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London Orchard Project at Cottington Community Garden

London Orchard Project at Cottington Community Garden

Cheery householders gathered at this Kennington garden to realise their dream of productive fruit trees.

It was a dreary January Sunday morning but the work went quick and was supported by fruity treats such as apricot cake and hot apple and ginger tea.  The London Orchard Project provide trees and expertise to community projects and schools.  They can’t take on any more for this planting season, but get in touch for later in 2011!

Master Gardeners Stephanie, Carole and Fiona support the growing at Cottington.

Download Garden Organic’s guide to planting fruit trees in this (quite large)

Brian and daughter prepare a planting hole

Daniel hammers a staple while Russell braces the stake. The cage is against vandalism.

Ines starts a pilot hole for the stake. She and Celia have planted this tree together

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Master Gardeners share favourite potato varieties

Master Gardeners share favourite potato varieties

With so many potato varieties on sale at Potato Days around south London, you may feel a little confused which spuds to choose for tasty and reliable harvest.

We asked our Master Gardeners which varieties yielded success on their veg patch and they responded with a wealth of top tips! We’ve put together their suggestions below…

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New Year Yearning to grow?

New Year Yearning to grow?

It’s too soon to sow but why not prepare by making this DIY windowsill light reflector?  It’s fun to make and will ensure your seedlings  have the warmth and light they need to grow strong and straight.

Click here to access the step by step instructions

Have a look  here to see what you can begin to sow from February and through the year.

Lots of great varieties in the  Organic Gardening catalogue.

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It’s green-thumbs up for Master Gardeners in south London, says latest report…

It’s green-thumbs up for Master Gardeners in south London, says latest report…

Read the latest report from the south London Master Gardener programme, and you’ll discover it truly is green-thumbs up for our volunteers. 38 enthusiastic Master Gardener volunteers have had conversations about food-growing with nearly 450 people at 19 local events throughout south London since September 2010. Even better, 25 households have signed up for free food growing advice and support. That means 69 more people in south London growing and eating their own food for the first time.

And behind the statistics, there’s some exciting real life stories about how our volunteers achieve these fantastic results…

Master  Gardener  Christine  Flack has  really  done  well  registering households. Her eclectic approach includes mentoring gardening clubs and residents associations at housing associations. Thanks to Christine, sheltered housing residents in Kennington and Stockwell can now get support from the Master Gardener programme. She’s also been signing up households from Lambeth College gardening club, helping them to transform existing planters into a food-growing oasis.

Corina  Leong  has taken south London by storm to spread the food growing message. She has attended a remarkably wide range of events to establish her contacts, from the  Incredible Edible  Lambeth  event  where  she  made contacts with the Brixton Road Orchard initiative and Living Medicine project, to the Lambeth Cooperative Council ‘open space’ consultation giving feedback on how Councils  can  interface better with  community  groups. And that’s not to mention a Mental  Health training  event  aimed  at  community workers, where  she  spread  the message about  connections  between  food growing and a sense of well being whilst promoting Master Gardeners. Keeping her fingers green, she also volunteers on regular workdays with the Brixton based BLIP  project  –  ‘Bringing  Land  Back  into Production’. (see photo above).

Master Gardener Philip O’Keefe joined our volunteer team in October and hit the ground running… Working with Lambeth Recycling Team as his day job, he seamlessly combines his Master Gardener role at every opportunity. Less than a week after his volunteer foundation training, Philip was to be seen manning a stall at the Celebrating Age event at Lambeth Town Hall. “It was very well attended and even had interest from senior managers who want to grow vegetables on office roof tops!”, says Philip. His pride and joy is the food-growing club at his workplace on Shakespeare Road, where he’s helped workers build their own raised beds and planters on the roadside using recycled materials, with zero budget, growing potatoes, cabbages, beans and  more besides in their first year. In his first two months, Philip has spoken to a total of 84 people and clocked up 40 hours of volunteering.

