Growing trees can provide kids with the opportunity to plant and care for their own tree and watch it grow for years to come. They can also learn about the different parts of a tree and how each part is adapted for survival. They can learn what trees need for healthy growth and how to identify various types.
Growing a tree is easy and fun. Many trees can be grown from seed collected from your own backyard. Although natural germination is an acceptable way to start most tree seeds, many still require assistance in order to stimulate the germination process, such as stratification. Unfortunately, not all kids have the patience required for growing a tree from seed.
However, many trees that are grown in and around the garden are widely available from garden centres. These ready-to-plant trees, or saplings, are much easier to grow than seeds, as there’s less waiting involved, which is a plus for kids. The roots of saplings are well developed and found growing in a pot or wrapped in burlap sacks. Visit your local garden centre with the kids. Allow them to choose a tree of their liking but also one that is suitable to your site. You could also look through resource books for trees in your area to get some ideas beforehand.
Once the tree is chosen, perform some quick research as to its growing requirements. For example, how big will the tree get? This helps determine its location. If it’s going to be grown in a container, you’ll need this information to determine the pot size. Trees need room to grow. Some trees can reach 20 feet or more so be sure to locate a suitable site for your chosen tree.
Dig a hole just large enough for the tree to fit. Slide the sapling out of its pot, or cut away the sack, and place it into the hole. While some people prefer to keep the top of the root ball slightly higher than the soil surface, others place it well below, creating a dip to hold water. Either way is fine but choose the method that works best for you. I have had luck with both methods.
You could experiment, choosing to plant two trees using each method and having the kids predict the outcome. Be sure to backfill the hole with the excavated soil and lightly tamp around the tree sapling, taking care that it remains straight. To help retain moisture, add some mulch and water the tree thoroughly after planting.
How Do Trees Grow?
Describe how trees grow. Use pictures and diagrams to identify and label the parts of a tree and list their basic functions. For instance, a tree has a stem called a trunk and the trunk is responsible for supporting the tree, as well as its branches and leaves. It is also responsible for transporting food and water throughout the tree. The trunk is surrounded by bark, which protects the tree.
The tree’s roots keep it in place, absorb necessary nutrients and water, and also help in preventing erosion. Tree branches hold the leaves, spreading out towards sunlight. Leaves require sunlight in order to make food for the tree. You could also provide samples taken from nature such as bark, leaves, branches, etc. as you explain each part.
Characteristics of Trees
What makes a tree different from other plants? Have kids list the characteristics of trees. For example, trees are woody, are the largest plants, live a long time and change during the seasons. Discuss the importance of trees and how they contribute to our lives.
Ask the kids to come up with benefits and uses. For example, trees produce oxygen for us to breathe. They also help filter the air, keeping it clean. Trees can help prevent erosion. They can provide shade, shelter, and food (seeds, fruits, nuts) for people, birds, and other animals. Trees produce many of the things we use every day, such as wood for building homes and furniture. Paper is produced from trees and used for reading and writing materials. Glue and even chewing gum is made from trees.
Did You Know?
The Ada Tree of Australia is 236 feet tall and has a 50-foot girth with a root system that takes up more than an acre. The world’s tallest tree is a coast redwood in California, measuring more than 360 feet. You can calculate the age of a tree from its rings. The world’s oldest trees, Bristlecone pines in the USA, are 4,600 years old.