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A fun garden activity you can do this spring with your kids is build a sunflower house. A sunflower house is a living garden play house. If you plant tall varieties of sunflowers, your kids will have a nice shady place to hang out in the mornings and evenings. They can play games or read a book inside. Start designing it now and plant it early spring after the threat of frost.

Locate a sunny location (6-8 hours of daylight) in a convenient spot near your house where your kids are likely to frequent and a place where they can be supervised. Select a flat area with fertile, well drained soil.

Along with your children, decide if you want a big circle, square, or rectangle. Mark off the space and dig, till, or hoe out the weeds. Remove rocks, grass, weeds from inside the perimeter. Put down cardboard or several layers of newspaper as a weed barrier. Cover with straw or mulch to help keep weeds under control. Another fun idea would be to build it around their sandbox.

You may also want to plant short and tall sunflowers, aromatic herbs, and flowers that grow on vines around the perimeter of the sunflower house. Kids will love picking out different seed packets for their secret sunflower house. You can shop for different colors, scents, and textures to make it interesting. Choosing plants with edible flowers or edible plant parts is a way to add fun and inspire healthy eating. Kids can munch healthy plants while they are playing and using their imagination. You may also plant vines that will climb the sunflowers and help fill in the gaps in the walls of your sunflower house. Remember to leave about two feet for a door opening.

Allowing kids to have input in what is planted and you assisting them planting a garden makes them feel a sense of ownership in the garden. They may also be more likely to eat the plants that they have grown.

This month the Youth Gardening Committee will be working with Douglas Hart Nature Center's Nature Nuts Kids Club on Feb. 23. We will be doing a fun nature craft. Please call DHNC to register if your children are interested in joining the Nature Nuts.

This is what Nature Nuts are all about: Founded in 2013, the Nature Nuts Kids Club is an active group of young naturalist who care about the environment. Club members manage and govern White Pine Tree Trail at DHNC. Nature Nuts management includes maintaining trails, picking up litter, removing invasive species, and planting new trees/flowers. A portion of each meeting will include planning for the next meeting, working outside in our area in addition to fun activities. Members will decide what projects need to be completed in what order, what tools we will need, etc. This is a great opportunity to be involved in a club that nurtures responsibility, conservation, and nature awareness. Members can work in their managed area outside of meeting times, and always work alongside Douglas-Hart Nature Center staff.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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