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Growing on prescription

Growing on prescription

This great idea, where GP’s turn over outdoor space for community gardening so patients can grow their own could work in Croydon! Story and picture from The Guardian.

The Lambeth GP Food Co-operative was launched in 2013 at Brockwell Park surgery, south London. With £160,000 in funding from the clinical commissioning group (CCG) and Lambeth council, 11 GP surgeries across the borough have turned unused outdoor space into gardens for patients to grow fruit and vegetables. GPs and nurses refer patients who are lonely and socially isolated, have a long-term condition and/or have mental health problems.
The aim is to harness the physical and mental therapeutic benefits of gardening while growing more local produce.

Full story in The Guardian here:

If you are a Croydon GP or part of the CCG or would like to talk about this in Croydon, please get in touch. Garden Organic recruit and train Master Gardeners and Food Buddies in Croydon, who are volunteers who mentor and support borough residents to start growing their own food. Contact regional co-ordinator Liza Scholefield.


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Free wildflower seed kits from Kew Gardens

Free wildflower seed kits from Kew Gardens

Master Gardeners enthusiastically took part in Kew’s Grow Wild programme last year, transforming spaces into colourful, bee-friendly wildflower havens. The good news is that you can take part again this year.

Kew has thousands of free seed kits to share. Last year, 56 volunteers received enough kits to share with nearly 2,000 people, let’s see if we can beat that and help create over one million square metres of wild flowers in spring 2016.

Get your free kits here: Order before midnight on 14 February 2016.

There’s also funding available from Kew. Up to £4,000! Master Gardeners are welcome to apply by 1 December 2015:

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MGs Catherine and Nola on Croydon Radio

Marvellous Master Gardeners Catherine and Nola were chatting about their volunteer role and food-growing around the borough on Andrew Dickinson’s show on Croydon radio.

Andrew (a fellow Master Gardener!) hosts the borough’s own environmental show. The Green Croydon radio show  highlights green issues in the borough, nationally and internationally. His interview was aired on Monday night and is available on podcast here

Catherine is widely involved in food growing and the borough’s wonderful community gardens. She manages to find time to be our Project Officer on the Master Gardener Programme as well as volunteering herself!

Nola is a herb champion and creates delicious and nutritious juices from combinations of herbs, fruits, vegetables and spices. She’s a true champion for a healthier, fresher diet and keen organic grower.

Master Gardeners give free advice and support to Croydon residents who want to start growing some of their own food. Would you like to grow your own but don’t know where to start? Contact us for advice!

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Harvest Festival at Surrey Street

Harvest Festival at Surrey Street

It’s not every day you get a visit from a friendly pea pod and a tomato, but that’s who came to see Croydon’s newly-minted Master Gardeners at Surrey Street.

The volunteers were joining in at the Surrey Street Market Harvest Festival, giving out food-growing advice and encouraging Croydon residents to have a go at growing.

Master Gardeners Nola, Iain, Shujaat, Hassan and Jay all took a turn behind the stall. Many of the passers-by who stopped were drawn by our display of scented herbs and unusual Crystal Lemon cucumbers. On the next-but-one stall, their Master Gardener colleague Andrew was busy pressing what looked like an orchard-full of apples and pears into the most delicious fresh juices.

Something as vibrant and tasty as freshly-pressed juice is a powerful reminder that fruit and veggies you grow yourself can taste so good. Tree to glass in minutes, it’s the ultimate fast food!

Surrey Street boasted the ususal fantastic array of veg stalls, delicious food stalls and more. It was a pleasure to chat to visitors about the lovely veggies they had just bought, and suggest one of two they could grow at home with very little trouble!

Master Gardeners support Croydon residents to start growing their own fuit and vegetables. This can be at home, or in one of Croydon’s community gardens. Advice is free and tailored to the individual. Interested? Contact Liza here

Master Gardeners are part of Croydon’s Food Flagship project – helping to change the way we think about healthy food and boost the numbers of Croydon folk growing their own! Find out more here.



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South London Master Gardeners – 6000 hours of local advice and support growing food

South London Master Gardeners – 6000 hours of local advice and support growing food

We’ve had an excellent run under the Local Food funding. We’ve reached Yr 5, Quarter 2 of our programme. There was 3 year’s funding initially, and that was extended by 18 months due to enormous success.  However, all good things must come to an end. And so, a little poignantly, this is the last story on the website.

However, I am pleased to announce the grand totals of activity!

Outcome details – grand totals

Drum roll…

Since June 2011

We’ve recruited and trained 119 South London Master Gardeners on 6 induction weekends and they have:

Had the opportunity to attend 16 inservice training days

Given more than 6000 hours volunteering

Recruited over 600 households or groups consisting of 1606 adults and 567 under-16s

Spoken to nearly 14,000 people in the wider community with growing advice

Attended 215 community events

And we’ve engaged our audience with more than 22,500 visits to the website!

We haven’t managed to find new funding after Feb 2014. I will be moving on (see here for my au revoir statement) and know that my colleagues at HQ in Ryton are continuing development work for London. We’re all disappointed that the programme is in hiaitus, and are grateful for the many many good wishes from local food partners and friends in our six boroughs of operation.

As Co-ordinator, I’ve seen through an exit strategy, including action planning for each of the 69 Master Gardeners still active. Our volunteers can no longer call themselves Master Gardeners but will have opportunities to carry on with Garden Organic’s Food Growing in Schools and more.

We certainly aim to have MGs up and running again soon in parts of South London.

