How your garden could grow
You will need a grown-up's permission (and his or her willing cooperation) for these projects, but wouldn't it be cool to 'grow' a house? or harvest giant vegetables?Skip to next paragraph
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Sharon Lovejoy knows that the way most adults garden isn't much fun for kids. She quotes an old saying: "Long, straight rows are such a bore; gardens shouldn't be a chore."
Ms. Lovejoy spent a lot of time in her grandmother's large garden in California when she was young. She went exploring every day and discovered such things as "fairy steppingstones" in foxgloves (the "steppingstones" lead bees into the heart of the flower). She held snail races and a had a worm circus. She made hideouts under the guava tree. She and her best friend made clip-on earrings out of snapdragons and even put secret notes to each other in snapdragon "mailboxes." She fell in love with gardens. Her grandmother gave her a small plot to look after.
After she married, Lovejoy created an abundant garden in Cambria, Calif., to share with the public. It's called "Heart's Ease," and thousands of people, including lots of kids, visit each year.
Today, Lovejoy is an expert at helping kids start their own garden projects. She gets many letters from children who follow the garden plans in her two books. Children particularly like the "pizza patch" and the sunflower house. But the garden that children seem to love best is the "garden of giants." "Kids love the tunnel," Lovejoy says. "It's a big hit and easy to make." (We've included instructions for those projects here.)
Although she gives step-by-step instructions for all her projects, Lovejoy wants to be sure you use your imagination, too. "Do it how you want to," she says. "You don't have to follow all the rules." Be sure to give each plant good soil and the amount of sun and water it needs. Other than that, she says, be creative!
YOU WILL NEED:
one packet each of three kinds of sunflowers:
tall ('Russian Mammoth') medium ('Valentine,' 'Velvet Queen,' or 'Evening Sun') short ('Elf' or 'Sundance Kid')
one packet of 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories
40-pound bag of composted manure
straw or bark mulch
Choose a location sheltered from the wind that gets six or more hours of sun each day. Lay out a 6-by-9-foot rectangle. The long sides should run north-south. For best results, dig a 6-inch-wide planting trench and work a 40-pound bag of well-rotted manure into the soil before planting the seeds. (Leave a space for the door!)
Sow the morning glory seeds around the rectangle as well. The vines will climb up the sunflowers. When the sunflowers grow tall enough, string some twine between the sunflowers for the morning glories to climb on. They will form a lacy 'roof.' Spread straw or shredded bark mulch on the 'floor' of your house.
In midsummer, visit your sunflower house with a flashlight at night. You may be able to watch moths sip nectar from the sunflowers.
Here are some of Sharon Lovejoy's favorites for kids cool plants that are easy to care for and grow quickly.
Pumpkins. Try mini-pumpkins in a barrel, giant 'Rouge Vif d'Etampes' for 'furniture,' or the white 'Lumina' that you can paint.
Sunflowers. Use 'Giant Gray Stripe,' 'Paul Bunyan,' or 'Russian Mammoth' for the walls of a sunflower house. 'Sundance Kid' works well for a doll's sunflower house.