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Pakoras and pumpkins! Croydon has new Food Buddies

Pakoras and pumpkins! Croydon has new Food Buddies

What a great day’s Induction Training we had on Saturday (May 14th) when 8 more enthusiastic Food Buddies joined us!

We were only minutes in before the new volunteers started coming up with wonderful ideas and recipes – based around a simple mix of  veggies, herbs and food cupboard staples. Food buddy Erica had brought along a magnificent pumpkin she had grown herself which prompted lots more ideas about soup and risottos. We also had edible nasturitium leaves from Carol and delicious-sounding recipes from everyone.

The Food Buddies will be out and about in Croydon over the next few months, spreading the message that healthy, home-grown food is easy, fun and delicious. They will be joining our current Food Buddies and Master Gardeners first at the Family Festival in Park Hill Park on Saturday June 4th to run activities and chat about good eating.

On their induction day, at the Friends Meeting House, in Central Croydon, the Food Buddies got to know each other, and learned a bit more about the Master Gardener/Food Buddy programme in Croydon, the Food Flagship project, and our part in it. They chatted about how to “sell” the idea of home-growing and cooking to Croydon residents.

Community engagement is an important part of the Food Buddy role, and our enthusiastic volunteers prepared a fantastic event stall, complete with plants, leaflets, paper pots and seeds to sow, and of course, the magnificent pumpkin! Look out for the Food Buddies at events, festival, fetes and open days across the borough over the coming months – come and say hello.

















Before our delicious lunch of dhal and rice with cabbage and light, puffy samosas, chef Rizwana showed us how to make home-made pakoras out of chickpea flour and spices. This versatile snack can have vegetables, herbs and even chicken added to it. The volunteers were keen to have a go and were soon mixing and frying like professionals.

After lunch we looked at the barriers to growing food at home, and sowed pea shoots, black mustard seed and lettuce, all of which can grow happily on a windowsill with a minimum of time and effort, and give quick and tasty results.

Our Food Buddy volunteers will each spend around 30 hours over a year promoting healthy, home-grown food. They went h Add Mediaome with start-up packs with seeds, recipes, kitchen garden planners, and more. They also enjoy membership of national charity Garden Organic, bespoke training days, a branded fleece and polo-shirt, badge, insurance and out-of-pocket expenses. There’s also the support of a dedicated project officer and whole national network of Master Gardeners, Growing Buddies and Food Buddies.

Our next step is to plan a social get-together and training day for the volunteers, so watch this space! And keep an eye out for our newest volunteers in their smart fleeces around Croydon this summer!

Would you like to know more about becoming a Master Gardener or a Food Buddy? Please contact us here. Croydon residents can learn to grow food with one-to-one support from a volunteer Master Gardener. If you would like help, please get in touch with Liza here.




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New Master Gardeners join the Croydon team

New Master Gardeners join the Croydon team

Six new Master Gardener volunteers have joined the Croydon network. The volunteers, who had their two-day Induction Training on March 5th and 6th, will be helping Croydon residents to start growing food.

They can offer free advice and support to people who want to learn to grow veg and fruit. This can be at home, or in a community garden in the borough.

We met at the Old Town Youth Club, on Duppas Hill, and started the weekend off with getting to know each other with discovering what had brought each person to offer their time and expertise to help others.

Then it was down to “selling” the benefits of seeds to each other – with some interesting examples including round crystal apple cucmbers and globe carrots.

After that volunteers learned about their role and how Garden Organic will support them as they go about volunteering. All Master Gardeners get a manual, free start-up packs for their supported growers, polo shirt and fleece, an encyclopadia, organic growing guidelines, seeds, factsheetss and more. They are also supported by a project officer and have regular In-Service training and social meet-ups.

The new volunteers were soon  making plans to take the food-growing message into the community at events around the borough, so look out for them in thier distinctive black polo shirts and green jackets.

We had a treat from Master Gardener Kaysen on the Sunday morning. A keen juicer, Kaysen made us delicious, heathy drinks from veg, fruit and herbs – just what we needed to start the morning off properly!

