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Chutneys and preserves at In-Service Training day

Chutneys and preserves at In-Service Training day

What a wonderful autumn In-Service Training Day for Master Gardeners and Food Buddies, learning to make chutneys and quick-cook jam at Mum’s the Chef cafe in Croydon.
We chopped and stirred, and made tamarind sauce, red onion chutney and a firey mint and coriander sauce. There was also a three berry, quick-cook jam, flavoured with lemon juice and zest that we enjoyed spread on scones with afternoon tea.
Making chutney and preserves is a great way of using up a glut of veggies or fruit.

Preserving techniques mean the summer and autumn bounty can be enjoyed later on in the year when fresh pickings are thin on the ground.

Master Gardeners and Food Buddies receive free In-Service Training as part of their volunteer role. They then use the information to support Croydon residents to start growing their own food, or choose a heathier diet.

Our grateful thanks to Sahara and her amazing chefs for a fascinating (and filling!) day.
Want to know more about the Master Gardener/Food Buddy programme? Get in touch here




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Home grown spuds taste so good!

Home grown spuds taste so good!

Hannah, a 26-year-old graphic designer,  enjoys using objects of nature in her illustrations, but had never tried getting her hands dirty in the garden. Like a lot of people who have never tried growing, she needed to build up a bit of confidence in handling plants!
Hannah enjoys eating freshly grown food so while she was in the garden, Master Gardener Ozichi dropped one of two hints; like “these potatoes really need to come out now” and “I wonder if I can get through all I need to do this afternoon”, and finally “wouldn’t you like to be able to grow your own food? It’s not that hard and you don’t need to be an expert.”
That did the trick and Hannah got started. She said: “I joined Ozichi in her garden for some autumnal harvesting. She’d been growing potatoes in three medium sized containers. It was amazing to see how many potatoes you can get from such a small growing space.
“Ozichi explained that the nutrition in the soil was depleted. So planting beans in their place would help to regenerate the soil.
“To protect the seeds from mice and other wildlife we planted them in sections of kitchen roll tubes. Then we watered them and covered each container with netting. I’m looking forward to eating them in weeks to come.
“The homegrown potatoes had much more flavour than shop-bought ones!”
Croydon Master Gardeners provide FREE food growing advice to Croydon residents who would like to start growing some of their own fruit and veg. This can be at home or in one of the borough’s community gardens. Would you like to learn? Contact us here.


Sowing beans to replenish nitrogen

Potates grow well in containers

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Meet your Croydon team

Meet your Croydon team

I am lucky enough to be the co-ordinator for the London Master Gardeners. My job is to recruit, train and support Master Gardeners around London and Kent.

I have a background in media and journalism. I have grown food in gardens and on allotments for over 20  ears and never get tired of the magic.
I’m looking forward to supporting Master Gardeners to bring  the benefits of growing food to people in Croydon.
I enjoy finding cheap and easy ways to get people growing and de-mystifying gardening. I want to reclaim food growing as a fun and simple activity instead of an expensive and complicated one.
Contact me here or Tel: 07584 474778.  Email:

Project officer Catherine Graham

Gardening is my passion and I enjoy sharing that excitement and enthusiasm about being outside with young and old. I have experience working in schools supporting their food growing projects and love to see the children get their hands dirty and discovering worms as well as being excited about harvesting
and eating the produce they have grown.

I am involved with community garden projects in Croydon and enjoy the opportunity to get together with others to grow fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers and plants often chatting over a cup of tea!

Learning about growing food is great fun. Learning together with other people is even better. I am looking forward to working with our volunteer Master Gardeners as they share their knowledge, skills and experience with local residents and community groups in Croydon.

Contact Catherine; 07971 280 985

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Seed Swap and Growing advice Extravaganza at Crystal Palace

Seed Swap and Growing advice Extravaganza at Crystal Palace

Lots of lovely interaction took place on 8th Feb – a wonderful kick start to the growing season of 2014! And in an otherwise blustery and hailing day, we enjoyed a couple of hours of lovely sunshine. Blessed indeed.

20-odd South London Master Gardeners flooded the very dynamic Crystal Palace scene – half at the Transition Town Patchwork Farm stall at the Food Market, and half in the forecourt of Sainsburys. Wherever you bought your food that day, we were there!

The SLMGs definitely have cause to be proud of their knowledge and ability to communicate the joy of germination.  Market co-ordinator Karen Jones thanked us,

It was lovely having the event in the market, it created a great buzz and pulled a lot of people in.


