How to - Gardening with Kids

Kids and sunflowers

Help your children sow the seeds and then watch them grow up, up, up!

Creating a smiling sunflower
A grinning sunflower is sure to make your friends and neighbors giggle: choose one sunflower when it first opens and your child can dig out the immature seeds where he wants eyes, a nose and a mouth. This works best with sunflowers that have large heads.

Growing a sunflower sunroom
A private space is an exciting project for your kids to plant and play in. In a sunny spot where the soil drains well, mark off a six- by nine-foot (1.8- by 2.7-metre) rectangle. Clear the area of weeds and turf, then prepare the soil around the perimeter by adding compost or manure. Sow the seeds in a horseshoe shape, following the package directions for the planting depth and spacing for the variety you're using. Plant all mammoths, or alternate a mammoth variety with a dwarf. Stake each plant with a pole, securing every six inches (15 centimetres) with a soft tie. For added interest, sow morning glory seeds among the sunflower seeds. When the sunflower seedlings are large enough, mulch the area heavily to discourage weeds and to make a floor for the sunroom. As the morning glory vines grow, train them around the stems of the sunflowers.

Harvesting the seeds
If birds ravage the seeds you were hoping to save for human snacks, cover the flower heads with cheesecloth to protect your crop. Cut the flower heads down when their backs start to turn brown, leaving a foot or two of stem. Hang the heads in a warm, dry, well-ventilated, rodent and insect-free place. Leave the cheesecloth or a paper bag with holes in place over the heads to catch falling seeds. When the heads are completely dry (in about two to three weeks), brush them with your hand and the seeds will fall out easily. Store them in airtight containers in the fridge to eat either raw or roasted.

Roasting the seeds
Cover unshelled seeds with two litres (two quarts) of water and 1/4 cup (60 millilitres) of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer two hours, or soak in the salt solution overnight. Drain and dry on absorbent paper. Bake in a shallow pan at 300'F for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and coat each cup of seeds with one teaspoon of melted butter or margarine.

Related websites
The Sunflower Stop
Sunflower history and a great gallery of photos

The Story of the Sunflower Coloring Book

Sunflower Clipart

Stacie's Sunflower Page
Cool sunflower trivia

Miller's Sunflowers
Photos of a field of sunflowers in New Brunswick

Paper Plate Sunflowers
For four- to eight-year-olds, a project made from unshelled sunflower seeds, paper plate, paint, construction paper and glue

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