Have you ever wanted to grow some of your own food? In this project, you will learn through hands-on experience how food can be grown, preserved, and even marketed in your local community. You will also find ways that you can support local farmers and contribute to groups that are trying to fight food insecurity in your area.

Download the Spark Sheet

Exploring 4-H

Exploring 4-H Vegetable Gardening: Sprouting Seeds

Let's take a look at seeds and how they germinate using the scientific method.


  • 11 lima or kidney beans
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 glass or cup
  • Paper towels
  • Small plastic bag
  • Paper
  • Pencil/Pen

What is your explanation for how seeds germinate? Write down some notes before you begin this process. You can refer back to these notes at the end for reference.


  1. Soak your beans in water overnight. Once soaked, carefully peel the outer coat from one of the beans. 
    • Split the bean in half lengthwise and draw an image of what you observe. 
    • Label this diagram with the following parts: seed coat, cotyledon, embryo.
  2. Dampen a paper towel. Fold it in half once, and place all remaining beans. Folding it again so that beans are covered, place it into a plastic bag for a week to be monitored. Make sure you record the date. 
    • Moist seeds should sprout in 7-10 days. 
    • Record the changes you see every day.
    • Draw several images of the sprouting process.


Compare what happened in this process with your original hypothesis. What did you think would happen before you began your experiment? What can you conclude about this process now? In what way did your original hypothesis change or stay the same?

Looking for another challenge? Remove the seeds from a fruit or vegetable of your choice. Instead of sprouting them using the above process, experiment with planting them in a pot with soil and providing it with enough sunlight and water for it to grow into a plant.

4-H Project Levels and Goals
  • Practice safe use of gardening tools
  • Plan your own garden 
  • Plant your own seeds
  • Maintain your garden appropriately until harvest
  • Start your own seeds indoors
  • Grow plants from seeds or plant parts
  • Preserve garden produce 
  • Study how to manage pests and weed pressure
  • Start your own compost pile to build soil
  • Understand the processes involved with photosynthesis
  • Practice cross-pollinating by hand
  • Preserve your produce by canning, pickling, or dehydrating
  • Experiment with new ways of designing and managing your garden (i.e. intercropping, vertical growing, greenhouses, hydroponics, permaculture, etc.). 
  • Explore the uses of gene selection, genetic engineering, and biotechnology
Put Your Project Into Action

Show Your Skills

  • Exhibit vegetables grown in your garden
  • Display of plant parts and their purposes
  • Demonstrate how to preserve food
  • Display the hydroponics process
  • Build your own planter box or raised bed

Service and Leadership

  • Donate produce to a local food pantry
  • Start a community or school garden
  • Organize a seed or plant swap
  • Sell produce to benefit a local charity or non-profit
  • Give 4-H club presentations on gardening skills
  • Become a Master Gardener
  • Host a 4-H club tour of your garden


  • Sell your produce from a homestand or at a local farmers market
  • Harvest seeds and plant cuttings to sell
  • Offer soil testing services
  • Learn to preserve food and sell the finished product - observe IL Public Health guidelines
  • Start gardens at other peoples' homes

Technology Connection

  • Drone technology to identify weeds, pests, and diseases
  • FarmBots being used to seed and water gardens
  • Hydroponics
  • Solar greenhouses
  • Apps for identifying diseases, weeds, and insect damage
  • Start and maintain a social media page for your garden

Connecting with a Mentor

  • University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners
  • Local farm a garden clubs
  • Farmers market vendors
  • Greenhouse-garden center owners


  • County and state fairs
  • Illinois Master Gardener events
  • U of I Local Foods and Small Farms programs
  • Local farmers markets
  • Garden trade shows

Project Manuals & Exhibit Requirements

  • See Them Sprout - Grades 3-4
  • Let’s Get Growing  - Grades 5-6
  • Take Your Pick  - Grades 7-9
  • Growing Profits -Grades 10-12
  • Floriculture Level A  
  • Floriculture Level B 
  • Floriculture Level C 
  • Floriculture Level D 
  • Illinois Vegetable Guide: https://go.illinois.edu/IllinoisVegetableGuide

Purchase manuals on the Shop Illinois 4-H Store

View exhibit requirements: Vegetable Exhibit Guidelines - 2024

 View scoresheets on the Illinois State Fair page.

  • Farmer
  • Horticulturist
  • Soil Scientist
  • Forester
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Botanist
  • Educator
  • Greenhouse Owner/Manager
  • Landscaper
Start a Conversation
  • What skills would you like to learn through this project and how would you use them?
  • What are some obstacles that you foresee and how can you overcome them? 
  • Describe a time in your life when you have tried something new. What worked? What did not work? What could you do differently in the future? 
  • What can you do to help grow more food for your community? 
  • Who in your community does not have access to food? How can you help?