Then trainer Anton, from Garden Organic, took us through five organic messages, before we looked at simple and low-cost ways to break down the barriers to growing.

Once again we were lucky enough to have lunch provided by the great cooks at Mum’s the Chef. We enjoyed chick pea curry, potatoes with tamarind and rice with cabbage on Saturday and roasted pepper hummus, falafel wraps and bulghur salad on the Sunday. Thanks again, Sahara, for the beautiful food.

Master Gardeners are part of Croydon’s Food Flagship programme and will be helping and encouraging people to grow delicious, organic food and enjoy the open-air benefits of gardening and growing. The programme supports local people to cook and grow more healthy food in Croydon. New growers can be referred into the programme by a variety of agencies and organisations, please contact co-ordinator Liza for a referral form and more information.
Croydon  Food Flagship is transforming how we think about eating and growing healthy food in the borough. More information here

We’re also looking for volunteer Food Buddies! If you love healthy, home-grown food and enjoy sharing that passions and enthusiasm with you local community, please get in touch. Once-day training in Spring 2016.


Feedback from the Training Weekend

Thanks again for the weekend’s training, it was really enjoyable and informative.

Far exceeded what I was expecting.

Very informative course.  Good to meet and get to know the other MGs
Key messgaes were joy, hope and possibility
Take action, share, inspire, educate.
It’s perfect.

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Meet Croydon’s first Food Buddies

Meet Croydon’s first Food Buddies

Croydon’s first Food Buddies are trained and ready to get out and about in the borough and share their enthusiasm for good-for-you meals.

They are taking the message that adding some home-grown goodness to your diet doesn’t need to be tricky. Anyone can have a mini-garden on their windowsill, and small additions like herbs, shoots and sprouts can make a huge taste difference to what you eat.

Our enthusiastic volunteers got together at the Friends Meeting House in central Croydon on Saturday to get the low-down on some tips for growing and to share their favourite recipes and foods.

Rolling paper pots

They learned about their volunteer role and the support they receive from Garden Organic, training, a dedicated co-ordinator, start-up packs, recipe cards, branded organic polo shirt, badge and fleece. Then it was onto community engagement techniques – setting out an attractive stall and having a go at rolling paper pots. Food Buddies also learned about the work Master Gardeners do in Croydon, and how they can support them by encouraging people to have a go at growing with Master Gardener help.

By 1pm we were ready for our amazing lunch – vegetable biriyani served with chickpea curry and samosas, steamed potatoes and tamarind sauce, all prepared using a minimum of fat and oil. Wonderful advocate of healthy eating Sahara of Mum’s the Chef explained how she has adapted ethnic cuisines to lower the fat content without affecting the delicious flavours.

After lunch chef Rizwana demonstrated how to make a chickpea flour flatbread, flavoured with ajwain and fresh coriander. Mixed together in just a few minutes and cooked on a hot flat plate, the aromatic flatbreads were enjoyed  by all the Food Buddies. We were interested to learn that chick pea flour contains no gluten and the ajwain is considered an aid to digestion – just what we needed after our big lunch!

Lunch is served

Healthy biriyani and potatoes

Sowing microsalads

Rizwana demonstrates


Cooking flatbreads

Then it was time to get hands dirty as Food Buddies learned to sow pea shoots, black mustard seeds and haloon, a spicy Indian cress. These three will give you a quick window-sill garden that can be snipped and added to salads etc for extra flavour and freshness.

Food Buddies will be sharing what they have learned at events around Croydon – don’t forget to ask for Rizwana’s flatbread recipe if you spot one in their distinctive black polo shirts!

Our grateful thanks to the Friends Meeting House for hosting our training day and to Sahara and Rizwana for catering. Food Buddies are trained and supported by Garden Organic to encourage Croydon residents to try  healthier, home-grown food. If you love good food, enjoy meeting new people and have 30 hours over a year to spare, please get in touch with Liza for a chat. Training this spring.

