How to - Gardening with Kids

Kids and flowering vines

The sky's the limit.

In a matter of weeks, morning glories, tall sweet peas and climbing nasturtiums provide bright colour, seeming to bloom before your very eyes. Kids love them because annual vines grow so quickly they can almost see them reach for great heights or stretch to new lengths. And because the seeds are large, kids can easily sow them with just a little help from adults.

Many annual vines are planted to conceal bare walls and fences, and to dress up posts and trellises, but you can also grow them on strings to create enchanting summer retreats and semi-secret hideaways. Since the roots of annual climbers requite little space, they can be planted in pots as well as in the ground. Plus you can plant vines in hanging baskets, allowing the blooms to gracefully cascade. The most fun of all, however, is to plant sweet peas and morning glories around the base of a rustic teepee made of 1.8- to two-metre-long, three-centimetre-thick branches. The vines soon festoon the framework, creating a floral hideout kids can't resist.

SWEET PEAS (LATHYRUS ODORATUS)
Everyone loves the colourful beauty and lovely fragrance of sweet peas. In Victorian times, sweet peas symbolized remembered pleasures-such appropriate flowers for children to grow, then later remember as adults. Blooms in shades of blue, red, pink, purple, and white grow on two- to three-metre vines in late spring to early summer. Some varieties have smooth, velvety petals; others have wavy, crinkled ones.

Sweet peas need rich, well-drained soil, plenty of sun and good air circulation. Soak the seeds overnight. Then work some compost into the soil and sow the seeds 2.5 centimetres deep and five to eight centimetres apart. Water thoroughly, then restrict water until the seeds germinate. Lightly cultivate the ground around each plant to keep them free of weeds. Water regularly, adding a weak solution of liquid fertilizer twice a month. Too much fertilizer will cause dark green leaves and few flowers.

Deadhead blooms before the seeds develop to encourage further blossoms, but leave a few flowers at the end of the season to set seed for next spring. Sweet peas grow best if planted in a different place each year.

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