6. From planting to growing

6. From planting to growing

Suggested timing: March

Planting involves the active process of nestling a little seedling into the ground. When planting, children will experience first-hand, earlier ideas about what happens in the soil.

Key considerations for successful growth include:

  • Physical space above ground and under the ground
  • Watering
  • Access to light
  • Competition for nutrients

We want to ensure that each plant has enough nourishment to grow well.

Short film: From Planting to Growing


By the end of this unit, you will enable children to:

  1. Observe and draw the root system of a plant
  2. Compare plant growth above-ground and underground
  3. Trace the path of water inside a plant
  4. Divide the growing space into sections (square-foot garden)
  5. Learn about companion planting
  6. Plant selected vegetables and develop a watering and weeding routine

1. Root systems

The root system of a plant looks a bit like the hand of a child.  

Activity 1A: The purpose of roots

Children can be encouraged to reflect on what they do with their hands: reaching out; grasping; pulling; sensing and feeling. The bigger and stronger their hands, the harder they can work. Similarly, the roots of a plant will grow bigger and longer, to give the plant the ability to take increasingly bigger amounts of water and nutrients from the ground. Children may be encouraged to find pictures of vegetables growing.  

Useful resources

2. Root size

A plant often grows just as big under the ground as it does above. Measuring the root area can help children make a comparison with the height of a plant.  

Activity 2A: Observe different plant roots

Outside, children can be encouraged to look at roots and discuss why some plants have much bigger roots than others (for example, trees as compared to grass). Big plants need to go further to find enough water, and woody roots will help the plant live longer. 

Activity 2B: Draw root systems

Outside, pulling out some weeds in the school ground offers the opportunity for children to observe and draw the space occupied by leaves and stems above, and under the ground. 

Useful resources

3. Vital water

Water is the most immediate source of nourishment for the plant. Where does water come from and… where does it go to…? 

Activity 3A: Where do plants store water?

By touching and observing a live plant, children can discover where water is stored (for example, inside the leaves; in the petals; on the surface). They can observe what a vegetable looks like when it’s dry, as compared to when it’s sprayed with water. 

Observations can also be made about the skin of a veggie - some are smooth and waterproof, others are hairy or with pores. How does water behave on different plant surfaces? 

Useful resources

4. Planting space

All plants need to share physical space to: 

  • get the benefit of light 
  • sufficient volume of soil to grow stable  
  • gain access to water and nutrients 

The children can observe the space plants occupy in the school ground. 

Activity 4A: Planning how much space different plants needs to grow

A straightforward way to allocate growing spaces in a planter is to follow the square-foot method. For a planter measuring 1m2 this means dividing it into 9 smaller squares (so, 9 squares each measuring approximately 30cm x 30cm). Depending on the size of the plants, you then plant either 1,4,9 or 16 plants in each square. 

Useful resources

5. Companion planting

In the same planter, some plants can benefit from each other and help each other grow. Companion planting is when specific plants, flowers, or herbs are planted alongside the vegetable plants to protect the produce or enhance their growth. This might be by: 

  • Attracting insects (for example bees) for pollination 
  • Repelling pests  
  • Acting as an alternative food for pests (and so protecting the main crop from being eaten) 
Activity 5A: Choosing companions

Using a companion planting chart, children can find out which companion plants to use for the produce being grown. They can also decide how to arrange the different plants in the planters. 

Activity 5B: Helping others

Children can discuss the concept of ‘helping each other.’ What happens when we help? What words can we use (for example: to lend a hand; to support; to guide; to carry; to shelter and protect; to share…). They may be able to share stories of ‘helping,’ or dramatise an activity. 

Activity 5C: Companion planting versus large-scale agriculture

Compare companion planting with large-scale agriculture. What do they look like? What about the variety of crops? And what about pest control? 

Activity 5D: Gently planting!

Each child can plant seedlings or seeds in the planter in the allocated space. Planting involves handling soil and making sure the seed is well-covered with soil, well-watered in, and then watered regularly thereafter. 

Useful resources

You have reached the end of this unit. To assess your knowledge before starting the next unit, please complete the short quiz found at the link below. 

Please note: you will have to enter your email address at the start of each unit quiz if you wish to be sent a Garden Schools Certificate of Completion once you have worked through all 8 units and quizzes. 

Complete the From Planting to Growing short quiz