Indian Summer Science: Sock Walk

Late summer is my favorite time of year. The sun shines softly without the heat of July–the sky a deep and rich blue that fades to the horizon. It is a blissful interval of fair weather before the long wet season of winter. In September we fill our days with as much outdoor time as possible–hiking, harvesting apples, fishing, and riding bikes, without the rains of winter to hamper us. Wherever you live, make time each day to go outdoors and enjoy the extraordinary colors and energy of coming fall.

This activity has several steps, each one interesting to do and connected to the next. Try walking in different places for a variety of plant seeds.

What you will need:
long old socks
potting soil
9 x 13 baking pan
magnifying glass
spray bottle filled with water

Pull the socks over your shoes and over your pants. Go for a walk in a place with tall overgrown weeds and grass. Vacant lots, uncut meadows, parks and roadsides are good places (watch out for ticks if they live in your area, and check your clothing). Once home, pull off the sock, get out the magnifying glass, and look carefully at the seeds you picked up.

Next, fill the sock with damp potting soil (keeping the seeds on the outside). Wet the outside of the sock with a fine spray of water, and lay it in the baking pan. Fold a fat chunk of newspaper into fourths and place under one end of the pan to tip it slightly. Leaving the pan tilted up, add enough water so the end of the sock can soak it up until it can absorb no more.

Put the pan in a warm and sunny place. Over the next ten days keep the sock fairly damp, but not soaking, by pouring a little water in the pan for the sock to absorb when it dries out. Mist the sock with the spray bottle every other day.

What happens? Plants will grow from the seeds you picked up on the sock (it may take anywhere from a few days to week for the seeds to sprout). Plants have many different ways of dispersing their seeds. One way is to attach themselves to moving objects, like your socks, in order to cover a wider area to grow in.

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