• Jessica Evans

Growing beans – with a twist

Remember growing a bean for a class project at school once? This is that. But with a small twist. Bite-sized Sci had fun re-living this old primary school memory. If you do this, you’ll really understand the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk – these babies grow fast!

Anyway, down to business! Growing a bean is a classic activity and its been around for eons. The reason it’s such a great thing to do, especially with kids, is because it has so much room for learning and creativity. It’s also so cheap to do! Here’s how its’s done.

What you’ll need:

  • Dry beans (not canned beans)

  • Paper towel

  • Cotton wool

  • A container – an empty margarine or butter tub will do

  • Water

  • A bright windowsill

Later on, you’ll need:

  • A bigger container, like a rectangular flower pot

  • Soil

  • A separate plant pot

  • A bright windowsill

How to do it:

  1. First you need to make sure your margarine tub is clean. Then take a sheet or two of paper towel and wet it with some water so it’s damp. It doesn’t need to be dripping wet. Place the paper towel in the tub.

  2. Add a layer of unrolled, damp cotton balls.

  3. Place your beans!

  4. Cover the beans with another thin layer of unrolled, damp cotton balls.

  5. Leave them on a bright windowsill to do their thang. Watch them every day and be astounded by how drastically they change each day.

  6. Once your beans have some decent leaves on them, transfer all but one into a new pot. See the tips below.

  7. Place the single separate bean plant into its own pot. How differently does it grow compared to the others that are all together?


  • When separating the beans, be careful of the roots. By the time you separate them, their roots may be all tangled together and you don’t want to damage them. You can avoid this by limiting the number of beans in your container, or arrange a few containers each with a small number of beans growing in them.

  • Keep the cotton damp, not dripping. That will make it ideal for the beans to grow.

Watch how they grow!

How it works:

The reason beans can grow in cotton, which doesn’t have any nutrients for them, is because all the nutrients they need for the first couple of weeks of their growth are neatly packed into the bean itself.

That’s what seeds are for. Seeds that are quite big, like beans, are big because of all the nutrients in them to help the plant grow. Think of a seed as a yolk for a chicken foetus.

When you separate one bean from the others and transfer them into separate pots, what you’re doing is changing their environment, and not in the straightforward way you may be thinking.

When you separate one plant from the others and give it its own soil and its own space, you’re removing any competition. You’ll notice that the separate bean grows much faster than the others that are all together.

The beans that remain with the others have to share a limited amount of space and soil with them. This means they all have to compete for resources like water, nutrients, and sunlight. All this affects how the plants grow.

All these beans germinated at the same time under the same conditions. When they were transferred into different pots, the soil was the same. The reason the one on the right has grown so much taller than the others in the same amount of time is because it doesn't have any competition so all the resources it can get are its own.

You can think of it like this. If the beans were people, the single bean would get a whole entire pie to itself. So it can use all the energy it gets from the pie to grow. The beans that are all together have to share one pie between them all. So each bean only gets a slice. That’s literally a fraction of the energy the single bean will get. So they don’t have enough energy to grow as fast as the single bean, and that’s why they don’t. And that's how competition works.

#growingbeans #scienceprojectsforkids #scienceactivitiesforkids #growingbeanswithatwist #coolkids #biology #seeds #howseedswork #competition #competitioninbeans #howcompetitionworks #competitioninplants #bitesizedsci #southafrica #schoolscienceprojects #kidsscienceprojects #beans #bean #growingabeanincottonwool #competitionexplained #competitionfordummies #ecology

©2018 by Bite-sized Sci | Jessica Evans