Seed swap: Alona, Helen, Annina (team AHA that went on to win the quiz at the end of our training day – click for the story)

Kids': Jean, Hilda

Planting for beneficial insects: Kate, Stephen, Barbara

Growing through the year: Colin with Lambs Lettuce, Mastoor with sowing indoor tomato ‘Red Robin’, Mark with cloches and mizuna

Other advice topics: Pam on compost, Susan on pests, diseases and deficiencies, Ruth with mint cuttings, rosemary on harvesting and preserving

Roving ambassadors with veg planner: Claire, Gloria, Diana and Fiona

Pictures: Jo

See the flickr set for more lovely images of interaction (click)

Read about the rest of the day here (click)

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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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MG Barbara at Ravenstone School, Balham

MG Barbara at Ravenstone School, Balham

Barbara gives an update of all the super work at Ravenstone Primary school since September.
Although not regularly running the garden club this term, two teachers (Mary and Tara) and I have been discussing how to extend the activities to a wider number of children, and been actively organising for next season. So far we have:
  •  Received a grant from the PTA of £2000 for resources for the garden club
  •  Bought and almost finished setting up a new garden shed which will have shelves to store equipment and a potting table.
  • Been donated a greenhouse from some parents. This needs to be set up and we will be carrying out a risk assessment to check safety aspects in the school. Most likely we’ll need to replace the glass panels on at least one side with Perspex panels. We really want to have this ready for February 2014 for planting and growing seeds.
  • Harvested rocket and sold to parents at the autumn fair – 28 bunches at 50p each. All sold, so at least 20 parents saw that this had been grown in the school
  • Carried out a school assembly on garden activities for years’ 3-6. Invited those interested to apply to join garden club and discussed what’s involved. We have developed a pledge for interested children to sign and targets for them to achieve so they know what’s expected of them. We’d like to ensure all children who want to be involved can be. When we have numbers will work out a plan to do this. Numbers coming together can’t really be more than 12 at any one time to be effective, but we’ll work out different kinds of activities to try and accommodate as many children as possible.
  • Planted daffodils with children in most classes. While this isn’t growing organic vegetables, it was a nice autumn activity and we thought it would help children to think about planting in the school, and learning how to think about plants. These have been planted in pots outside the door where each year group lines up so they can watch them grow.

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Award winning volunteers at Garden Organic’s national conference

Award winning volunteers at Garden Organic’s national conference

Garden Organic has hosted a special awards ceremony at its National Master Volunteer Master conference to celebrate the achievements of its volunteer networks.

More than 215 Master Gardeners, Master Composters, Local Food Project Co-ordinators, Seed Stewards and other likeminded volunteers attended Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens site on September 28 for a day of activities.

After independent judges reviewed a record number of nominations, the awards were presented by Chris Baines, a campaigner for urban nature conservation.

  • The Achievement Award, kindly sponsored by Harrod Horticultural, is given to a volunteer who has gone beyond expectation in their activities and was won by South London Master Gardener Pamela Woodroffe. Pamela has been an inspiration to people living in Tulse Hill, Brixton, almost single-handedly engaging the community in growing schemes, including community composting and provision of gardening advice and information to schools and community groups.
  • The Master Award, kindly sponsored by VegTrug, which recognises exceptional achievement by a volunteer was won by Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, of Stechford, Birmingham. Working with Garden Organic’s Sowing New Seeds project and actively involved in various community and school growing projects, Mrs McGhie-Belgrave is an inspirational figure in her community, encouraging and promoting the benefits of gardening and growing produce to people of all ages.
  • The Group Achievement Award, which recognises impacts delivered by a group in their community, was won by the Zimbabwe Association, who have nurtured the Sowing New Seeds demonstration plot at Spitalfields City Farm in London. The plot has produced armfuls of vibrant nutritious food. “The group have taught us about their traditional crops, cooked for us, sung for us and hugged us!” says Olivia Burt of Spitalfields City Farm.
  • The Innovation and Social Media Award was won by North London Master Gardener Nat Mady. Nat’s idea to set up an edible roof garden on the outside terrace of her employer’s office, along with a gardening club for employees to get involved in to maintain the space, are among the innovative practices she has implemented in her Master Gardener role.


