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Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme nominated for national award

Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme nominated for national award

Garden Organic’s Master Gardener Programme has been shortlisted for a national award.

The Master Gardener Programme, run by the charity Garden Organic, will compete against two other projects from across England for the chance to be named winners of the Education and Learning category in the Local Food Recognition Awards 2013. The awards are organised by Local Food, a £59.8m scheme that distributes grants from the Big Lottery Fund to projects helping to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to communities

Since 2009, the Master Gardener project has received £674,254 in funding from Local Food to develop a practical model for a volunteer support network to encourage and mentor people and communities to grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens and on local communal land. This has involved the recruitment of a co-ordination team based in Warwickshire, London and Norfolk, who have trained and supported 475 Master Gardeners who have given 18,500 hours to promote home food production.

The volunteers have impacted on the lives of 4,300 people in mentored ‘households’ and another 52,000 people through workshops and other support for local groups. The Local Food Recognition Awards are an opportunity to recognise, reward and celebrate some of the hundreds of outstanding community projects that Local Food has funded since the programme opened in 2008.

Philip Turvil, Master Gardener Programme Manager, said: “Garden Organic’s Master Gardeners have wide-reaching benefits beyond growing food. It’s also about lifestyle, community and improving the environment.

“We don’t want to just teach our Master Gardener volunteers the best way of growing a lettuce for lunch. We want to teach them how to pass this information on to others in the community, to share their passion and experience so that everyone is learning from each other and feeling the benefits.

“By working with volunteers in their communities, we’re showing that the initial challenges of growing your own food can be overcome. So if that first crop ends up slug eaten, rather than feel demoralised, people look for advice and support instead of giving up.”

Mark Wheddon, Local Food Programme Manager, said: “The Local Food Recognition Awards seek to celebrate the most outstanding community projects delivered with the help of Local Food funding.

“All our projects have made a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they are based, helping local people in all manner of different ways to access, grow, prepare and understand the benefits of fresh, healthy food, so to be shortlisted for an Award is a tremendous achievement. Many Local Food projects have gone beyond the original aims of the programme and are having much wider impacts in their communities, so our judges have a difficult but exciting task ahead in choosing the winners.”

All 500 Local Food projects were invited to enter the Awards in 4 categories – Small Grants, Community Food Growing, Education and Learning, and Enterprise. Shortlisted projects will be judged by an external panel in September, and the winners in each category will be unveiled in November at an event at The Lowry in Manchester. – ends –

For further information, please contact:

Philip Turvil, Master Gardener Programme Manager: Email here

Notes for Editors:

Garden Organic ( is the UK’s leading organic growing charity dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools. Using innovation and inspiration, the charity aims to get more people growing in the most sustainable way. Garden Organic delivers through renowned projects such as the Food for Life Partnership, the Master Composter and Master Gardener schemes, and the work of The Heritage Seed Library.

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 three-year pilot programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authorities in four areas: Warwickshire, Islington, South London and Norfolk. Garden Organic aim to develop and sustain these programme areas more nationally to follow the success of Garden Organic’s Master Composter network.

Local Food ( is a £59.8 million programme that distributes money from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to a variety of food-related projects to help make locally grown food accessible and affordable to communities. It was developed by a consortium of 17 national environmental organisations, and is managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT).
RSWT is a registered charity incorporated by Royal charter to promote conservation and manage environmental programmes throughout the UK. It has established management systems for holding and distributing funds totalling more than £20 million a year.

The Big Lottery Fund ( is the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding. It is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need, awarding over £4.4 billion to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since 2004.

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Gardeners’ Question Time and the MG programme team

Gardeners’ Question Time and the MG programme team

This dashing bunch are Matthew Wilson, Chris Beardshaw, chair Peter Gibbs, James Wong and Bob Flowerdew, your Gardeners’ Question Time panel.

On Monday 24th June, the ever-expanding national Master Gardener team of coordinators, programme manager Philip Turvil and new project development officer, Harriet, enjoyed not only a team meeting , but also an evening recording of the BBC radio show Gardeners’ Question Time.