We’re very proud of the commitment and enthusiasm shown by our volunteers  in south London. We know for sure that the programme is spreading the grow-your-own message. It’s getting neighbours talking to each other. It’s forging new links and networks, leading to more urban food growing ventures. And it’s supporting a team of skilled volunteers food-growers to get out and about in their community.

2011 will see the programme expand with another recruitment of 20 more volunteers in spring. If you are interested in joining this amazing movement, please then click here.

To read Master Gardeners blogs, click here.

For this month’s growing tips, click here.

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Volunteer training day at Stockwell Studios

Volunteer training day at Stockwell Studios

A crisp Autumn day. Sunday 7th November at the Stockwell Studios in Lambeth. Fourteen Master Gardeners gathered together in a mosaic studded art studio kindly made available by Arts4Space.

Sarah, Philip and Anton facilitated an exciting day of learning for volunteers. There were in-depth, practical sessions on soil and composting, a food growing space design exercise, and discussion on volunteer role topics.

Master Gardeners Nick and Fiona play with sponges to illustrate water locked away in soil

The wild and extensive garden space of Stockwell Studios was available to us all day, and we are grateful to resident gardener Neel for showing us around. Holes were dug for the soil session and volunteers found their way to the Secret Garden, a newly emergent food growing space, to do their design exercise.

A delicious lunch was provided by local caterer Ossie. All together a great day. Volunteers who took part, as well as those who couldn’t make it receive follow up notes and resources from the day.

For details of Master Gardener volunteers in your area click here.

See photos from the Islington training day

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Sarah visits BLIP: Bringing Land into Production

Sarah visits BLIP: Bringing Land into Production

Last week  I had an inspiring visit to one of the sites of BLIP: Bringing Land into Production. Initiated by the Transition Town Brixton food and growing group, this exciting project aims to transform wasted spaces into productive ones.

Co-founder Mike Noy explained there is a lot of land in Brixton left derelict. He said the group vision is to bring volunteer gardeners in to make the first practical changes to the land, show what can be done, invite interested local residents to get involved, and thereby kick-start a process where the plot can ultimately be managed locally for growing food.

From what I saw, they’ve certainly got off to a cracking start with the Brixton Water Lane plots. Nestled secretly behind council flats, BLIP have the permission of residents to start work on unused plots. The land is quite overgrown, with over-hanging trees and a few years worth of growth. This hasn’t stopped the volunteers of BLIP though, who see themselves as “caretakers” of the land, not owners of it. Trenches and raised beds have begun in earnest, copious sieving of the earth to remove stones, weeds, roots and the application of food waste compost donated by local suppliers Aardvark Recycling.

Master Gardener Corina is involved as a volunteer and has suggested using the site to involve other Master Gardeners. The garden, now in it’s early stages, could become a demonstration site for organic techniques such as the use of green manures and permaculture methods such as herb spirals. It could provide a meeting place for Master Gardeners wanting to get their hands into the soil and hone their skills whilst contributing towards a very good cause. There is also scope for bringing householders along for visits, either as observers or as willing participants!

For more information on BLIP and photos click here.

The group meets at the site every Tuesday and Saturday.

To get involved call Mike 07918605973, or Ariel 07530797873


South London Volunteer Coordinator.

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New volunteers join the South London team!

New volunteers join the South London team!

We are delighted to welcome eighteen new volunteers onto the South London Master Gardener team. They all took part in a fun-packed foundation training course at the Bankside Community Space in Southwark on the weekend of 9th & 10th October 2010. We are very grateful to Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST) for their involvement in the weekend.

Saturday kicked off with several get-to-know you exercises, all, of course, involving fruit and vegetables. It was amazing what we learnt in five minutes about people by hearing what their favourite vegetable was! Following, an introduction to Garden Organic and the Master Gardener programme by Philip and a session by Sarah on the volunteer role, ‘reaching the wider community’.

With curiosity high, we had plenty of opportunity for getting our horticultural heads on. Anton from Garden Organic took us through growing healthy crops organically, healthy soils, rotations systems and the Organic Gardening Guidelines. There was even time for a seed sowing demonstration, at the lovely Bankside Open Spaces Trust Red Cross gardens down the road.

