Q&A: Gardening with Children with the De Buitléar family

The De Buitléar family are passionate horticulturists from Stamullen, Co. Meath. Ciarán and Fiona introduced their children Sam and Zack to gardening from a young age. They are passionate about climate action and the benefits of children getting their hands dirty outside in nature. Today we ask them a few questions on gardening and taking climate action with a young family.

We love how you garden together as a family. At what age did you introduce your children to gardening?

They grew up with a spade in their hands really. I would have involved them in the garden from about the age of 2 or 3 with very simple tasks and doing more complex tasks from about 4 onwards. It does not really make the tasks get done any faster (quite the opposite in fact) but it is great for them to learn from an early age. 

What are the benefits you have seen from teaching your children about gardening and biodiversity?

It has helped them in many, many ways: their awareness of and interest in nature, biology, science, ecology, their attention to detail, fine and gross motor skills. I could go on… Their teachers have commented on their detailed knowledge of such topics as for example phototropism (Zack 8) and crop rotation (Sam 13). 

How can parents engage their children in this topic?

Lead and they will follow in my experience. Get out there and doing stuff in the garden. I found the kids were curious and wanted to help. In some cases asking them to help and offering some kind of reward may also help get them involved. I found that the following were of special interest to the kids: Planting seeds and caring for plants through pricking out, potting on etc. Growing vegetables of all kinds. Digging in the earth. Some stuff like weeding has not got the same appeal.

What easy care plants or vegetables are best for children to grow?

Container Potatoes – anyone can do this (See Sam’s video)! Dahlias and Cosmos are easy flowers to grow. Tomatoes are a bit harder  – full instructions and videos here on Gardening Well.

What other climate action changes are you making as a family?

We have solar hot water which meant that our gas boiler was not used for 6 months last year, Solar PV (electricity created by  the sun) – this should provide all of our electricity needs for about 7-8 months out of the year and to provide even more energy than we can currently used so we have  , ordered an Electric Vehicle and we are selling our two diesel cars.  We also grow a lot of our own food, especially potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, lettuce and salad leaves, onions, carrots.   We try to eat less meat by having no meat one day a week at least.  We are  Planting trees – we planted 6 native broadleaf trees in our area (with the  permission of and funding from our local resident’s association). We are also planting a wildlife bed in our housing estate with native shrubs and flowers.

Thanks so much to the De Buitléar family of Gardening Well for their time. 
We hope this interview will inspire you to give a go at gardening with children and taking climate action at home. You can read more Sustainable Living Tips on our blog and catch up on previous Q&A’s on topics including Veganuary and Second Hand Shopping.