If your kids are anything like ours, they’ll love nothing more than getting their hands (and every other possible inch of them) covered in muck in the garden. And with the weather finally starting to warm up a little, it’s a great time to get out there with them!
Getting them involved in growing and caring for the plants in the garden is a great outdoor activity for kids. You never know, fostering a love of gardening might even encourage them to avoid squashing all your flowers when they get a little over enthusiastic with the football! (We live in hope…)
You may not realise this, but elves have an innate ability when it comes to gardening. It is believed these green-fingered skills originate from the woodland elves, but ask any North Pole elf and they’ll tell you that all the veg they have with their Christmas dinner comes direct from their very own allotments!
We asked our little pals in the North Pole for their top kids’ gardening ideas and they suggested a great way to get started is to grow a sunflower.
Sunflowers are super simple to grow, they grow quickly, and they produce such cheerful, bright flowers that children love them! As an outdoor activity for kids, they are ideal.
So here is your Elf for Christmas guide to growing sunflowers… We’ve even made some special Elf for Christmas sunflower plant tags you can print out and use to mark where you plant your seeds!
Choose the sunflower variety you’ll grow
For classic tall sunflowers, the most popular varieties are the Russian Giant, which grows to around 3m, or the American Giant, which can get to about 4m. Both have a lovely bright and cheerful yellow flowers. But there are lots of other varieties you can choose from too.
Toddlers might enjoy growing a smaller sunflower, which will get to around the same height as them. Munchkin and Little Dorrit are fast-growing dwarf sunflowers, or for an exciting assortment of colours you could try the dwarf Autumn Time, which produces multiple gold, yellow, orange and bronze blooms on single stems. Teddy Bear is another popular dwarf choice, which produces round, fully double heads that look like fluffy cushions!
The best time to sow your sunflower seeds depends on whether you will be starting them off on a windowsill or planting them directly into the ground outside. Earlier sowings will need to be started in pots on a windowsill, but from around mid-April onwards you should be able to sow directly into the ground.
Growing your own sunflower
Sunflowers like to grow in full sun, so the first thing to do is help your little one find the perfect sunny spot in the garden.
You will need:
To prepare the ground, make sure the area is free of weeds. Use your trowel to remove any you find. Make sure to get all the roots too so they can’t grow back!
You can then rake over the soil to make it nice and crumbly so the seedling can easily break through it. You can then use your finger to make the holes to put the seeds in. You want to plant them about 12mm deep, with around 10cm between each seed so they have plenty of room to grow.
Then cover the seeds carefully with soil. Remember to gently water the seeds – make sure not to drown them in a big flood of water though!
Don’t forget to mark where you’ve planted your sunflowers with the free printable Elf for Christmas sunflower tags! Simply print the tags out, glue them to a lolly pop stick and pop it in the ground by your seeds. That way you won’t forget where they are!
Once your seedlings start to grow you might need to thin them out if they are a little overcrowded. Some of the bigger varieties might need around 45cm between each plant. Just make sure to leave the strongest shoots which will produce the tallest plants.
Garden pests like slugs and snails love to eat little seedlings, so it’s a good idea to protect them while they’re little. The top end of a plastic bottle cut in half and placed over the plants is an easy way to keep them safe.
Taller sunflowers might need the support of a cane to stop them falling over as they get bigger. Place the cane near the stem, then tie it loosely to the plant.
Then you just need to watch your plant grow and grow and grow!
You can measure your sunflower’s progress every week.
We’d love to see how your little ones get on! Post your photos on our Facebook page, or tag us on Twitter or Instagram.