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Garden Hideaways

Children love to play and hide in “secret” places and a sense of thrill accompanies creating a fort from scratch. This summer, why not create a special place for your child or grandchild in your garden? Go beyond the traditional roads and pathways to create a miniature town or “main street” for the little ones in your life.

Even if your space is limited, a sunflower fort is ideal for young gardeners. First, find an area that is sunny enough to grow tall sunflowers. You may wish to plant a variety of seeds that grow different heights. Taller sunflowers will create the walls and roof of the fort and the shorter sunfl owers will fill in the walls.

Create a minimum seven-foot square or design a shape of your choice. You may wish to create a sunflower pathway to your fort. Another idea is to lay out a large circle in your garden, then create a maze-like path into the centre of the circle where the play space is. Children can walk through the sunflower maze to reach it.

Begin by marking the perimeter of your fort with stakes and string. Consider the use of the fort before determining the door size. Will a ride-on tractor or a small picnic table need to fit through the doorway?

Plant sunflower seeds along the perimeter of your fort and wait for the seeds to sprout and grow. Provide ample amounts of water and watch as the walls form. Children can create the floor by adding some sandbox sand or a blanket.

When the sunflowers reach approximately six feet, loosely gather the tops of the plants from both sides of the fort to form a roof. By tying them loosely, the stems won’t be damaged.

Sunflower forts are a great tradition you can start with your family. Children not only learn to plant their fort but also enjoy the fruits of their labour when they play in the unique shade they have grown. Design a new sunflower fort each year and build summer memories for your children or grandchildren.

Another garden hideaway idea is to create a bean teepee. This easy-to-build teepee quickly grows using vines to create a great hideout for children while teaching them a love of gardening. Not much space is required and it will be quite ornamental as well.

Before you begin, you will need seven to 10 long bamboo poles, some twine and pole beans. Create a large circle and firmly push the ends of the poles into the soil spaced evenly around the circle with consideration made for the entrance into the teepee. Then tie the bamboo poles together near the top using twine, string or a bit of old rope. All poles should be secure so the structure does not collapse if bumped by a child.

Plant a few pole beans per hole approximately two inches deep around each teepee pole. When the beans are a few inches high, loosely wind them around the poles. From then on, they should find their own way up. When the beans have climbed the poles, your bean teepee is ready to be used. Just add a blanket inside for a peaceful, private hideaway.

– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba

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