Congratulations to all our entrants

Stella (middle), Zimbabwe Association
Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, Sowing New Seeds
Gloria, Master Gardeners
Nat, Master Gardener
Paul, Master Composter
Colin & Guy, Master Gardeners


More award news

Our 2012 Conference Award Winners

Our 2011 Conference Award Winners

Local Food Heroes in Warwickshire

Local Food Heroes in Norfolk


Master Gardener Programme shortlisted for national award

Read more case studies

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Bringing in the Harvest

MG Joan looks after the Brown household of four, but her sessions regularly attract five or six extended family and friends! She writes:

In their small back garden my household has gone from no growth, to an endless supply of cut and come again lettuce grown in discarded greengrocer plastic trays, black tuscan kales and a potato bonanza.

From the palette planters came a bumber crop of crystal yellow cucumbers, pattypan ‘Patterson’ still cropping, corn, ten beautiful pumpkins. Other harvest includes ‘Fat Baby’ achocha, Topaz, Black and Snow White cherry tomatoes and two paste varieties being picked and continuing to ripen.

Under the £10 plastic cover are more cherry tomatoes and a range of hot and sweet peppers I donated as sedlings.

For the coming winter, a small patch of Chinese and Jerusalem artichoke grows alongside kale, cabbage, sprouting broccoli and oca. Elephant garlic goes in this coming week and other garlic, and broadbeans are on our schedule for the coming months.

We have had two seed saving sessions and two to go. So far they have cucumber, a range of heritage of heritage and heirloom tomatoes, achcha, sweet and hot pepper seeds for next year’s planting.

Joan is also a contributor to the Sowing New Seeds project from Garden Organic, and shares her extensive knowledge of seasonal and exotic varieties most generously. A fount of knowledge and inspiration.

Click here to read about the awards South London MGs received at the Masters’ Conference on September 28th

Click here to see the beautiful stall Alona ran for the Sydenham Autumn Fair

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Gloria, Wonder Woman

Gloria, Wonder Woman

Gloria Ojulari Sule has been super dynamic and creative with her Master Gardener role since she joined in September 2011. She’s an artist and brings a wealth of experience in community creative arts, time growing herbs commercially and the most amazing smile!

It’s hard to know where to begin with her considerable achievements as a Master Gardener. The numbers are already amazing. In her 24 months of MG-ing she’s done: 166 hours of volunteering activity (106 more than the target), mentored 15 households (3 times the target), a community growing group AND a children’s project, and spoken to a whopping 500 in the wider community (TEN times more than the target)!

Immediately on completion of her induction training she set up an open recruitment session for households in local café Comfort and Joy. Bringing cake, chatter and growing inspiration together, she instantly signed up six local people to support with their fruit and veg enthusiasm.

Soon after, at her Spanish class, Gloria met Angela. Says Angela:

‘We had to go round saying what we did and Gloria said, ‘I’m a Master Gardener’, and I said ‘I want one of those!’ After class we met for a coffee and I must say my gardening is going better than my Spanish!’

Says Gloria:

‘After visiting her once or twice she got going but it was a very emotional situation visiting her on the first occasion because her husband had died. It was wonderful to kind of share that and support and see her move through that and then link her up with the Streatham Common Community Garden. She was quite isolated so then that gave her a community to be involved with.’

Gloria has a great skill at inspiring and energising others. Gloria is in Crystal Palace, at the boundary point for five of the boroughs in the South London area, and has been involved with the incredibly vibrant Transition Town there. Gloria contributes to the Patchwork Farm weekly market and supports the many newly enthusiastic growers with advice and information. She also recently organised one of our MG socials at a green drinks and is always supportive of other MGs. She has spoken at three induction weekends for new Master Gardeners including ‘seeding’ the first cohort of MGs at new area Medway this spring.

Gloria’s energy, humour and positivity draw people to her and it’s always fantastic to have her at events such as the Lambeth Country Show. At a seed swap we held in January she chatted and signed up new gardener Stpehanie in no time at all. Gloria easily infects others with the joy of gardening, forging real relationships. Of new gardener Sabera she says:

‘She’s done an awful lot in a small space quite quickly. I’ve been happy to go over there and spend time and even help her and a bit. It’s made a lot of difference with the excitement of seeing courgette flowers and then courgettes. She’d say it’s very therapeutic for her because she goes up to town and it’s a stressful environment’.

This year Gloria has been volunteering with Kids Company, an innovative and vibrant charity for children suffering deprivation. Childhood obesity dominates the headlines but food poverty and malnutrition exist too.  It’s the link with land, food and culture that motivates Gloria to run a weekly growing and harvesting workshop.

 ‘That’s why I enjoy Kids Company and I wouldn’t have the ability to do that not having done the Master Gardener Scheme. I care passionately about the next generation of kids’.

