Plant Science Merit Badge

Click here for the official guidelines from the Boy Scouts of America for the Plant Science Merit Badge.

This badge clearly relates to our self-watering container garden concepts. The parts of flowering plants, including those like squash and cucumbers that produce separate male and female flowers, are entirely relevant to growing fruits and vegetables.

Equally important is an understanding of photosynthesis. Determining how much light your plants need is necessary in order to ensure they have enough light to sufficiently conduct photosynthesis but not so much that they fry in the sun.

Understanding how honeybees and other pollinating insects contribute to plant life is also important to maintaining a fruit and vegetable garden of any kind, including self-watering container gardens. Likewise, how water, light, air, temperature, soil quality, and pests affect plants are equally thimportant to understand.

This badge requires you to grow a plant by one of several common methods, including growing a plant from seeds. If you follow our guidance for building self-watering container gardens, including starting your plants from seeds, then you will satisfy this requirement.

In naming cultivated plants near your home, include those in your self-watering container garden, if applicable. If you choose the Agronomy Option and start seeds from scratch, consider using only non-GMO seeds or comparing the germination rates of GMO versus non-GMO seeds.

Should you decide to grow a plot of corn and don’t have enough available open ground, if you have a large enough area where you can put in self-watering bucket containers to suffice as a “plot,” you can grow one corn plant per self-watering container. Choose which cultivar of corn you use wisely as plants that are known to get very large will not be appropriate. Plants that grow to a moderate height are best.

However, corn is one of the food species that has most been genetically modified, which is how some growing traits are produced. If you do not want GMO corn, shop from providers of non-GMO seeds only and look for moderate height cultivars from among the heirloom varieties. If you cannot find a non-GMO seed vendor locally, there are several online.

The Agronomy Option also requires that you explain how legumes can be used to enrich the soil and the conditions under which they can deplete it. If you are growing legumes in your self-watering container garden, this is relevant to your gardening success. This option requires you grow a plot of soy, which you can grow like a plot of corn in self-watering bucket containers, discussed above, should you lack available open ground for growing.

However, like corn, most of the soy on the market has been genetically modified in some way. You may wish to consider using only non-GMO soy or comparing GMO and non-GMO soy plants to each other. If you decide to grow comparison crops of GMO and non-GMO plants, keep them separated or they will cross-pollinate and skew your results. If the GMO plants pollinate your non-GMO plants, there will be no non-GMO offspring.

If you choose the Horticulture Option, you can visit a self-watering bucket container community garden that is open to the public, if there is one in your area. You and/or your troop or crew may have built one as a community service project, or one may have been built by another troop or crew in your area.

Understanding what hardiness zones, shade tolerance, pH, moisture requirement, native habitat, cultivar, ultimate size, disease resistance, habit, evergreen, deciduous, annual, and perennial are is critical to the success of any garden you may build and maintain, regardless of what kind of garden it is.

The Horticulture Option provides for you to explain the differences between vegetative and sexual propagation methods and to grow a plant from a stem, root cutting, or graft. If you have an established container garden with plants from which cuttings or grafts can be taken for this purpose, you can increase your garden size by propagating more plants in this manner.

You can also transplant twelve seedlings or rooted cuttings to larger containers and grow them for at least one month. We obviously recommend just adding them to your garden and growing them to harvest.

The plants you’ve selected for your container garden will speak to the component of the Horticulture Option that requires you to explain the importance of plant selection and how to choose plants that are suitable for particular sites and growing conditions. One possibility under the Horticulture Option is to grow five fruit, berry, or nut plants and care for them through at least one season, which you can do in self-watering bucket containers.

Non-GMO rooted cuttings can be purchased online if you cannot find them locally. For plants that grow vines, such as grapes and blackberries, be sure to provide adequate trellising for each container. The Horticulture Option also calls for you to build a garden that is at least 10 x 10 feet.

At one square foot per self-watering bucket containers, that’s 100 containers if you put them side by side throughout the available space. Fortunately, that’s not practical as there would be no space between the buckets to walk through and tend to them. Walking aisles of at least 2 feet wide are necessary to make the containers accessible. It is recommended, therefore, that you calculate a layout that permits for adequate movement within a 10 x 10 foot space while providing enough containers to grow a sufficient number of plants to satisfy this badge’s criteria.

In building out and maintaining this garden, you will have to demonstrate soil preparation, staking, watering (which will be filling the reservoirs of your containers and occasionally topping them off when they get low), weeding (which shouldn’t be a huge problem as you are not growing in open ground where all the weeds are), mulching, composting, fertilizing, managing pests, and pruning. This satisfies a component of the Horticulture Option.

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