They will be out and about at Croydon events this year, with recipe cards, herbs to taste, and sharing their ideas to include fresh veg and fruit in your diet. They’ll also be demonstrating just  how easy it can be to get growing at home, with paper pots, recycled containers and low-cost seeds. Our Food Buddies will also be building links in their own communities, letting residents and community groups know about the Food Flagship and Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme, and how they can get involved.

If you’d like a Food Buddy at your event, please get in touch with Liza here. We also offer free food growing advice from a Master Gardener, either at home or at one of Croydon’s community gardens. Get in touch if you would like to learn to grow your own organic fruit and veg. We’re also very keen to signpost Croydon folk to any healthy eating initiatives in their area – if you know of cookery classes etc please let us know!c

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Welcome to Croydon’s new Master Gardeners

Welcome to Croydon’s new Master Gardeners

Croydon’s keen Master Gardeners completed their foundation course on the weekend  of October 10 & 11 and are ready to get Croydon growing.

The volunteers are bursting with enthusiasm after their two-day induction and ready to give free advice and support to residents who want to learn to grow some of their own food. This can be at home, or in a community garden in the borough.

We enjoyed two wonderful cakes over the weekend – Master Gardener Lauren’s delicious apple cake and an incredible decorated beauty which tasted as good as it looked.

Master Gardeners are part of Croydon’s Food Flagship programme and will be helping and encouraging people to grow delicious, organic food and enjoy the open-air benefits of gardening and growing.

Training took place at the Old Town Youth Club, on Duppas Hill, and we are very grateful to Tony for hosting us with such enthusiasm and interest.

The volunteers are drawn from all over the borough, from New Addington to Coulsdon, to Thornton Heath. They soon built up a lively network, swapping tips, ideas and phone numbers. The induction course saw them develop their skills and knowledge, as well as identify their action plan to each support four new growers local to them.

We started with introductions and practised “selling” the benefits of different varieties of veg to new growers.

Next came a look at all the resources available to Master Gardener volunteers, co-ordinator support, membership of Garden Organic, factsheets, ongoing training, manuals and smart organic cotton polo shirts, socials, our social media outlets, and much more.

Part of the Master Gardener role includes spreading the food growing message into the local community. Two groups of volunteers held a friendly contest to set up a liveliest and most attractive event stall. There were banners and plants, leaflets and paper pots – look out for Master Gardeners at events throughout the borough.

Ways to grow food with little time, space or money followed and we rounded up with ways to share our volunteering achievements.

The magnificent lunches were provided by Sahara Quli and Mathew from social enterprise Mum’s The Chef, hot chickpea curry, pilau rice and samosas went down well on Saturday and delicious aubergine wraps, hummus and couscous were devoured on the Sunday. Thanks, Sahara, we’ll definitely be back!

On day two, Anton from Garden Organic took the volunteers through five simple messages to inspire new growers to grow organically. We also had a lovely and inspiring presentation by Josi from the Friends of Park Hill Park. Josi took us through the story of this hidden gem of a community garden and her welcoming and friendly talk was much enjoyed. Thanks so much, Josi.

After lunch we took a welcome walk down to Wandle Park community garden to meet volunteering and learning officer Tom, who gave us a potted history of the garden before returning for a summary and exciting quiz. Very tense at the end!

Garden Organic is working with Croydon Council as part of the Food Flagship Programme. The programme supports local people to cook and grow more healthy food in Croydon. New growers can be referred into the programme by a variety of agencies and organisations, please contact co-ordinator Liza for a referral form and more information.

Could you be a Garden Organic Master Gardener? If you have at least two years of food growing experience and a passion to share your knowledge with others, we’d like to hear from you. Contact co-ordinator Liza here or project officer Catherine on 07971 280 985 or

Croydon  Food Flagship is transforming how we think about eating and growing healthy food in the borough. More information here

Croydon Master Gardener Induction 11/10/2015

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Croydon welcomes new Master Gardeners

Croydon welcomes new Master Gardeners

Croydon is about to welcome a new “crop” of Master Gardeners.

National Charity Garden Organic is working with Croydon Council as part of the Food Flagship programme, to introduce 20 new food growing mentors to the borough.

