Interview with Green Fingered George (Part One)

At Wild Planet, we firmly believe that children are our future. With this belief comes a great responsibility to teach kids everywhere to care for and tend to our planet and its wildlife. In today’s blog post, we interview an 11-year-old blogger from England whose parents taught him to do just that. An avid gardener and lover of wildlife, George spends his free time gardening, exploring nature and writing about his adventures on his blog, Green Fingered George. In this two-part interview, George and his parents share their story and provide tips on raising children who are passionate about the environment.

Hi George! Do you mind starting off by telling us how old you are?

I’m 11.

How did Green Fingered George come about?

In June 2014 I won the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year Award. I was nominated by my school gardening teacher, Sarah. It was a good year, I met the Queen of England and was asked to be the first-ever RHS Young Ambassador. What an honor! As I live in the North of England, a lot of things are based in London and during the week, so it’s hard to keep taking time off school. I decided to start a blog where I could write about gardening, wildlife and the natural world. I needed a name and Green Fingered George was born!

When did you first become interested in gardening, nature and wildlife? Why do you love it so much? What is your inspiration?

Well, my mum and dad have always taken me into the countryside, to estates, gardens, parks and to the coast for day trips or when we are on holiday. This is where I developed a love of nature and wildlife. Gardening brings me closer to nature, so that's how it started - I'm absolutely obsessed, I'm a nature nerd, a gardening geek! I’ve always been obsessed with water too; my mum says when I was younger if there was a puddle I’d fall in it. Streams, rivers, the sea, you name it, I love it!

That’s really funny! What makes you love gardening so much?

Gardening brings me closer to nature and I like being outdoors in the fresh air — I find the indoors hot and stuffy. When you’re gardening, you can see all types of wildlife from insects to birds. A lot of people tell you that gardening makes you feel healthy and fit and I couldn’t agree more. When I was five I was feeling poorly and found gardening helped me relax and feel better. The air makes you feel calm, it (gardening) provides you with food and it doesn’t cost lots of money. I mean, what’s not to like?

When did you first start gardening?

When I was four, my mum and some friends started a community gardening and cookery project called Operation Farm. Their project has a community allotment & orchard, swap scheme, cookery workshops and events. I always get involved in things with the other volunteers, like apple pressing and harvest festivals. Now that I’m older, I’ve started to run my own gardening and forest school workshops at community events. During the workshops, I teach other children how to plant seeds, build dens, make conker games and collect dry leaves to throw up on a parachute and watch them fall through the air.

About the same time, we started to develop our own garden at home; up until then my dad had been doing the big jobs like rebuilding and landscaping areas. Once the building work was complete, he started planting and that’s when I showed an interest. Also, throughout the school year, gardening was on the curriculum. I was lucky to have the best teacher EVER! Her name is Sarah – she is slightly crazy, has wild hair and loves eating cake. She’s just great!

We hear you have an organic garden at home! Can you explain to our readers why organic gardening is important?

Organic gardening allows insects to thrive. It’s also one of the most beneficial ways to encourage natural predators. If you don’t use pesticides and herbicides, it dramatically increases the number of beneficial insects you will have in your garden — which in turn, becomes food for other wildlife (bees, bats, birds, butterflies and hedgehogs). We have never used either pesticides or herbicides in our garden.

About how much time do you spend gardening per week?

When I was at primary school we had gardening class every Monday. Now, I’m in high school and hope to set up a gardening club in Spring 2017. At home, after school, I’ll check on the garden through the week and do a bit with my dad at weekends. I also have indoor plants which I look after daily.

Wow, it seems you spend quite a bit of time gardening. What is your favorite thing about your home garden?

We have a wildlife garden at home and we're always working on developing and improving areas. Earlier this year, we built another raised bed to grow more vegetables and herbs. My dad and I are the growers and my mum is the cook. We grow some fruit too, including raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries – there’s just nothing better than picking the fruit straight from the plant and eating it. We have two apple trees called cordons; we recently harvested the first apples, and they were delicious. I love the pond area that me and my dad built; it’s only small, but we’ve surrounded it with some of my favourite plants including a small acer tree. We’re extending the pond at the moment, which should encourage more wildlife into the garden.

On your blog, you speak a lot about both gardening and wild life. How do the two go hand in hand?

All gardeners know they need pollinators for their flowers and food to thrive, so if you want to attract wildlife into your garden you have to start at the beginning of the food chain with the plants and flowers that they feed on. For example, plants that attract caterpillars are great for birds such as blue tits. Caterpillars turn to moths and the moths are eaten by bats. In our garden, we planted lots of plants, shrubs and flowers such as buddleia and verbena that are popular with insects.green-fingered-george-2

What is your favorite animal? Why?

Easy, that’ll be the peregrine falcon – the fastest animal on the planet. It’s been my favourite animal for a long time and I’ve been lucky to see it in action a few times, including once when we saw one hunting by the coast in Dorset – it was awesome as it swooped down and caught its prey!

What was the coolest animal you’ve ever seen? Was it your encounter with the Red Deer at Bushy Park? Or was it Steve, the bat?

It’s a tough one to answer because I’ve seen some amazing things – watching a bat that came into my house fly into the night sky was epic. Rutting deer at Bushy Park was so cool. But I think I’ll go for snorkeling in the Mediterranean Sea off the Spanish coast, the colours of the fish were like a dream come true. Some fish were jumping out of the water as they were being chased by a cormorant, it was just awesome. I watch a lot of wildlife documentaries and that’s where some of my knowledge comes from. I love Sir David Attenborough, he’s amazing and I really enjoy watching clips of blue whales and sharks – I’d love to see them for real in their natural habitat.

How are you working to spread the word about wildlife conservation?

I take my role as an RHS ambassador very seriously, so I came up with the idea of writing a blog to reach out to kids all over the world. Blogging, uploading videos on YouTube and using social media are great ways for updating, recording, researching, sharing tips and showing others how easy it is to get involved in the natural world. I get loads of feedback and comments from young children to older people. It doesn’t matter about age, as long as I’ve inspired someone to go outside and have fun outdoors. Also, I ask questions all the time about things that I want to find out more about, but don’t understand. For example, I asked my mum all about sustainable food, in particular meat and fish. It helped me understand about animal welfare and the decisions we make when buying our food. When I can, I share my passions and thoughts at RHS events, school presentations and within my school work – anything to spread the ‘natural world’ message.

What advice do you have for other kids, who really care about our planet but aren’t sure how they can help make a difference?

Small steps is all I say and if there’s enough of us, together we can make a difference. Get involved in local organisations and meet other kids who are passionate about the natural world too. Check out other young bloggers – there’s plenty of kids who care out there! There are the physical things you can do, like recycling, then there’s things like campaigns to share via social media and surveys to take part in like the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch or participate in a two minute beach clean. Wherever you live in the world there’s always things you can do in your local area.

Do you have any tips for parents who would like to teach their kids about caring for the environment?

Allow your children to get messy, make mud pies using recycled junk, let them jump in puddles, let them pick worms up and make a compost area, go to the beach and do a #2 minute beach clean, ride in a wheelbarrow instead of a car! Watch documentaries, answer their difficult questions, join an environmental group, grow and cook your own, grow wild!

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