If you are interested in getting the most from the crops you grow in your garden, try doing some growth experiments. Most often these experiments involve evaluating the growth of the same plant under different conditions. Other experiments evaluate the growth of different varieties of the same type of plant under identical conditions. One of the simplest experiments is to grow a variety of plant that you have never grown before.
Effects of Different Growing Mediums on Plant Growth
Create three mixtures to conduct an experiment on the effect of soil composition on plant growth. To one mixture, add one part compost and one part garden soil. To the second mixture, add one part perlite and one part garden soil. To the third, add one part sand and one part garden soil. Use garden soil rather than commercial potting soil, as the potting soil is already optimized to grow the strongest and healthiest plants.
Sow identical seeds in each different medium. Lettuce and radishes are good candidates for this experiment because they grow quickly. Make sure that all of the pots of the soil mixtures are grown on under otherwise identical conditions in order to obtain a truly scientific result. The idea is to determine the effect that soil composition and fertility have on the growth of plants. You will most likely find that the combination of garden soil and compost grows the healthiest plants, because compost contains plant nutrients. Although vermiculite, perlite and sand improve the structure of the soil by adding air pockets to assist root growth, they do not contain any plant nutrients.
Grow Different Varieties of the Same Vegetable Under Identical Conditions
To determine which variety of a vegetable performs best and produces the best-tasting produce in your garden, grow several different varieties under identical growing conditions. Choose three or four different varieties of tomatoes and three or four different varieties of corn. Many varieties of these two vegetables have been developed. Scientists have bred them for different climates, soil types and disease resistance. Conducting this experiment will help you determine which varieties produce the healthiest crop with the largest yield in your garden.
Ensure that each variety is planted in the same type of soil, fed the same amount and type of fertilizer, and watered with the same amount and frequency of water. Evaluate the results based on the number of days it took for the crop to reach maturity, its taste and its resistance to disease.
To Mulch or Not To Mulch
Evaluate the effect of mulch on plant growth and health. Plant two identical varieties of the same vegetable. Surround the plants in one plot with a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch and leave the soil bare on the other plot. Continue with a normal watering and fertilizing schedule. Observe the difference in growth and fruit production between the two plots. For example, you may find that tomatoes that are mulched grow larger plants, bear earlier and produce more fruits. In fact, most vegetables will perform much better when mulched because mulch keeps the soil consistently moist, which keeps the plants from being stressed from inconsistent soil moisture levels.
Another benefit of mulch is that it discourages the growth of weeds so your plants don't have to compete with them for water and nutrients. Any weeds that do germinate and grow will be weak, spindly and easily pulled.