The Master Gardeners will be working across Croydon to help and encourage residents to start growing some of their own food. They’ll be offering free advice and support to anyone who wants to give growing a go!

Over the next few months you’ll see these Master Gardeners out and about at events around the borough, raising awareness of the programme.

For more information about becoming a Master Gardener please contact co-ordinator Liza Scholefield here

Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “This is a great opportunity for keen local gardeners to help spread the word of the value of producing fruit and veg for home consumption.

“As part of Croydon’s commitment to the Heart Town project, we’re fully behind the drive to have local people eating wholesome, nutritious food and there’s no surer way of getting that than by growing it yourself.

“There are hundreds of Master Gardeners across the country, all doing their bit to help others, and I’m sure Croydon can add to that number – and help ensure a healthier future for local people.”


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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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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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Master Gardeners – with distinction

Master Gardeners – with distinction

13 of our April 2013 cohort of MGs have been awarded the status of Master Gardener with Distiction.

They’ve successfully supported communities to grow their own food, and met, or substantially gone towards meeting the 12 month targets of:

  • supporting five households or groups
  • done 30 hours volunteering
  • had 50 food growing conversations in the wider community (at events or at the bus stop, with colleagues…)

And more than that, they are a super bunch who delight in supporting newbie growers and sharing the joy of germination.

In the view of the Master Gardener programme team at Garden Organic, these Master Gardeners have demonstrated sustained enthusiasm and commitment towards achieving every element of the volunteer role as outlined in section 2.4 of their manuals.

Role of honour

Brian Craig – Southwark and Wandsworth
Dee Carrott – Lewisham
Geraldine Kelly – Wandsworth
Joan Riley – Lambeth
Kate Sebag – Lambeth
Lesley Hayward – Wandsworth
Ling Yang – Southwark
Mark Richardson – Croydon/Lambeth
Nina Bruce-Tamakloe – Southwark
Rosemary Jeboo – Merton
Ruth Arnott – Lambeth
Sheran Ridge – Croydon
Stephen Thorpe – Lambeth
What gems!

Mark receives his certificate

Mark, Rosemary and Ruth were able receive their certificates at our extra training day on 8th February 2014, presented by Dr Moya Kneafsey from the Centre for Agriculture and Food Security at Coventry University, guest speaker.

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Philip is moving on…

Philip is moving on…

Our ever-inspiring leader and colleague, Philip Turvil, has left the programme and Garden Organic to take up a wonderful opportunity at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

We’re dismayed but very pleased for him, as he is a thoroughly decent chap and deserves to go far!

Philip clocked up an amazing 30 or more induction training weekends for new Master Gardeners across the country, and countless extra training days. He managed, mentored and cajoled Co-ordinators of the original four programmes included in the Local Food pilot programme (North and South London, Warwickshire and Norfolk), and developed posts for four more of us, Lincolnshire and Medway Public Health, Incredible Edible Somerset and a Midlands prison project.

Philip had been at Garden Organic since 2008 on the Food For Life Partnership and became programme leader for  the Master Gardener programme in 2010, really driving it forward and making it the great success it is. Philip goes on to become Lead Partnership Manager for Grow Wild UK,  a four-year campaign to bring people together to sow UK native wild flowers.

Scroll down to see a few pictures of Philip in action. Here is a small selection of some of the comments from the South London Master Gardeners:

He has been an inspiration for me with his dedication and hard work.  I found Phillip to be so enthusiastic and his talks compelling.

It’s been great fun being inspired and led by him in the Master Gardener programme. I have learnt a lot and as a result been encouraged to work with the young people, hopefully to breed a new generation of gardeners!

Thanks so much for the knowledge, enthusiasm, good cheer, dedication and waves of energy that you radiate.

…such an inspirational, enthusiastic and unique character…infectious enthusiasm and energy

As my colleague, Philip has been an exemplary programme manager with his support, encouragement,  attention to detail, hard work. I wish him all the best for his fabulous opportunity at Kew – lucky future colleagues!

Read about our recent national award – what a scoop

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