The Curious Garden 

Sunflower Planting Activity

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

The Curious Garden sunflower planting activity would make a great Spring or Earth Day Activity. After reading The Curious Garden by Peter Brown I did a sunflower planting activity with a second-grade class.  The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a hopeful story with beautiful illustrations. Liam is a boy that likes to be outside, but his town is dreary and gray without plants or trees. On one of his walks, Liam discovers the remnants of a garden along an old abandoned railroad track. Liam takes it upon himself to care for the garden and eventually it begins to flourish and grow. People in the town notice the work that Liam is doing and it inspires them to start to take care of the ever-spreading garden. As a result of all the hard work, the town becomes a better place where adults and children enjoy being outside. The environmental theme in the story lends itself to a planting/Earth Day Activity.

Supplies Needed:

  • Peat pellets (1 for each student)
  • 2 Sunflower seeds for planting (we’re using Mammoth)
  • Large Dixie cup or small container (1 for each student)
  • Water (warm works best, but cold will work too)
  • A toothpick or pencil (1 for each student) 
  • A copy of The Curious Garden

The Preparations

I am the librarian/makerspace coordinator so in order to make things run smoother I made a kit for each student in the class. Inside of a resealable sandwich bag, I put a Dixie cup, a peat pellet, 2 seeds, and a toothpick. I gave all the kits to the classroom teacher and because we did this project during COVID and we are on a hybrid schedule some of the kits got sent home during material exchange day and some stayed in the classroom. For this second-grade class I read to them on Fridays so I let all the students know that they should hold on to their kits until it was library day. 

Getting Started

On our Friday library day, I connected with the class via Zoom, some of the students were at home and some were in the classroom. When I do this project another year I will just do it in person with the students in their classroom or we’ll do it all together in our  Makerspace room. Because I tried the project first ahead of time I learned that the peat pellets take longer to expand if the students use cold water. Instead of reading the book first, we jumped right into the project. 

Step 1:

  • Place the peat pellet in the cup. 
  • Add enough water to cover the pellet. (Warm water helps the soil rehydrate quicker, but if you are at school and only have access to cold water it just takes longer. 
  • Read The Curious Garden while you are waiting for the soil to rehydrate. 


Waiting for the peat pellet to rehydrate.

Step 2: 

  • The pellet should rehydrate in 5-10 mins.
  • Carefully lift out the expanded peat pellet and sit on a desk. 
  • Pour any extra water out of the cup. 
  • Using a toothpick or pencil make a small well for the seeds. Place 2 seeds in the well and push the soil back over the top of the seeds. 
Planting the sunflower seed in the peat pellet.

Step 3: 

  • Place your pellet back in your cup. 
  • Students can take home their seeds in the Dixie Cup.
  • At home place the cup in a warm location, but not in the sun. 
  • Check on your seed every day. Some seeds sprout in as little as 2 days. The soil should feel damp. Only water your pellet if the soil seems dried out. 
Planted and ready to go home.

Step 4: 

  • Once the seeds have sprouted move the cup to a sunny location. 
  • Water as needed. 
  • If more than one seed is growing in a pellet, simply pinch off the other plant so you only have one healthy plant per peat pellet. 
A seed after just 2 days.

Step 5: 

  • When the plant has sprouted over the cup it is probably time to replant the sprout into the soil. 
  • Find a perfect place in your yard or a large pot with soil and dig a hole as deep as your peat pellet. You can leave the netting on the peat pot and place the whole pellet in the hole. Cover with soil and water. 
  • Continue to check your plant to see if it needs water, but be careful to not overwater. 
  • Keep checking on your plant to see your flower bloom. 
My seed after 3 days.

Final Thoughts

We planted Mammoth Sunflower Seeds from Raw Earth Color and according to their website, Mammoth Sunflowers can grow as big as 12 feet tall. I chose Mammoth because I thought it would be fun for the students to have a flower taller than them. I doubled checked the Farmer’s Almanac and they say that it should take between 80 -95 days for the flowers to bloom. With sunflowers, it’s important not to overwater. They are actually drought tolerant and have adapted to growing with little water because they were originally found on the prairies in the midwest.

*If you would like a pdf of the instructions, a supply list, and worksheets please visit my TPT store. 


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