Coal Garden

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When I was a kid, every now and again my dad would bring home some chunks of coal and with the help of my mom, I’d make a coal garden. Beautiful, bright crystal structures that I could watch grow day by day. And so as I was reminiscing, I decided to make one! All you need to do this experiment is:

-Small pieces of charcoal
-Water (1/4 cup)
-Aluminum pan or other disposable container
-Salt (1/4 cup)
-Ammonia (1 tbsp.)
-Liquid Bluing (Mrs.Stuarts) (1/4 cup)
-Food coloring

1. Break the charcoal into small pieces and place at the bottom of the pan.
2. Mix together the ammonia, bluing, salt, and water making sure everything is dissolved.
3. Pour this mixture over the charcoal, ensuring the rocks are completed covered.
4. Drop food over areas of the charcoal.
5. Leave and let grow! More of the liquid mixture can be added to the bottom of the pan if required.

Crystals grow on charcoal bricks or other similar surfaces because they are porous – they have lots of tiny holes like a sponge. When the liquid mixture is poured over the charcoal, it soaks up the solution by capillary action. Because the charcoal and liquid is exposed to air at room temperature, the liquid on the surface evaporates and leaves solid deposits on the rock surface. This is the beginning of the crystals! Day by day the process continues, drawing liquid through the existing crystals, which causes the crystals to continue growing.

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