Wisconsin Fast Plants (Brassica rapa) are an extraordinary resource for teachers since they have been selected for over 30 years for traits that make them ideal model organisms for the classroom. They thrive under fluorescent lighting, need very little soil, complete their life cycle in about a month, and take up very little space. Moreover, for under $50, a teacher can set up a classroom greenhouse and growing system for 32 students (2 light boxes and 18 terraqua columns growing 4 plants each).
There are 4 growing requirements for Fast Plants:
- They need fluorescent lighting 24 hours a day. Ideally, the lights should be situated 5-10 cm from the plants. Directions for how to build a light box are provided.
- They need continuous water and fertilizer. The easiest way to accomplish this is to grow the plants in a self-watering terraqua column or growing system with fertilizer added directly to the water reservoir.
- They need consistent room temperature (between 65–78 °F or 18–26 °C). If the temperature goes above 90 °F, the flowers will be sterile. Make sure that the fluorescent lights don’t become hot.
- The roots need the aeration provided by a potting mixture and will not grow well in regular soil. Use coarse or medium grained vermiculite and even better in a 1:1 mixture of vermiculite and peat.