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Garden Organic’s National Volunteer Masters come together to celebrate growing people and plants

Garden Organic’s National Volunteer Masters come together to celebrate growing people and plants

Garden Organic has hosted its National Volunteer Masters Conference 2013 bringing together composting and growing mentors from across the UK to celebrate their achievements.

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 to celebrate the work and achievements of the Masters Volunteers network.

A series of themed workshops took place across the day with subject areas including community composting, wildlife gardening, soil science and fruit growing advice.

Roger Key, Garden Organic’s Chair of Trustees, said

“For over a decade, Garden Organic has trained and supported volunteer mentors. This dedicated network of volunteers benefit communities across the country.

“The conference is a celebration of their achievement and an opportunity for us to acknowledge the dedication, inspiration and enthusiasm of the volunteers in delivering growing and composting activities into their communities and networks.”

Guest speaker Professor Chris Baines, a Garden Organic Ambassador and campaigner for urban nature conservation, provided an inspirational speech on the nature of the future highlighting the actions required now to protect our natural environment.

The National Volunteer Masters Awards Ceremony saw individual and group achievements across the Masters Volunteer Network recognised and rewarded within four key categories – Achievement Award, Master Award, Innovation and Social Media Award and Group Achievement Award. Read about the our 2013 award winners here.

Feedback from conference delegates

  • “Really well organised, brilliant venue, staff were so, so lovely”
  • “A very inspiring day! Shame it went so fast! See you next year.”
  • “Really enjoyed it, meeting people, speakers, groups and Ryton is lovely.”
  • “Wonderful presentation from Chris Baines.”
  • “Quite intense – lots of information crammed in (but good)”
  • “I genuinely didn’t realise there were so many ‘Master Composter’ or similar projects around the country so it was really helpful to see the bigger picture.”

Wonderful group of lively volunteers gather at Ryton Gardens.

Inside the group photo!

Early morning calm before 215 guests!

Garden Organic’s head of programmes, Margi Lennartsson addresses the audience

Garden Organic’s chair of trustees, Roger Key thanks the volunteers

Garden Organic’s new chief executive, James Cambell meets volunteers over tea and cake

Organic gardening expert, Pauline Pears leads a training session with volunteers

Coffee cups become plant pots

Masters with hens…

Workshop led by Ryton head gardener, Andi

Cutting the official conference cake…!

Group photos

New ‘Hens@Home’ mentors trained by Garden Organic at the National Volunteers Masters Conference 2013

Volunteers and co-ordinators involved with Garden Organic’s Sowing New Seeds project in growing spaces around England

Co-ordinators from Local Food projects gathered for a special workshop with Master Gardener Programme manager Philip Turvil (far left) as part of a Shared Learning Exchange visit. Co-ordinators were joined by lots of their volunteers


Volunteer Master Gardeners offer food growing advice to local people and communities. The volunteers are fully trained and supported by Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity.

This programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme, Public Health, Local Authorites and commercial firms in eight areas, Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, Medway, Lincolnshire, Somerset and HMP Rye Hill. For more information visit the Master Gardener website at

The Master Composter Programme is an initiative where Garden Organic work with community volunteers to promote and support home composting. Volunteers undertake a training programme in composting and issues surrounding organic waste management.

They then carry out activities in their local community to raise awareness and participation in home composting. The programme is carried out in collaboration with local authorities and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). For further information about the programme go to

Read more news from the Master Gardener Programme

Read more news from Garden Organic

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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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South London Master Gardeners Achievement Awards

South London Master Gardeners Achievement Awards

Many are the ways of generating confidence with food growing. Seven South London Master Gardeners have been recognised for their particular creativity and dedication.

The awards ceremony took place at the Masters’ Conference on September 28th. Held at the Garden Organic HQ at Ryton in the Midlands,  the conference attracted over 200 Master Gardeners, Master Composters and other volunteers from all over England.

A right old fruit, veg and soil fest, with non-stop enthusiastic chat.

MG Pamela from Tulse Hill in Lambeth won first prize for achievement, and Gloria from Crystal Palace in Bromley third prize.

Guy, Brian, Colin and Dave won the group achievement award for work at the Doddington Estate, Battersea Wandsworth.

Well done and well deserved, and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wonderful contribution made by our MGs, at the forefront of local and community skills sharing.