The whole was hosted at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum, where Norfolk co-ordinator Gabbie has her office. The audience were keen and were in place ready for action well before the deadline of 6.30pm – arriving early is a characteristic of Norfolk folk (says Gabbie).

Two programmes were recorded, so there was a double helping of sage gardening advice topped with plenty of humorous interjections from both panelists and audience.

Philip got to ask his question, and, no surprise, was praised for his enthusiasm in witty repartee from the panel.

The first programme will be broadcast on Friday, 5 July at 3pm on BBC Radio 4, repeated on Sunday, 7 July at 1pm. The second programme is scheduled for 23/25 August. There’s always BBC iPlayer if you miss it first or second time around.

Click here for links to the Master Gardener programmes around England. Building on the ‘classic’ model, new programmes have been created, each adapted to local funding and demands (see below)

The four original Local Food funded programmes and their co-ordinators – currently curating new programme funding partners: South London, North London, Coventry and Warks (including BIG DIG community project in Coventry since beginning 2013), Norfolk

NHS and local authority sponsored: Medway, Lincolnshire

Prison-adapted model: HMP Rye Hill

Partnership with Incredible Edible Somerset

Pre-record in action – presenters Mathew Wilson and Bob Flowerdew chatting to Alice, Nigel, Sally and Lynn about the recent history of the gardens and plans for the future developments.


GQT panelist and well-known local Norfolk gardener, Bob Flowerdew discussing organics with Philip Turvil, Master Gardener Project Manager.

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The bottom line from the latest quarter!

The bottom line from the latest quarter!

The Master Gardener Programme reports quarterly and Co-ordinator Fiona has just finished totting up the targets.

Finally the sun came out, and chose the weekend of our induction course for the latest cohort of Master Gardeners in April.

The target figures are looking very healthy considering the slow and late spring, with activity taking off from mid-April.


81 active Master Gardeners

231 hours of activity

71 households consisting of 114 adults and 32 under-16s

910 people in the wider community spoken to

1884 visitors to the website

The April batch is a super-enthusiastic bunch of volunteers and previously trained MGs have welcomed them at a social and by buddying them at events. We find that networking and shared enjoyment are building to a really strong group identity.

Last April’s cohort have been doing their 12-month reviews with Co-ordinator Fiona Law and it is really heartening to hear continued enthusiasm and inventiveness. They will graduate at our in-service training day in July, a co-production with our North London MG friends.

We’re looking forward to a full on, fantastic summer of events and new households to support.

Picture shows Beverley and Dee having seed sowing demonstration fun in the sun.

Click here to read about the April training

And read here about the social in May

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Festival of Neighbourhood – South Bank growing

Festival of Neighbourhood – South Bank growing

Lush and nutritious growth meets the Brutalist architecture of London’s South Bank. The world renowned arts centre in Lambeth on the banks of the Thames has greened up, and local MG Ruth is making a contribution.

Ruth is an ‘allotmenteer’ at the Queen’s Walk Window Gardens, where she is looking after the Onion Family. This installation put together by Wayward Plants consists of reclaimed windows, scaffold boxes and plants from Organic Lea. A great way for visitors to see plants grow and be inspired to grow their own.

The Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden sees wildlife planting and raised beds overflowing with flowers, leaves and fruits. In addition, Lambeth community designers the Edible Bus Stop – friends of the MGs – have put together a rollercoaster of beautifully planted wheelbarrows in an installation called ‘Roll out the Barrows’. To volunteer watering help contact To maybe get a wheelbarrow to keep at the end of the installation on Sept 9th. Other ways to get involved, see


Find out about events where Master Gardeners are giving advice and you can sign up for a year’s free gardening advice and encouragement, Master Gardener Events.

Join the circle by doing home composting – advice here Compost Awareness Week


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Potting on – more root space please!

Potting on – more root space please!

Your seedlings, even after the slow and late spring, will be wanting your attention right now. The mini-plants will be yearning to spread their roots and grow on to the next stage.

I support workers at Lambeth Council in Blue Star House, a 60s office block, and we’re growing in containers on beautiful, wide window sills that receive lots of light.

