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Science in a Mini Garden 2

In Science in a mini garden 1, we talk about the water cycle. In this post, we look into photosynthesis.


My mini garden, with external light energy



Water vapour inside the mini garden

Science Corner: Photosynthesis

The plants convert light energy from the Sun into sugar molecules. Sugar molecules serve as the food for the plants to grow.

For the mini garden, excessive heat from the Sun is actually detrimental to the plants because the heat causes excess transpiration and will disrupt the water cycle in the mini garden. Thus, the mini garden only needs the fluorescent light at home or office as its energy source.

Other than sugar molecules, photosynthesis also creates oxygen and puts more moisture in the air. The moisture is recycled inside the mini garden and used by the plant.

The Process

The light is absorbed by chlorophyll in chloroplasts of plants leaves. The light energy is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Carbon dioxide + Water + ATP –> Sugar + Oxygen

Below figure shows the summary of photosynthesis:





Science in a Mini Garden 1

When I was young, other than teacher, I also wanted to be a plants biologist. My love for plants, compared to animals, is because plants do not run around. I have introduced my brave little cactus to you, and now I would like to introduce you to my mini garden.

The formal name of a mini garden is terrarium, which is an enclosed glass container, in which plants and small land animals are kept and observed. Mini garden is the more “romantic” name if you are only having plants inside the terrarium.

The mini garden is low maintenance. It is using the water cycle concept to keep the garden alive. It has its own self-sufficient ecosystem. The air, nutrients and water are recycled inside the container. The only outside energy that it needs is the light energy for photosynthesis.

Science Corner: Water Cycle

Though around 75% of the Earth is covered by water, that’s all the water we have. The water is going through water cycle again and again and again… so that the water is recycled and will not get lesser.

Water cycle is made up of 4 main processes:

1. Evaporation and transpiration

When the sun heats up the water in lakes, rivers and/or the ocean, the water turns into vapour and goes into the air (the sky).

In the mini garden, the plants transpire. That means the plants go through transpiration to get water vapour back into the air.

2. Condensation

Condensation is the process of the water vapour in the air gets cold and changes back into liquid to form clouds.

The water vapour that you see on the glass container is the proof of condensation. When the water from plants transpiration touches the cold glass, it turns back into liquid.

3. Precipitation

When more and more water is accumulated, the clouds get heavy and water falls back to the Earth.

Similarly in the mini garden, the water vapour on the glass container is used for respiration and collection.

4. Collection

The water from the clouds (generally as rain) falls back in lakes, rivers and/or the ocean, some falls on land and is used by animals and plants. The cycle repeats again with evaporation and transpiration.

The water is collected at the bottom of the glass container in the mini garden. As long as the water cycle repeats, the plants have sufficient water to grow and thus you no need to water the plants frequently.

Thus, when you see the water vapour on the glass container, do not be alarmed, it is a sign of the water cycle keeps repeating itself.


The water cycle

Self-healing Power of Plants

Last month, I wrote about my injured cactus with the extra support I gave it. I have read about plants having feelings and responding to music. Thus, during that critical few days, I played soothing music and talked to my cactus. The music was meant for it to heal and the talking was meant to encourage it to live on.

After a few days of music and talking, I noticed that the cactus was “standing” on its own, no longer needed the support from the spoon. I still kept the spoon, just in case it wanted to rest and lie on something.


Before: The cactus gets extra support

As I see improvement, I continue the talking without music. The below picture shows the self-healed cactus. From the picture, we can see that the wound is still visible, but it has dried and healed, no support is needed anymore.


After: The wound has healed

I believe human beings have similar self-healing power. When you are facing failure, be brave and endure the hardship. Listen to soothing music and talk to your family members and friends. With time, you will heal, like the brave little cactus.

It is okay to lean on your support for a few days, but it is you who have the power to stand up again!

Failure is not scary; the most important thing is to learn from the mistake and the ability to stand up again. I hope you are like the brave little cactus, now living happily with its family members, as in below picture.


Cactus family

An Injured Cactus

I have had a pot of cactus from Cameron Highlands some years ago, the cactus has died tragically because of the difference of cold highlands weather and hot weather. I was sad.

A few months ago, my aunt gave me a pot of cactus. I was reluctant to accept the cactus because I did not want the cactus to die tragically, again. After I learnt that the cactus is from her friend who has grown the cactus in hot Singapore weather, I decided to take the small cactus home.

The small cactus has grown happily since then. From one pot, now I have two pots of cactus, growing from a “single parent”. I put them outside my house where they can get sufficient sunshine. Still, one of the cacti has injured. It is suspected that someone has injured the cactus.


The arrangement before the single cactus is injured

I notice the cactus is injured when the arrangement has been changed, as in the below picture.


Someone has moved my plants


The poor cactus

Poor thing, the cactus is almost broken into two pieces. Suddenly, I think of a way to “save” it.


The cactus gets extra support

Have you encountered an injured cactus before? Can anyone tell me if the support method is able to help the cactus or make it worse?