Gloria proudly displays her certificate and  that of Pamela who could not attend. Brian and Colinshow the Doddington certificate in the events marquee.

Watch this space for further reports on the fun of the conference.

click here for Pamela, the Pioneer

click here for Gloria, Wonder Woman

click here for Doddington Roof Garden



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Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens to undergo redevelopment to create new education and resource centre

Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens to undergo redevelopment to create new education and resource centre

Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens is to undergo a site redevelopment as part of a plan to create a new education and resource centre.

During the winter months the shop and café will be replaced by a new Garden Organic education and resource centre. Parts of the ten acre gardens will be redesigned to create a more interactive and educational experience that showcases the latest organic gardening ideas and techniques and the charity’s programmes work.

The new Garden Organic education and resource centre will open in March 2014 to the public, Garden Organic members and visiting organisations such as schools and community groups. A new public entrance area for the Vegetable Kingdom and Gardens will see Garden Organic staff on hand to provide advice, assistance and literature about the charity.

A members area will be created alongside a library stocked with extensive archive materials and books for people to use to research and educate themselves about organic gardening. There will also be displays about Garden Organic’s work and the chance to see organic gardening demonstrations and experiments in the gardens.

Roger Key, Garden Organic’s Chairman of Trustees, said:

“The Council of Trustees has taken the decision to concentrate on the core objectives of the charity and return to the basics around teaching people to grow organically. This will be achieved by redesigning our demonstration gardens and improving our ability to inspire and educate people of all ages.

“The redesigned gardens will provide a unique opportunity for people to feel involved and connected to our work, while they learn new techniques and methods about organic gardening.

“The redevelopment of the site marks an exciting new chapter in the history of Garden Organic. By taking the charity back to its core roots, it will allow us to grow stronger as an organisation as we concentrate our efforts on education and showcasing the importance of organic growing ideas and methods.”

The new site layout will also provide space for schools to use as a classroom and picnic area. An exhibition space will also be available to showcase Garden Organic work, that of partner organisations and local artists and groups.

The annual schedule of events offered by Garden Organic will be reviewed as part of the redevelopment plans and an announcement about the future of events will take place in 2014. Garden Organic’s popular Apple Day will go ahead on October 12 as planned with a full schedule of activities.

The gardens will remain open during the autumn/winter months, with free entry to the gardens during this period. However, there will be some small changes to the opening hours of the gardens.

From 31 October 2013, the gardens will open Monday to Saturday but will close on Sunday. These new opening times will remain in place during the autumn/winter months and will be reviewed in Spring 2014.

More news from Garden Organic

News from Master Gardener Programme


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Produce, preserves and pickles – autumn social for MGs

Produce, preserves and pickles – autumn social for MGs

A rainy September Monday thought better of it and produced a dome of sunshine under a rainbow in Brixton for the evening Master Gardener Social.

15 MGs from across all our cohorts 2010 – 2013 pitched up at Diana’s garden for a really convivial evening.

The usual chat about varieties was enhanced as produce, preserves, pickles and home-spun honey were shared and admired. We were able to indulge our horticultural curiosity and geekiness safe in the knowledge of being amongst the like-minded. Joy!

Enormous thanks to Diana for hosting in her lovely kitchen and garden. You facilitated a lovely successful evening. Scroll down to see pictures.

The rainbow picture shows the view from the South London Co-ordinator desk.

see the video of Professor Moya Kneafsey summarising the evaluation of the success of the MG programme

read about Gloria, Wonder Woman of MG-ing

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NOMINATE TODAY – Master Gardeners making a difference

NOMINATE TODAY – Master Gardeners making a difference

National charity, Garden Organic would like to hear from you about exceptional volunteers that help people benefit from growing their own food.

The national awards will recognise the achievements of individual Master Gardeners and whole groups of these enthusiastic growing mentors.

The finalists and winners will be announced at Garden Organic’s National Volunteer Masters conference on 28 September 2013 at Ryton Gardens, Coventry.

Nominate today

If you’re a volunteer co-ordinator, a volunteer, a mentored family, school or community group, please nominate the person that you feel makes a difference.

Click here to download the simple nomination form for 2013 awards.

Any supporting photos and press cuttings are welcomed.
If you have problems with the form, click here to contact co-ordinator Kate Newman.

