Science project

Pinto Bean Germination Experiment


  • Paper towels
  • 5 Clear plastic cups
  • 10 Pinto bean seeds
  • 5 Plant misters
  • Tap water
  • Magnifying glass
  • Permanent marker
  • Wood ash from a fireplace
  • Liquid kelp fertilizer
  • Liquid fish fertilizer
  • 1 tsp. Epsom salts
  • Tweezers


  1. Place your clear plastic cups on a table. These will be your bean nurseries.
  2. Line the inside of each cup with a paper towel folded in half.
  3. Squish a few paper towels together and stuff them into the cups, making sure that the paper towel lining the cup is firmly pressed against the plastic. 
  4. Now, get your nutrients ready. Fill up each plant mister with water.
  5. The first mister will only contain water. Add a tablespoon of finely ground wood ash from a fireplace to the second mister. Add the manufacturer’s recommended amount of a liquid kelp fertilizer to the third. Add the manufacturer’s recommended amount of liquid fish fertilizer to the fourth. Add a teaspoon of Epsom salts to the fifth. Make sure that the liquid in each is well-mixed.
  6. Label each mister and each cup—water, ash, kelp, fish, and Epsom Salts.
  7. Use a pair of thin tweezers to carefully place two bean seeds in the cup between the liner and the plastic and on opposites sides. Use the plant mister filled with water to spray the paper towels until they are moist, but not too wet.
  8. Do the same with each cup, spraying the paper towels with the corresponding mister. 
  9. Place all of the cups in a warm, sunny location. Watch the bean seeds in each container over the course of a week. What happens to the seeds? Do any of them grow more quickly than the others? Why or why not?


After 4 to 5 days, the growing bean seedlings will begin to sprout.


Inside a seed, there’s a whole new plant waiting to grow. If you take apart one of your bean seeds, you will discover that there are two sides that look like the mirror image of each other. Inside a growing bean seed, you’ll see the radicle, the future root. After the radicle emerges from the seed, out come the hypocotyl and the upper part of the shoot, the epicotyl. This shoot comes out of the top of the plant and pushes up the emerging baby leaves. Some plants go through this process more quickly than others. For a pinto bean, its germination usually begins after four to five days.

Plants need water and light to grow. They also need nutrients, and this is where your different plant misters come in. Nutrients are like vitamins for a plant; like food helps humans maintain the different processes that go on in our bodies, nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium do the same for plants. Plants need large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and they need smaller amounts of other nutrients such as magnesium and sulphur.

Wood ash is high in potassium, which provides the correct environment for plant metabolism. Fish fertilizer is high in nitrogen. Nitrogen helps plants make chlorophyll, which allows them to make their own food. It also helps plants create many of their structural parts and metabolic processes. Epsom salts are high in magnesium, which also helps plants create chlorophyll and helps them take in other nutrients. Liquid kelp fertilizer is full of many micronutrients. Which one helped your bean seeds growth the most? Can you think of an experiment that would help you test this in the long term? Do you think that different nutrients are important at different stages of growth?

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