Earth Day 2017 is here and this year it is all about supporting the environment.

What better way to create sustainability for our future than to teach our kids how to keep a garden?

I know those of you with small kids are rolling your eyes at that last sentence, but hear us out. We say gardening can help kids and their parents develop good eating habits as well as help kids improve their fine motor skills.

They’ll even be using math to measure water, fertilizer and counting/calendar time.

Here are four easy-to-care-for plants that you and your kids can plant in honor of Earth Day this year:

Butterfly weed (Asclepius)

Not technically a weed, these orange and yellow flowers are perennials, meaning they (should) live for two years or more and require less maintenance than an annual, which you would have to pull out and replace each growing season.

These pretty plants have the added bonus of attracting the caterpillars that will eventually become monarch butterflies. The little guys often set up their chrysalis on the plant, so kids will have an opportunity to view the insect’s entire life cycle.

Butterfly weed needs full sunlight and only minimal water, meaning it is tolerant of drought conditions (and kids who forget to water them) as well.

Beans – The magical fruit!

After reading “Jack and the Beanstalk,” help your little adventurers plant a beanstalk of their own. Yours will more than likely come from seeds rather than magic beans, but you can buy some varieties in plant form.

With dozens of types available in our area, you should be able to find something your family will love — or maybe even start a new healthy eating habit (a parent can dream, right?).

If you’re growing from a seed, you likely won’t see much bean production until June. But you’ll probably see sprouting much sooner than that. If you’re planting seeds, have your kids keep the area evenly moist until all the seedlings pop out of the ground.

Portulaca

If your kiddos love lots of bright colors, grab a portulaca. This brightly colored flowering plant provides low-growing ground cover that needs very little water. Not having a yard or garden won’t disqualify your kiddos from growing portulaca. These plants love to spread and even let their blooms and greenery overflow planters, making them a great candidate for pots or planters in smaller places like porches and decks.

These starts usually come in lots of colors including red, purple and white, and like butterfly weed, will attract lots of butterflies.

Squash

Even though we associate this tasty veggie with fall, April is actually a great time to plant summer squash in our area. Like beans, your vegetables can either come from seeds or a plant. You’ll likely have squash to eat in about a month if you’re working from a plant, or about two months if you’re working from a seed. Each summer squash seed or plant should be planted about two feet from its nearest neighbor in the garden.

Do you have any other favorite plants for junior gardeners? Tell us in the form on the right.

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