This lunchtime we had a pot-on-a-thon with all hands in compost. In just half an hour 15 enthusiasts  moved on more than 30 seedlingsfrom 9cm to 3 litre pots! See the glamour avant garde arriving with seedlings ready to pot on after our spring sowing fun in the bikesheds back in March. (click to read the story)

More root space for plants. What a joy. Yes, real joy at growing, plants and people alike. Now bring on the ‘my plant’s got flowers already’, ‘we’ve had three tomtoes’ and other banter.

Find your local Master Gardener - pins on the map all over South London

Have you seen the video on artichokes  (click)

Seven steps to potting on success

  1. Water the seedlings in their pots 15 mins before you’re ready to start
  2. Get your potting compost light and broken up;  ‘friable’ is the technical term
  3. Fill your bigger pot about two thirds up the sides with a pot sized depression in the middle. Add a bit of water
  4. Put index finger and middle finger either side of the stem, half turn the pot upside down and gently squeeze the sides. Ease the plant out of the pot. Admire the roots. Gently tease them out if they are congested at the bottom. A few broken ones won’t matter too much.
  5. Place plant and root ball in bigger pot and fill compost around the sides, firming gently.
  6. Finally, water with a rose (sprinkler) from a watering can to aid the soil settling around the roots.
  7. Take upstairs to the office, place on a tray or plate on windowsill. Turn it around to face the best wayt and maybe give it a name, say, Tom or Pepe. Look at it daily and water from below to encourage root development and avoid compost surface algae, fungi and unwanted bug life.







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Seedy drinks in Peckham

Seedy drinks in Peckham

Actually, it’s all wholesome chat of varieties, seed swapping, growing techniques and best ways to support fruit and veg growers. And quite a few laughs.

This was our latest social for MGs newly-inducted and some of the oldest of hands. A good 20 turned up during the evening, plus miscellaneous partners, a PhD student from Parma Italy and –  really great – Dee brought a neighbour and signed her up to a year’s free fruit and veg growing support there and then. Ink on the dotted line.

Thanks to all who turned up and made a great evening, especially Susan who organised the evening. Comiserations to those who missed out! When’s the next one in your area?!

More pix available in a facebook album

See our great events list Events (click)

See the Master Gardeners’ latest Blogs (click)

two MGs called Kate

shiny new applicant

earnest grape and grain


seed swap fever

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International Compost Awareness Week 2013

International Compost Awareness Week 2013

Compost Awareness Week was the 6th to the 12th May 2013 but composting household waste goes on all year round!

Making and using compost is the cornerstone of gardening, especially organic gardening. The finished product is rich, dark, crumbly and sweet-smelling. It is made of recycled garden and kitchen waste, and can also include paper products. It is used to feed and condition the soil and in making potting mixes. Around 40 per cent of the average dustbin contents are suitable for home-composting so it helps cut down on landfill too.

Making compost is often considered to be complex but all you need to do is provide the right ingredients and let nature do the rest – however, a little know-how will help you make better compost, more efficiently.

Go to Garden Organic’s Home Composting page for links on ‘how to’

South London Master Gardeners can help you with composting. Click here to see our interactive map and contact them,

Read case studies about Master Gardeners to know how they employ their creativity and knowledge encouraging and supporting fruit and veg growing in South London!

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Globe artichokes – so many reasons to grow!

Globe artichokes – so many reasons to grow!

See this creative ‘advert’ for globe artichokes from South London Master Gardener Fiona Hull. More please, Fiona!

Also accessible via

Fiona’s from our latest cohort of Master Gardeners – read about the induction weekend here

Meet the Master Gardeners at a range of events up and coming through May, June and beyond

And we have some really great blogs from our Master Gardeners here

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With a spring in their step

With a spring in their step

This newly-minted batch of Master Gardeners certainly have the joy of germination in them. Over the superbly sunny Saturday and Sunday 20 and 21st April, seventeen South Londoners donned the t-shirt to become Master Gardener volunteers. A packed induction course saw them develop their skills and knowledge, as well as identify their action plan to support new growers local to them. Their mega-watt enthusiasm and interest will definitely galvanize the fruit and veg scene across Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Merton, Wandsworth and Croydon.

