Have you planted any seeds yet this year? Now’s the ideal time to get growing, and if you’re looking for easy seeds to grow with children it’s hard to beat sunflowers.
As well as producing seriously impressive blooms, sunflower seeds are easy for little hands to deal with, and pretty low maintenance to grow. They’re also brilliant for local wildlife; the flowers are great for bees and other pollinating insects, and birds love to eat the seeds. If you’re new to growing sunflowers with kids, here are some tips on how to make it a success.
First of all, you need your seeds! There are so many varieties of sunflower to choose from, and a real range of colours, heights, flower size and texture. Check out this post for some suggestions, or head down to the garden centre and let the kids have fun choosing their own.
Once you’ve got your seeds, you’ll need some small plant pots, compost and a trowel. Start off by filling the pots about two thirds full, then poking a little hole in the middle of the compost in each one.
Next, pop a few seeds into the kids’ palms and ask them to drop one into each hole.
It really doesn’t matter if they end up putting more than one seed in each pot; in fact, you can show what a difference this has on the size of the plant later. Top up each pot with compost, and label it. My kids always want to know which seed they planted, so we put their names on the back of the markers as well.
Now it’s time to give your pots a good drink!
If there’s still a chance of overnight frost outdoors, keep your pots on a sunny windowsill where the seeds will quickly germinate. If you’re growing sunflowers in late spring it’s fine to leave them outside, or even plant them directly into the garden if you prefer. Wherever you put them, keep the compost moist, support them with canes, and transfer the plants to bigger pots as they grow.
Here’s how our sunflowers look after about four weeks:
Can you see how the plants in the pots that had more than one seed are smaller? This is a lovely visual way to explain to children how the amount of soil and nutrients affects the way plants grow. You can of course split up the crowded plants and pot them into individual pots if they’re struggling.
Once your sunflowers bloom, you can have lots of fun observing all the pollinating insects that pay a visit. When the heads start to turn brown, you can cut them off and let them dry out, then put them out in the garden for the birds to eat.
And of course, you can’t grow sunflowers without having a height competition! My kids love doing this every year and it’s perfect for sneaking a bit of maths into the project. We always make a chart which takes pride of place on the fridge and is eagerly updated; at the moment I’m winning, which is making them look after their plants very diligently!
Are you growing sunflowers this year?