I’ve always been an expert at killing every plant in our garden, but this summer we discovered how simple and fun it is to grow your own sunflowers as a family.
For Sonny’s second birthday his auntie bought a fantastic little gardener’s set containing a mini fork and shovel, his own little metal bucket, and multiple packets of grow-your-own seeds. He was immediately hooked, so we kicked off with the simple task of planting and growing some cress seeds together.
Start with cress
Growing cress is a perfect starter activity for mini gardeners because it grows in just a couple of days, so they’ll see the results almost immediately. Kids will also learn what can happen if you plant seeds in good soil and water them regularly. Sonny was soon rewarded with a thick carpet of cress in his very own little flower pot, which he watered every day and proudly showed off to everyone who visited our garden.
But cress doesn’t grow anywhere near as big and colourful as sunflowers. And once they grew one in the garden at Sonny’s nursery there was only one thing for it – it was time to grown our own sunflowers.
Sow seeds in May
Our sunflower seeds cost £1.99 from www.suttons.co.uk and came with their own mini tape measure and bug stickers that we used to decorate Sonny’s plant pot. The instructions on the packet were to sow them from March to May – so if you’re reading this outside those months, stay patient!
Begin with small pots
For the best results it’s best not to plant seeds straight into the ground. To grow your own sunflowers you need to start off by sowing individual seeds in smaller pots, then placing them on a sunny windowsill or table and watering them regularly.
Move to bigger pots
Once the roots start to stick out of the bottom of your little pot, it’s time to move your plant into a bigger one so it has more space. Then once the temperatures gets a little bit warmer in May, move the pot outside to get your sunflower used to the spring weather.
Keep stems supported
Learn from our mistakes when you grown your own sunflowers, because we forgot to use a cane to keep them supported once they started to grow bigger. As a result, they were blown around a lot by the wind and eventually became floppy long before they should have. So when you eventually move your sunflowers outside, either tie them to a fence or tall cane to give them plenty of support as they grow.
Water them regularly
Your sunflowers won’t grow if you don’t water them regularly, and this is a great thing to do with kids because it helps them feel involved and makes them realise the plant is their responsibility. Just imagine how proud they’ll be when their sunflower eventually grows bigger than them, and those first giant yellow flowers start opening from July to September.
Planting sunflowers in the ground
If you really want your sunflowers to feel like part of your family garden, it’s also possible to sow seeds straight into the ground in May. Pick a sunny spot with good soil and plenty of space around it, then sow the seeds around two fingers deep in May. Water and feed them regularly, remembering to support them against a wall or with a cane – then watch them grow!
Outdoor Dad verdict: grow your own sunflowers
Growing sunflowers is a wonderful and hugely enjoyable activity to do as a family. You won’t believe how excited and proud your kids will be when they see those first yellow petals start opening after all the hard work they’ve put in. Do it next spring!