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Build a Sunflower House
 
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 5-foot) sunflowers
  • Seeds for a colorful, flowering annual, such as zinnias
  • Seeds for morning glories
  • String or yarn

Building Your House

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.)
     
  3. 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.

  1. Soak morning glory seeds in water overnight to hasten germination. Plant as directed.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.

Learning Opportunities

Use your sunflower house to teach about 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?
 

Source: National Gardening Association