      You can refine your research by repeating the experiment using lesser amounts to determine the critical levels. Or you can test more varieties to expand data.
       This gives you the information you need on how seeds grow. Now use last week’s Bay Weekly column to present your information as a science project.