It’s been a super final quarter, though, including an excellent extra training day and Seed Swap Advice extravaganza with our friends at Transition Town Crystal Palace.

For enquiries and to discuss future programmes, please go to the contact page


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Extra Training Day – February

Extra Training Day – February

It was a most convivial and cheery gathering of the South London Master Gardeners, but just a little poignant. This was the last of the meetings under our Local Food funding. No matter! Action planning, inspiration in food growing and team-building were the aims of the day. Master Gardeners may be losing the t-shirt, but they are gaining many other opportunities.

We’d chosen Crystal Palace for our last hurrah. It straddles the intersection of no fewer than five of our boroughs! What’s more, it’s an extremely vibrant hub for all matters local food (and more) thanks to Transition Town CP.  Our venue was the Grape and Grain Pub, who’ve hosted weekly jamming/preserving for TTCP, and is also the site of the Tipsy Garden (read more here). Heather the landlady and Phil the Assistant Manager couldn’t have been more welcoming.

Morning session:

To highlight some ongoing opportunities to volunteer, Gemma from Garden Organic’s Food Growing in Schools: London and London Julie from Capital Growth spoke. Coffee followed, with CP young entrepreneur Callum’s beetroot brownies and parsnip blondies.  The next topic was the local food growing agenda:  presentations to inspire and group discussion from Dr Moya Kneafsey of CAFS (Centre for Agriculture and Food Security at Coventry University), and Karen Jones of TT Crystal Palace. There followed an action planning activity, and delicious lunch from Comfort and Joy.

After lunch it was all hands to the pump for our Seed Swap event (click to read the story and see the flickr slideshow). And then back to the Grape and Grain for a horticultural quiz and celebratory cake by Veryan at Demi Patisser, a local business fostered by the Food Market. The AHA team (Alona, Helen, Annina) team won a litre of seaweed extract each. Now there’s a prize that only an organic grower would fully appreciate!

MGs also enjoyed a certificate presentation for April 2013 trained MGs (click to read the story), seeds, other giveaways and non-stop MG chat! We missed the MGs who couldn’t make it.

MGs presented Fiona with a hamper of preserves, seeds, cards and other thank you goodies. Well, that was most touching. What a nice day with friends!

Big thanks to The Grape and Grain, Comfort and Joy, Crystal Palace Food Market, Demi Patisser, CP Patchwork Farm, Julie, Gemma, Moya, Karen, Sainsburys, Callum, and all MGs for their contribution.

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Diana Linskey

Diana Linskey

Master Gardener Diana is to become a committee member with Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC).  In presenting the case for being co-opted, she was able to cite her Master Gardener experience engaging the community with food growing. Diana is also the founding treasurer of Bandstand Beds, a crop growing and feasting project based on the Common. Clapham Common is managed by Lambeth Parks and Green Spaces.

As Lambeth Council devolve management under the Co-operative Council model, CCMAC is a key stakeholder in the future of the Common.  The presence of Diana, who also brings a wealth of experience as a senior civil  servant at DEFRA, will help ensuring food growing and community engagement are kept high up on the agenda.

Read here about the fabulous feasting event in October, and here about upcoming event

Diana at last night’s CCMAC AGM on being elected, with Clapham grower Gill; and prepping blackcurrants for Bandstand Beds’ next project.

 Read here about our next event (Diana will be there too, giving seed swap advice)

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Guerilla gardening in Brussels City Centre

Guerilla gardening in Brussels City Centre

I’VE JUST BEEN PRUNING APPLE TREES TODAY….one of the few fruit trees that you can prune this early.
Last week I spent New Year in Brussels, and spotted this amazing garden full of produce right in the heart of the city, just off Rue Aspach.

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Seasonal Fruit Garden Jobs

Seasonal Fruit Garden Jobs

If you are thinking that over the next few months there is little to do in your fruit garden…well think again! There is plenty of pruning to be done, and it’s a good time to make any structural changes to the fruit bushes and trees growing in your garden.

Here you can see South London MG Gloria in practising on MG Alona’s trees.

From planting blueberries to shaping gooseberries, from managing mummified fruits to identifying peach leaf curl, and from vine cuttings to sowing strawberries – you’ll have a list of inspiring projects as long as your arm (or extendable loppers).

Pruning, planting, checking for pests, diseases and disorders…it’s all here in a lovely, comprehensive guide on the Garden Organic website:

Seasonal Fruit Garden Jobs

Good Gardening!

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It’s Christmas!

It’s Christmas!

The MG team were delighted to show up at the Vauxhall City Farm this month for their Christmas Fair.  We were giving seasonal advice, and encouragement to get started for 2014. We have a nice ongoing relationship with the farm to attend their events. Always really nice interactions with families and anyone interested in the Good Life!

We had a focus on winter window sill growing. Visitors did herb transplants to take away in coffee cups – biodegradeable of course! Visitors also packeted up alfalfa seeds to experience the joy of germination for quick and nutritional sprouts in stirfries,  sandwiches and salads.

The farm had hens, stoats, rabbits and of course Trevor the Turkey, among many other animals, for all to see. And very happy they all looked.

It was also great to meet the Vauxhall City Farm team and have a good old chat – Michelle the ReinElf, Alex with Jemima (the stoat), Matt, Faith and Jo, and several other keen volunteers running a raffle, wreath making, toy and spinning stalls. It would be lovely to seek how we can link our volunteering and education and learning opportunities in the future!

click here to read about our National Award for Education and Learning from Local Food

and click here to read about the latest extra training day for our MGs

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