Please return completed forms to Garden Organic by 9am, Monday 16 September 2013 (contact details on form).

Award categories

There are three categories which recognise volunteers who have gone beyond the call of duty and made outstanding contributions to the campaigns to promote composting or gardening in the UK. There is also an individual award, which could encompass both composting and gardening.

Achievement Award This award will be given to an individual volunteer who has gone beyond expectation in his/her promotional activities, either due to the amount of time or effort that they have devoted to their volunteering or the exceptional results that they have achieved.
Group Achievement Award This award will be given to a group of volunteers that have shown how the whole can be more than the sum of its parts by forming an effective and cohesive group, which has helped to either improve the efficiency of a scheme or had a particularly significant impact locally.
Innovation and Social Media Award This award will recognise innovation and use of social media by either an individual or a group within a gardening or compost volunteer mentor scheme. Innovative ideas come in many forms, but the judges will look particularly favourably upon those ideas that have the potential to be replicated across other schemes.
Master Award This award will recognise exceptional achievement by a volunteer – supporting their local programme or simply acting as an inspiration to others through their efforts in their scheme. Someone who has already been nominated for the Achievement Award can also be put forward for this award.


Nominate today

Click here to download the simple nomination form for 2013 awards

Please return completed forms to Garden Organic by 9am, Monday 16 September 2013 (contact details on form).

Read more

2012 Awards finalist and winners

Book a place at the 2013 National Volunteer Masters conference

News – Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme nominated for national award

Conference cake follow awards at Ryton Gardens, Coventry

More news and case studies

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Spotlight on Master Gardeners as Local Food audit Garden Organic

Spotlight on Master Gardeners as Local Food audit Garden Organic

Grant officers from Local Food visited Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens on the 14 August 2013 to audit the Master Gardener Programme.

This was a wonderful opportunity to look back, and look ahead since Local Food funded the pilot Master Gardener networks in spring 2010.

Hundreds of volunteer ‘Master Gardeners’ have now helped 50,000 people benefit from growing food in Warwickshire, Norfolk, North London and South London.

This pilot is one of Local Food’s ‘Beacon’ projects; part of their £59.8m scheme to distributes grants from the Big Lottery Fund to projects helping to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to communities.

Admiring local food

What happened during the audit?

Senior grants officer, Maria Marsden and grants administrator, Janet Lambert, met with Master Gardener Programme manager Philip Turvil and Warwickshire Master Gardener co-ordinator, Kate Newman.

Then lively Master Gardeners Stella, Keith, John, and Sandy kindly joined us for lunch to share their enthusiasm for the volunteer role and its impact on them and the people they mentor.

  • We looked back – how the Master Gardener Programme has evolved with feedback from our lovely volunteers and expert team of co-ordinators.
  • We looked at the now – celebrating and challenging methods for volunteer recruitment, training, support, monitoring, and resource.
  • We looked to the future – discussing final grant allocations and plans to expand the Local Food networks and commissioned networks in Lincolnshire, Medway, Somerset, and HMP Rye Hill.

Senior grants officer, Maria Marsden said

“I was genuinely impressed with the time and investment spent on training your Master Gardeners and it obviously pays off as every Master Gardener I have met to date seems really passionate about what they do and happy in their role

“…the whole day made me confident that the Master Gardener Programme was Local Food money well spent!”

Master Gardener Programme manager Philip Turvil said

“The team at Local Food believe in their funded projects. This is invaluable.

“They have provided consistent support and confidence for Garden Organic to deliver the Master Gardener Programme with enthusiastic volunteers. This extends from the pilot Beacon funding to the additional grants to develop community impact and future commissions. Thank you.”

Adventurous crops: Lab Lab beans at Ryton Gardens

Adding new seeds

Grants officer, Cate Brimblecombe-Clark also visited Anton Rosenfeld and Sally Cunningham at Garden Organic to audit the Local Food funded ‘Sowing New Seeds’ project.

This project has enabled allotment holders, schools and community groups in the Midlands to grow exotic crops not traditionally grown in the UK. An excellent innovation that is busy expanding.