Selected for their gardening experience and keen-ness to engage new growers, the new MGs also built a sound network amongst themselves. You can expect to see them at events near you very soon! Old hands MGs David, Maria, Susan and Gloria gave their experience of engaging with the public, and finding and supporting households and groups.

We were privileged to be able to use the beautifully designed resource centre and gardens at Sydenham Garden in Lewisham, a unique therapeutic charity, as our venue. We also enjoyed a really productive visit to the allied De Frene growing space for a site analysis exercise. Big thanks go to MG Alona, who not only is a great MG but also puts in time as a trustee for Sydenham Garden and Sydenham Park growing group. Alona: we’re very grateful for your time as volunteer caretaker this weekend, opening up and showing us the inspiring growing spaces. Thanks too to Tom, Sue and the rest of the team.

Food from the Old Post Office Bakery and Karen Virtue went down very well, and a big thanks to new Co-ordinators Nynke (North London) and Liza (Medway) who came to observe, support and make tea. I don’t know what we’d have done without you! Thanks, as ever, to Programme Manager Philip Turvil who ‘Master’-minded the printing of manuals, collation of materials, leading magnificent activities and so much more.

The new Master Gardeners have started uploading their profiles. Click here for our interactive map, Find Your Local Master Gardener.

For more photos of the weekend scroll down to the end of our flickr stream

A big thank-you to you, Philip, Alona and the other MG trainees for such an interesting and inspirational induction weekend .  All I expected and much more.   So impressed that you  remembered all our names so quickly amongst other things.

I really enjoyed the weekend, I was impressed with Philip’s energy and humour, he should be on stage, what a performer. You had a great collection of people; well done, you put a lot of effort into this; you are a fantastic organisation and hopefully I’ll be able to contribute in the future.

I really enjoyed the training weekend and meeting all the other MG’s – lots of interesting collaborations to come I’m sure;  thanks for all the organising.  Looking forward to getting stuck in.

Many thanks for the weekend’s training. A great group of enthusiastic souls.

Thanks again to you and Philip for a thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational training course this weekend. I’m raring to go and looking forward to getting started.

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Don’t miss a crop with our spring planting guide

Don’t miss a crop with our spring planting guide

Snow. Sunshine. More snow. The 2013 growing season is stylishly late, but sowing can’t wait any longer.

Yes, now is the time to wake up your seeds from their winter snooze.

Fresh from our time with lively Master Gardeners at spring shows and latest training, here’s Garden Organic’s summary of what to plant this spring. The links open PDF files.

So go on, dust of the trowel, hook out a seed tray, and pour on some crumbly organic peat-free compost. Ooooh, lovely.

MARCH – included since our growing season is delayed by cold weather

  • Protect spring shoots from slugs.
  • Dig in ‘green manure’ (plants grown for soil protection over-winter).
  • Finish digging over beds, if needed, adding or spreading compost/manure for your most nutrient-hungry crops.
  • Check structural supports of trained fruit, eg ‘cordon’ apples.
  • Boost growth of container plants by replacing top 5cm of soil with compost.
  • Reinvigorate crowded herbs by dividing clumps, eg chives.

APRIL – time to catch up between the showers

  • Start thinning rows of seedlings when large enough to handle.
  • Move seedlings into larger pots as they grow, eg tomato.
  • Protect fruit blossom from frosts with horticultural fleece.

MAY – nearly frost free. Full windowsills and glasshouses

  • Pull up soil around potato shoots to increase yield and prevent tubers going green (‘earthing-up’).
  • Conserve soil moisture by laying a 5cm thick compost ‘mulch’ around young trees.

Horticultural note:

Seeds are temperamental little chaps, sulking if too cold or too hot. So please vary your timing with local weather – sowing later in spring if growing higher up the UK, or a little earlier if living further south. And earlier if growing in an inner city or sheltered coastal spot.

Garden Organic’s growing resources

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