What You'll Need
- A garden spot with good soil
that receives at least 6 hours of sun daily
- Seeds for tall sunflowers, such
as 'Russian Mammoth.'
- Seeds for medium-height (about
- Seeds for a colorful, flowering
annual, such as zinnias
- Seeds for morning glories
- String or yarn
Building Your House
- With your young gardeners,
decide on an exterior shape and dimensions for your house. You'll
need at least a 4- by 6-foot house, but an 8- by 8-foot space is
more generous and looks more convincing when fully grown. Allow some
extra space so you can walk around the "building" to tend to the
plants. When you've decided on an outline, have your child mark it
on the ground with stones or string so the seeds don't get stepped on accidentally while
you are waiting for them to grow.
- Plant seeds for the tall
sunflowers in a row to mark the house outline, starting at the corners.
Help your child plant the seeds about a foot apart. Plant the
medium-height sunflowers between the tall sunflowers. Finally, plant a colorful
flowering annual such as zinnias all around the outside. (Using
these different heights will make the walls seem more solid.)
- To keep down weeds and make a
cleaner surface for your child to play on, use a thick layer of
mulch to carpet the interior of your sunflower house or cover it
with flattened cardboard boxes. Furnish your house with an old
blanket for a carpet, boxes for tables.
Raising the Roof
Plant morning glories to climb up the
sunflowers and with luck, make a roof for your house.
- Soak morning glory seeds in water
overnight to hasten germination. Plant as directed.
- Help your child train the vines to
climb the tallest sunflowers by directing the early growth toward
the sunflower stems. Your child may be fascinated to see that they
only twine in one direction! Once the vines have found the stem,
they will twine their own way up.
- When your sunflowers are about
four feet tall, weave a network of string or yarn
across the open top from sunflower to sunflower to help train
the morning glory vines to grow a "roof." The sunflowers
will raise the roof as they grow.
Use your sunflower house to teach
Heliotropism, the way a plant responds sunlight. Most
sunflowers, while they are still growing “turn” their heads to stay
exposed to the sun during the day.
When your sunflowers first begin to bloom, note the time of day,
where the sun is located in the sky and which way the sunflower is
“looking.” Help your child keep a journal of times and positions of
the sunflower and the location of the sun. Where does the
sunflower "look" early in the morning? Where does it "look" at
sunset? Does the sunflower stop "turning" when it stops
growing? What happens at night?