Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cannibal Tomatoes - A Science Fair Project

-- Just so you know, I named this post "Cannibal Tomatoes" because of the results of The Girl's latest science fair project. It "should" be called "What Do Tomato Plants Like To Eat?" but that just seemed too wordy and not nearly as attention grabbing as "Cannibal Tomatoes". --

I started some tomato and pepper seeds as usual in early March for our garden. Later, The Girl decided she wanted to experiment on tomato plants for her science fair project so she confiscated three of the best seedlings and we transplanted them in April.

Note: If you do this project (or something similar), I suggest using plastic or enameled planters. The terra cotta pots we used soaked up water from the soil which dampened the labels and loosened the tape. Nothing fell off, but we were pretty worried about it for a bit and the ink on the labels smeared a little.

She wanted to find out what the tomato plants preferred to drink - water, worm tea, or tomato juice. We used tap water (straight from the tap since most people probably don't bother to let water from their garden hose sit overnight to de-chlorinate), worm tea harvested from our Worm Bin, and Campbell's Tomato Juice (in the 6-pack of cans so the juice would remain fresh throughout the 7 weeks we were doing the project).

The first weekly photo - taken at the very beginning of the project:

Before: From L to R, water, tomato juice, worm tea

The final photo - taken after 7 weeks of feeding the plants their designated "food" every other day:

After (7 weeks later): From L to R, water, tomato juice, worm tea

The pulp from the tomato juice kept hardening on top of the soil so The Girl would peel it back every time she would need to water. Eventually, she wound up with huge chunks of tomato pulp encased soil on the top.

It looks disgusting but we think it may have helped the plant do well in the long run.

See below for the actual procedure used .

The Headings & Body Text:

For the headers, The Girl wanted to use a Shadows Into Light font that she had seen at school. We were able to locate it at (it's free for personal use). We wound up using the same font for all the text on the project but to make it more legible throughout, we raised the size to 26 for the "normal text". Anything smaller than that seemed too "squished" together and hard to read.

We printed everything we would need before starting on the science fair board. The headings, the body text, the graph, labels for the pictures, and finally, the title. I've learned from the past to SAVE the text on your computer just in case some of the papers get messed up in the middle of assembling the science fair board. We've had paper tear, glue smeared across words, accidental cutting, etc. If you have the text saved, you can always just print out a new page.

The following text under the science fair project headers are in The Girl's words. I only transcribed for her so we could get through the typing faster (my keyboard is so well worn that many letters are missing and The Girl has a hard time typing on it).

Question: Which liquid makes the plants grow faster? Is it Tomato Juice, Worm Tea or Tap Water?

Hypothesis: I think the Worm Tea is going to grow the biggest because the Worm Tea is healthy for the plants. The reason I did not pick Tomato Juice is because it has acid in it and too much acid can kill the plant.

• 3 planters
• 3 saucers
• 3 tomato seedlings
• 2 measuring cups
• Tomato Juice
• Tap Water
• Fresh Worm Tea
• Soil
• Skewers
• Twist Ties
• 3 Labels
• Poster Board
• Ruler
• Marker
• Calendar
• Camera

1. Plant the three seedlings into the three planters.
2. Stake the plants with the skewers and twist ties to hold them upright.
3. Water all three plants with tap water.
4. Label the planters: Water, Tomato Juice and Worm Tea.
5. Two days later, water the “Water” plant with ½ cup of tap water. Water the “Worm Tea” plant with ¼ cup tap water and ¼ cup worm tea. Water the “Tomato Juice” plant with ¼ cup tap water and ¼ cup tomato juice.
6. Continue watering/feeding this way every other day.
7. Once a week, take a picture of the plants and record how much they’ve grown.
8. Continue watering/feeding every other day and recording weekly growth for seven weeks.

Results: (This section just had a line graph showing the growth of each plant in 1/4 inch increments. There were also photos of the plants taken weekly, though we could only fit 5 of the 8 photos on the board).

Conclusion: The tomato juice plant grew the biggest and looked like it was the healthiest because it was the most green and it sprouted like a tree and was fuller.

Theory #1: “The Fort” – The tomato juice dried and built a “fort” on top of the soil to keep the moisture in the soil making the plant more healthy.

Theory #2: “Cannibal” – The tomato plant got its nutrients from eating his friend because tomato juice contains the nutrients that tomato plants need to generate tomatoes.

The Science Fair Board:

While we had spent weeks working with the plants, the science fair board sat in a corner of our dining room completely empty. A few days before the project was due, we sat down to work on it. We already had our stack of construction paper and a fresh jar of rubber cement. I picked up the pictures printed we had printed at our area RiteAid photo center (here's a tip if you're looking to save money: I was able to purchase the photos with my RiteAid Up Rewards. If you have enough rewards, you can get all kinds of supplies for your children's projects this way). Walgreens charged 29 cents a print for same day service. RiteAid charged 19 cents a print.

After so many science projects in this house, we usually choose a very simple color scheme with one or two dominant colors and a third accent color. For this project, The Girl chose green as her main color. The board would be left white and then red, pink and blue would be her accent colors (green for the plants, red for tomatoes, pink for worms, and blue for water).

She wanted to draw a "foodimal" (a tomato with eyes and arms and legs - like in the movie "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2"), especially since the tomato plant fed the tomato juice was clearly the superior plant. We made the "foodimal" appear to be "drinking" a can of tomato juice. Originally we were going to hot glue the can to the board but Mr. LH suggested embedding the can into the board. That worked much better to secure the can in place.

Cut the board into an "H" right where you want the can to be. Spread rubber cement on the flaps and press the can into place. We also put a couple strips of packing tape across the back to further hold everything in place.

Then The Girl decided she needed to draw in "tomato juice".

The Girl was also required to keep a journal with her project recording her observations. She had been keeping her notes scrawled on random pieces of paper so we had to type all those out, print it and bind it into a nice report cover. I don't know if the judges actually took the time to READ the journal, but it was there in case they wanted to (and I think just having it completed was worth 10 points of the score, but I'm not really sure about that - I forgot to check out what the scores were based on).

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