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Kindergarten Sunflower project prepares to bloom

2017 Best Photo Winner, Waikato’s Fairfield Kindergarten winning picture of Māia.

A staggering 13,024 kindergarten tots around New Zealand will become little green thumbs and showcase their gardening knowhow by competing with other kindergartens in their region to grow the tallest sunflower or widest sunflower head.

The 2019 Daltons Sunflowers in Kindergartens Projects kicks off Monday August 19 and runs until Tuesday December 10, with winners announced Thursday December 12. This is the fifth time Daltons has run this popular project.

This year, 765 children are taking part through 13 kindergartens in Tauranga. Each kindergarten received a free Daltons starter pack including peat pots, measuring tape, seed raising and potting mix and everything the children need to grow their own Kings Seeds Skyscraper Sunflowers, which can grow up to four metres high.

Children will grow their gardening skills and knowledge, like sowing seeds, germination, caring for seedlings, planting them out and daily care of their plant. They will also be exposed to basic math concepts, measuring and recording of their plant’s growth each week, and teachers can integrate aspects of the project into their learning curriculum.

There is a total of 248 kindergartens within eleven kindergarten associations throughout New Zealand who have signed up in the project.

“The competition element brings a bit of excitement and fun for the children, but what’s at the heart of the project is our mission to ignite a passion for gardening and develop some skills and knowledge from a young age,” says Daltons’ general manager Colin Parker.

“If these children take a love of gardening home and it inspires their family to start a vegetable or flower garden, then that’s the real success of the project for us.”

Daltons have also created some practical How-to-Videos for teachers and children to watch and learn things like how deep to sow seeds, planting out correctly, and how the sun affects growth etc.

Regional winners with the tallest sunflower or sunflower with the widest head will receive prizes from Daltons and The Warehouse, and all participating kindergartens will go into the draw to win a gardening workshop at their kindergarten.

At the end of the project, each kindergarten also nominates their very own ‘Daltons best little gardener’ to receive a certificate and prize pack, courtesy of Daltons.

Regularly throughout the project, teachers are sent newsletters full of information about sunflowers, learning sheets and fun activities to share with their kindy kids to spark their creativity and learning.

Top tips from Daltons for growing great sunflowers at home

Every seed first needs to germinate in order to grow up in to a giant sunflower. To do this you need to plant your seeds into soil which has all the nutrients (food) it needs to germinate (sprout).  Seeds also need warmth, sunshine and water, plus a little tender loving care!

What you will need:

Daltons Seed Mix

Kings Seeds – Skyscraper sunflower 

Small pot e.g: yogurt container etc (just make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom)

Small shovel

Water spray bottle

Plastic dish or ice-cream container to hold your pots in.

Step 1: Take your small pot and fill it (almost to the top) with your Daltons Seed Raising Mix.

Step 2: Sow your sunflower seed into the soil about 1 - 1.5cm deep (no more than twice the DIAMETER of the seed).

Step 3: Add a little more soil on top and water lightly. Be sure to water regularly for even germination and growth, but avoid overwatering as it can rot the seeds.

Step 4: Place your pots into a plastic container, such as an ice-cream or yoghurt container so they do not leak water. Keep them indoors on a nice sunny windowsill and look after them well. To germinate your seeds you will need to grow them indoors for the first month or so as it is too cold outside!

Top tips:

It’s very important to keep the temperature constant, so ensure your pots are in a very warm, sunny location.

You can create your own mini green-house by taking a 1.5 litre plastic bottle, cut the bottom out and remove the lid and place it over your pot.  

When will your seedling be ready to plant outside?

When seedlings sprout, a set of leaves form first that look almost like a four-leaf clover. A few days later, a third single leaf will emerge that does not look like the first ones. This is called the first true leaf. Your seedlings will be big enough to plant outdoors (weather dependent) once they have sprouted their second set of true leaves – it should be about 10-15cm tall.

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