New Master Gardener Philip shows his fellow Master Gardeners how its done!

Sunday began with a superb tour of more Bankside Open Spaces Trust food growing spaces on housing estates and in public spaces. Deftly led by Carole Wright (BOST and Master Gardener volunteer), it was extremely inspiring. The rest of the day involved more sessions on the role of the volunteer, supporting households and a brief overview of our south london Master Gardener website.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had guest speakers Corina Leong, Fiona Law and Mastoor Kahn. Themselves volunteers from our June foundation training, they came along to tell the group about their experiences as Master Gardeners.  We are really pleased they could make it along.

Newly constructed raised beds in Mint Street Park and Playground

Lunch, as usual was a feature of the day, with a modest sprinkling of cake to see us through the afternoon break. Thanks go to catering by El Vergel on Saturday and Del’Aziz on Sunday.

Philip and I would like to thank the participants of the weekends course and to wholeheartedly welcome them onto the team. We look forward to our first opportunity to bring together new and existing volunteers at our next inservice training on Sunday 7th November 2010.

Find out more about becoming a Master Gardener

Corina delivering her case study to the rest of the group

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LIFE autumn hands-to-gather event.

LIFE autumn hands-to-gather event.

On Wednesday 22nd September I went to the LIFE hands-to-gather event at Brockwell Park Community Gardens. LIFE (Local Initiative for Faith and the Environment) was launched as a pilot in the autumn of 2009 and was created as a bridge between faith-based networks and environmental action in the Borough of Lambeth.

The day was an opportunity for LIFE members to share in some of the joys and challenges of community food-growing with volunteers from the community garden and to learn some new, practical food growing skills at the same time. In typical LIFE style, it offered time for reflection and discussion, to exchange news and explore how the creation of a multi-faith food-growing initiative in Lambeth might develop.

As coordinator of the south London Master Gardener project, I was able to make connections with several people involved in setting up faith based food growing initiatives in the area. The LIFE project itself are moving towards finding a piece of land in which to set up their own garden and food growing space.

LIFE are a well established network of committed and loyal members. One of these, Jean Brown, is a volunteer Master Gardener.  You can read more about a recent LIFE retreat that Jean went on here.

I look forward to more future collaborations between LIFE and the Master Gardener programme.

Sarah Cannon, south London volunteer coordinator.

For more information on the LIFE project

Contact: Rebecca Brewin 07896 936 625

or Sadaat / 07939 325 032

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How to grow food in strange places

How to grow food in strange places

Writing for The Ecologist, journalist Helen Babbs looks at the rise of wierd and wonderful ways to grow your own, from around the world, no garden required!

Follow the link to read more…

How to grow food in strange places – by the experts

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Master Gardener Jean at the Cowley Harvest Family Fun Day

Master Gardener Jean at the Cowley Harvest Family Fun Day

Cowley Estate has an extraordinary Vegetable Food Farm. The event was organised as a way of celebrating the farm (which even has its own wormery) and also, to strengthen community bonds  after a local resident attempted to abduct a child from the estate. There were lots of activities for children; a bouncy castle, trampoline, African Drummers and Dancers, Andy Forbes from the Brockwell Bake Association, making pizza’s for children in his mobile oven, Dr Bike, Lambeth Link, cake decorating, face mask decorating for children, London Fire Brigade, Cricketers from Surrey County Cricket Club encouraging children to play cricket and the Metropolitan Police had a stand, giving out personal alarms and personal safety information booklets. Last but not least, the South Island Place Children’s Workshop.

Kate Hoey MP and the new Major of Lambeth Councillor Dr. Neeraj Patil was also there to show their support. I even managed to talk to the Mayor and encouraged him to take the One Pot Pledge.

For over 15 years, I lived not far from Cowley Estate in Lambeth so the Cowley Harvest Family Fun Day was a great opportunity for me to catch-up with old friends and neighbours I had known from the area.

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