Have your own plant race

Encourage children to have fun in the garden with their very own ‘Plant Olympics’. Join in the race for who grow the tallest and strongest plant?

Have your own plant race

Best plants for racing

  • Plant any of the following to watch them grow..and grow...
  • Sunflowers
  • Nasturtiums
  • Sweet peas
  • Runner beans

Did you know that the record for the tallest sunflower is a massive 7.76m? Martien Heijms from the Netherlands grew his skyscraping sunflower back in 1986. You might not be able to beat that, but you can still grow some whoppers in your garden too!

The time
May is the best time for planting these seeds.

The place
Your garden.

The contenders
All these plants can reach heights of 180cm+:

  • Sunflowers: huge yellow flowers on long stalks. Giant Single is a good seed to choose.
  • Nasturtiums: bright yellow and orange flowers. Tall Single Mixed is a good type (the clue is in the name!)
  • Sweet peas: pink, purple and white flowers that are ideal for picking and smell lovely. Everlasting Sweet Pea is a reliable choice.
  • Runner beans: a climbing plant that produces pretty red flowers and beans that the family can eat. Scarlet Emperor is a big favourite with gardeners.

    The equipment
    You will need:
  • A sunny patch of soil (or a large planter) against a wall or wooden fence
  • Compost
  • Fork and trowel
  • Trellis, mesh or bamboo stakes for the plants to climb up
  • Seeds
  • A piece of chalk
  • A tape measure
  • Plastic labels

    1) Prepare the soil
    Give your seeds a head start by planting them in good soil. A few weeks before you plant, dig some compost into the area and a week before you plant, add some fertiliser. Just before you sow the seeds, use a garden fork to remove weeds and larger stones and break down any lumps. The soil needs to have a fine, crumbly texture.

    2) Sow the seeds
    Water the soil thoroughly and choose a spot near the trellis, mesh or bamboo stake to plant your seeds. Follow the instructions on the individual packets for planting your seeds. Label each spot so you remember which seeds you’ve planted where!

    3) Sit back and wait…
    The different seedlings might appear at different times, so be patient! The seedlings will need ‘thinning out’, which means leaving the strongest-looking plant and pulling the others out, so the seedling that’s left has plenty of room to grow tall and strong.

    4) Start judging
    Take your chalk and mark some measurements on the wall or fence, in 10cm gaps. Then sit back and let the race begin! Mark the heights of the plants every week with the date – you might be surprised how fast they grow. And don’t forget to keep watering!

    What to look for
    Which one sprouts first? Some plants might get going faster than others, but will they slow down later on?

    Which one grows the quickest? It may be the fastest, but it might stop once it gets to a certain height.

    Which one finally grows the tallest? This is the overall winner! Don’t be quick to judge as you might not know the true winner until the end of the summer.