Read more about the Sowing New Seeds project here


L to R: Philip Turvil, Sally Cunningham, Janet Lambert, Maria Marsden, Cate Brimblecombe-Clark, Sandy Young, Stella Stroud, Keith Wellsted, Kate Newman, Francis Rayns, Anton Rosenfeld, John Young

More news

Lights, camera, GROW! Master Gardeners filmed for Local Food award video

Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme nominated for national award

Read more news

Read more about our future

Article by Philip Turvil


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They think it’s all over…

They think it’s all over…

…but in fact August into September is like a second spring! Just like the new football season, the growing year is full of optimism and promise at this point.

Now is the time to sow one pot leaves like rocket or ready mixed packets for quick turnaround and a couple of cut-and-come-again crops before winter. Click here for a beginners guide,

If you sow right now (mid-August) you might get a crop to go inthe lunch box for the start of the new school year!

Also sow other leaves that will see you through the autumn such as spinach and oriental leaves. Kales, over-wintering lettuces and chicories also get sown now.

You’ll be able to cut side leaves over the winter, and come mid-February, when daylight takes a sudden increase, you’ll see fresh growth coming on. Lots of vitamins to give you a tonic for spring.

And now is the time to sow spring cabbages and greens. Sow in modules and plant out in September. Master Gardeners, go to the resources page and scroll down to ‘your factsheets’  for ideas of what, when and how you can support your households and groups to keep themselves in green leafy veg over til next March.

Excellent for your health and vitality, and generally running around like a Rooney.

Contact us or look at our interactive map to find a Master Gardener to help you.

Lastly, a top tip from MG Jean in Streatham: jazz up all that foliage taste-wise with elephant garlic planted now, and in October to Novemeber for conventional garlic.

Go to the Organic Gardening catalogue for seeds and supplies

Become a Garden Organic member for 10% off from the Organic Gardening catalogue, among many other benefits

Have you seen the latest news about Garden Organic’s very big grant to develop food growing in schools?

Chris Collins to become Garden Organic’s newest ambassador!



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Every London school to become a food growing school – Garden Organic gets £805k

Every London school to become a food growing school – Garden Organic gets £805k

Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity, has received £804,994 from the Big Lottery Fund towards an ambitious project that will seek to help every school in London to become a food growing school.

The Food Growing Schools: London project will see Garden Organic work in partnership with  ‘Capital Growth’, Food For Life Partnership, Greater London Authority, Morrisons Let’s GrowProgramme and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Campaign For School Gardening to deliver food growing into all London schools over the next three years.

 The Food Growing Schools: London project will work to strengthen and build upon existing activity to support all schools in London to fully embed food growing into school life. The ultimate aim is to demonstrate how every school and the community it serves can benefit from food growing, so that school leaders, staff and volunteers have the skills and confidence to get involved.

 Go to the Garden Organic website to read the full story

This is very exciting news for London. Master Gardeners already support a good deal of schools work locally.

Read about MG Colin in Battersea

Read about MG Susan in Peckham

Read about MG Barbara in Balham


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40 MGs on extra training day

40 MGs on extra training day

North and South Master Gardeners joined forces at a unique historic orchard in Hampstead this Saturday. Espalier apple trees planted in a convent over 150 years  ago were the focus.

Community growing leader with the world-famous Kings Cross Skip Garden and experienced horticulturist Paul Richens led training on summer pruning.

Paul  introduced us to the Lorette system, designed to maximise the number of fruiting spurs for the following season.

Careful work and a lot of fun. In pairs, MGs tackled a tree each. Paul said:

what a super group…and they’ve saved me a lot of work!

MGs also had a workshop on mentoring households from Nynke, the north London MG Co-ordinator, and played with training techniques for running group workshops with me, Fiona, south London MG Co-ordinator.

Graduating MGs present – those who have given a year’s service from the April 12 cohort – were presented with their certificates by Paul. What gems of MG-ing they are. Story coming soon about the class of April 2012 and all their lovely work.

We benefitted from a slightly cooler day than of late, and enjoyed leafiness, sitting on the grass, good food and bagsful of good natured cheery growing chat.

Read here about another south London event this weekend, the Lambeth Country Show

and here about the national award the Master Gardener Programme is up for

Thanks to Paul of Blue Dome Synergies, Ximena of Hackney Growers Kitchen and La Sainte Union School

The overall verdict was,

an informative, relaxed and enjoyable day developing skills.

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