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What to grow indoors in Sept / Oct / Nov

Firstly apologies if this is the wrong forum but I'm looking for some advice.

I teach students with learning disabilities in an FE college and would like to plant/sow something that will grow indoors at this time of year.  I will be asking them to measure and log its progress.  I know very little about gardening so I am looking for some advice.  I have searched the internet and have come up with 'Paperwhite' narcissus and rocket.  Please can anyone help?



  • You could grow hyacinths. I used to work in special ed. and have done this successfully. There are two ways. Both methods have merit. It depends what you are aiming for. The second is more science/maths, while the first has some of this but also teaches patience, taking care of things and getting pleasure from the result. It is also more like the way plants normally grow.

    You can plant in a bulb bowl or pot using bulb fibre. Leave just the 'noses' of the bulbs above soil level. Water just enough to dampen the bulb fibre. .Then you have to put them somewhere cool and dark for a while. (My classroom was never that warm!) Check that they don't dry out but you just have to wait. Nature takes its time! After maybe four weeks you will see the first  signs that the 'noses' are beginning to poke higher above the compost. Now you can begin measuring, but leave them in the dark a bit longer. The leaves will begin to part and you will see the flower bud inside. At this point you can bring the bowl out and put it on a windowsill. Keep it watered, not too much, and turn the bowl from time to time so it grows straight. Carry on measuring and enjoy the flowers and the scent. You may need some short sticks or twigs to support the flowers, as they are heavy and tend to grow taller than they would outdoors.

    The second way is to grow them in water. You need to get a suitable container, either a hyacinth glass or the modern plastic substitute, which is ugly but safer. I think I found mine somewhere in a school supplies catalogue. This hold a single bulb securely above a water reservoir.  You simply keep the water topped up and as before keep it somewhere cool and dark. After a short wait the first roots will appear and grow down towards the water. These can be logged and measured too. As above, bring in to the light when the flower buds show.

    Another plant that is more exciting is Hippeastrum, more often called Amaryllis. These are large bulbs that you canfind at this time of year in gardencentres for about £5, and even in supermarkets, boxed as gifts, for a bit more with pot and compost supplied. You pot one up like the hyacinth. except that you leave its 'shoulders' above soil level, water and put on a windowsill. Check daily and see who first spots the new leaf tip. Start measuring! Soon there will be a second leaf tip showing. The leaves will grow tall and before long the tip of a flower bud will show. These grow at a phenomenal rate, you feel you can almost see them moving! You could easily measure twice a day and find a significant difference. I grew one earlier this year that reached about 90cm and it is now flowering again at a slightly lower height. The flowers are large and exciting too and come in bright colours like red and orange or with interesting two-tone petals and you will often get a second flower stem. The plant will need turning at least once a day to keep the flower stem straight (another teaching point!)

    Another thing you could grow is broad beans. These have large flat seeds that you can easily split with a sharp knife, and a magnifying glass will help your students see the tiny embryo leaf and root inside. Most of the inside of the seed is taken up by the cotyledon or seed leaves, which are there to supply food until photosynthesis can take over. To grow them simply fold over some paper towel to fit inside a lab beaker (or jam jar!), curled round in a circle aginst the glass. Slide the beans in between paper and glass. Put just enough water in the bottom to moisten the paper and place somewhere warm but light. Make sure the paper remains moist and watch. Soon the tip of  root will appear and grow downwards. Shortly afterwards a tiny leaf will begin to grow upwards. At first it will be white or yellow, but it will quickly turn green. With care not to overwater,which will can cause the bean to rot you can raise small plants this way. In winter combine this with growing beansprouts to eat, using mung beans, which are a bit small to watch.

  • Came on to suggest.....what buttercup says.image My dad used to take great delight in measuring a Hippeastrum he received as a gift and I did that bean thing in a beaker at school!

    Top post Buttercup!!!

    Is there an award for post of the day??image

  • TootlesTootles Posts: 1,469

    Brilliant Buttercup. Fantastic post!

  • Thank you for such brilliant responses pansy face and buttercupdays. Great ideas. I really appreciate your help. Although we have a garden it gets a little difficult to access with my students at this time of year due to mobility and health problems, hence the need to do something practical indoors.

    Buttercupdays, I can only echo pansyfaces comment, great teaching ideas; you've sorted out my projects for the next few months!
  • BLTBLT Posts: 525

    Whilest you are waiting for your Hyacynths to grow, how about something that grows fast, and that you can eat.. Like Mustard and Cress seed mix... You can grow it on kitchen paper towels even so its clean.. Obviously its not like children growing Sun flowers, but it is dependable and your charges can have a tasty addition to their sandwiches....

  • Good idea BLT, I'll give it a go.

  • One thing I meant to mention and then forgotimage, is that hyacinth bulbs can be a skin irritant for some people, so it is best to wear gloves when handling them. Glad I could help. I always had plants in my special ed. classrooms, it helped make them special!

  • savvosavvo Posts: 5

    I'm sorry I haven't been back before now but it has been a busy year.  I really appreciated the help I received from those on the forum and wanted to report back.

    We managed various projects:

    Growing broad beans in plastic bags.  Put the bean in a resealable freezer bag with a paper towel soaked in water.  Reseal the bag and stick on window with blue tack.  Beans grow in their own little ecosystem,  no more intervention needed.

    Hyacinths planted in pots. 

    Potato plant competition.  Who can grow the tallest / plant with the most shoots.  We used 'white potatoes' I had at home that had started shooting.  We suspended them in jars with cocktail sticks and grew them with just tap water (my room is very sunny).  When we had judged the competition we replanted the strongest plants in pots.  Although  it was too late for the students I have just enjoyed  modest harvest of potatoes. 

    We grew various seeds but these were not very successful because there was no one to look after them during the holidays.   Maybe I'll try quicker growing  types such as cress next time.

    We planted out pots in the classroom with various aliums,  daffodils,  double tulips.  We put these out in our courtyard.   These were very successful.

    We grew mung beans in jars as well.   Very easy to grow as long as you have access to clean water to rinse them regularly.  

    Altogether we had  a good gardening year.  Thanks again for you ideas. 


  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,904

    Well done John. It's lovely to have an update. I'm sure your students appreciated all your hard work. I can imagine the excitement on Mondays to see the progress over the weekend. 

  • savvosavvo Posts: 5

    I'm not sure who was most excited,  me or the students! 

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