The Scientific Method is way of designing experiments but more than that it is a way of thinking. I like to think of everything I can as some kind of experiment. Once you understand and use it you will be able to draw conclusions and make repeatable results in anything you do. That is the beauty of the Scientific Method. I will explain what it is and how to use it in gardening.
The Scientific Method
The image above has a good outline of the Scientific Method. The steps are as follows:
- Make Observations, State the Problem, and Develop Question(s)
- Formulate a Hypothesis
- Design An Experiment
- Execute the Experiment/Collect Data
- Analyze Data/Draw Conclusions
- Repeat as many times as needed
Make Observations, State the Problem, and Develop Question(s)This is part of the process where the problem is identified which gives you the starting point of what is going to be done. In gardening stating the problem, could be something simple I want home grown herbs that are organic and I don’t have them. It could be as complicated as, I want to grow all of the food for my family and don’t know anything(where I started).
Start by asking yourself the question, what does the it take to do this? In our examples it can lead to questions like, What is the best growing method? How much space do I need to grow what I need? What are the best Basil seeds? Which plants do I want to grow? How much light does everything? How much will this cost? How much time does it take? The list of questions can be fairly large. Select the ones that best fit what you are trying to do specifically.
The observation portion involves looking at what resources you will need to help answer the question(s) as well as observing your initial conditions. Things like how much space you do have, How much gardening experience you have, the climate you live in, the growing method you are interested in, the scale at which you are looking to build, etc. The observations need to help to set the stage of how you will approach your answers.
Formulate a HypothesisBased on the initial observations and questions you need to develop a hypothesis, which is a statement of what you believe will happen when you embark on your experiment. In this case your experiment is what will happen when you start gardening. In the Basil example, By using coco coir, Sweet Italian Basil, and Botanicare Grow formula, I should be able to grow the amount of Basil I want to grow for my needs. Our example of growing your own food. I expect to need x sq ft, y plant nutrients, to grow z plants. I need to use the following methods … to grow enough food for my family.
These a general statement but the idea here is you are stating your expectations for what will happen when start you executing. Notice I made executing bold. It is important to actually work towards what you are trying to do. Your hypothesis statement should answer your question(s) prior to doing anything. The next step the experiment phase is setup.
Design An ExperimentIn this part it is time to start collecting the things needed to start gardening. In our case experiment is actually gardening! This is the start of the good part. Here is where you buy the things you need to start gardening and make sure your gardening plan fits what your hypothesis is. This is your plant of action! It is almost time to start gardening!
Execute the Experiment/Collecting DataFinally we are to the gardening portion! The data collection portion is the part where gardening is actually done. Here is where you execute your plan and see what happens. It is very important to make sure you make some measurements. I would suggest at least tracking temperature and humidity and how much water use. I would also track the amounts of nutrient solutions, fertilizers, soil, growing media etc. that you use. Track as many things as you want or need to track.
The more things you can track the more precise you can be with conclusions. Having said that there can be a diminishing return on tracking too many things. For example soil moisture is important but you probably can eyeball if there is too much or not enough soil moisture by looking at the soil and the plants. Soil moisture sensors may not be needed to maintain the right amount of soil moisture. Make sure you also take plant data, like plant size, growth rate, plant color and any issues that might arise. This will all you to match results to environmentally inputs.
Analyze the Data/Draw ConclusionsThis is the part where all of the parts of what is being done are analyzed. The goal of this is to check to see if your hypothesis was correct and if what is being done is working. In the gardening example the main question to answer in addition to your hypothesis is, are my plants thriving? That is the main goal of gardening and if they are thriving that means the initial thoughts you had about how to grow them and your methods are working.
If they are not working this is the part where you note that and attempt to see what is wrong. Check to see if you violated any of your initial assumptions or if you followed exactly your plan it is time to do some more research on the issues. Make sure to understand and note any difficulties or ways that can be changed to make improvements. You may get a desired result, but was it hard to execute and/or is there a better way.