Gloria has used the Food for Life Partnership and Master Gardener materials. She tells how she gave out our bookmarks as rewards at the end of one session, not sure they would be valued. One boy studied the pictures of the vegetables on the front turned it over and read, ‘Master Gardener’, then exclaimed ‘I’m a Master Gardener!’ She adds,

‘I’ve done art projects for years but I really know there’s a value for what they’re learning in this situation. That positiveness around growing and learning and seeing an outcome has been great. Then taking plants home as well as snail eggs!’

For herself Gloria adds,

 ‘Well, it’s been a nice time for me to get engrossed in this because of being retired, because of having done that community work for years and years. It’s tied things up very nicely in terms of being able to do stuff in the community on a voluntary basis. It’s been a perfect kind of force for my activities.’

Gloria is a most colourful, joyful and Master Gardener, a true ambassador for the skills and enjoyment in gardening. When asked about how she feels when she puts on the frankly practical sludge green MG t-shirt, Gloria replies in typical light-hearted fashion ‘It’s not really my colour!’  May she long continue to be inspired to put it on in spirit and to inspire others with growing.

Read case study on Pamela, the Pioneer

Read case study on the Doddington men

Read about the lates Master Gardener social



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‘Pioneer’ would be a great word to describe Pamela as she has almost single-handedly generated community growing and, as a result, stunning community engagement on her estate, the Cressingham, on Tulse Hill next to Brixton. Becoming a South London Master Gardener in June 2011 was the catalyst. Just over 3 years later we can say that life on the estate shows a good degree of transformation, and Pam’s personal confidence and well-being too.

Having stopped work under trying circumstances, Pam had been keen to develop her food growing passion and interest in sustainability and get growing going locally. She’d spent a long period leafletting, doing consultations, and setting up meetings on the estate, with not much result,

‘I couldn’t work out how to get started and I wanted to grow things.’

She gained the confidence, inspiration and materials at the two day Master Gardener induction course and set up a One Pot Pledge event the following Saturday on the estate. From there more beds were colonised. Importantly, neighbours came out to chat. The area became a Capital Growth Space and the group received some money, and another grant from the council, that went to the Tenants and Residents Association. In order to access the money, Pam stood as treasurer, and the TRA gained new life.

‘The gardening involved people being outdoors and actually talking to each other, sharing issues about our tennants’ hall and the TRA as it was’.

Pam has since set up community composting, and arranged for the estate to become a food waste processing pilot project with the council. The compost collection point is outside her front door! Not only that, but this summer she organised a tour for residents of the local food growing sites in wider Tulse Hill and is generating more food growing discussion and activity. She is advising the Josephine Avenue growing group with Quadrant Housing Association, for instance.

Pam has also contributed substantial hours to Lambeth Poly, an innovative polytunnel community cropping project on Tulse Hill, and she’s a member of local food activist group Incredible Edible Lambeth. She’s been involved with Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses nearby and compost giveaways and growing events at the Bandstand Beds further afield in the borough on Clapham Common.

In addition to the fabulous work on Cressingham Estate, Pam has supported two primary schools, two community groups and 15 households wearing the MG t-shirt. She’s recorded 174 hours of activity and spoken to 547 people in the wider community (though I suspect both counts to be much higher in reality). She’s consistently contributed time to many stalls and events in addition to the ones on her growing patch such as the Lambeth Country Show, the Crystal Palace Overground Festival, the Clapham Common Compost Giveaways and the Tulse Hill Rushy Common Fairs.

Pam’s a popular co-volunteer with other Master Gardeners and valued for her company and engagement ability. Pam has been a participant in many of the extra training days, socials and was keen to contribute to the programme evaluation focus groups we have held. Lastly, she’s also spoken to cohorts of new Master Gardeners at their induction weekends.

With her cheery, chatty and knowledgable approach Pamela shows the qualities of a fabulous Master Gardener. As well as composting know-how, Pam also brings an extensive knowledge of wildlife, particularly insect life and her special interest of fungi.

I co-trained with Pamela in June 2010 and have always enjoyed her quirkiness and authenticity. She contributes time, effort and creativity and always in a spirit of wanting the best for all, without expecting thanks. She’s had some health issues but continues the gardening ambassador role without complaint. I believe it supports her in keeping active. I am delighted to have been able to work with her in my role as co-ordinator and through the programme support her in some small way to actualise some of her inpired aims and ideals.

Pam is one of our many fantastic Master Gardeners. Why not nominate your Master Gardener for an award?

Nominate your Master Gardener by 16th September! (click)

Read about the MGs at Doddington Estate Battersea

Find your local Master Gardener on our interactive map

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