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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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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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Master Gardener pruning tips

Master Gardener pruning tips

Pruning your fruit trees is an important job to maximise your fruit crops and keep your plants healthy. It can be confusing! So to help you out  Master Gardeners have shared their top tips to successful pruning.

Winter pruning should be carried out whilst the trees are dormant, from late November to early March. So it’s not too late!



Rosemary Guiot

1. Arm yourself with the correct, sharp tools for the job and know how to use them efficiently.  I bought myself some telescopic loppers which I have been using this afternoon from the ground. Fantastic! Next attempt will be from up the tree.

2. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless.


1. Get your cut as clean as possible, as this will speed up the healing process and the cut is less likely to get infected.

2. When sawing off branches, cut as close to the nobbly ‘collar’ as possible, as this is where the new bark cambium is most active and the wound will heal quicker.

Derek Miller

1. Have sharp secateurs, and when replacing the blade make sure that the nut and bolt is properly tightened, and then oil the secateurs.
2. Practice; the more pruning you do the easier it becomes.  And don’t worry too much the worst that can happen is that you don’t get as much fruit in one year.


Rodney braves the ladder – pruning at Ryton

Helen Kelly

1. Make sure your secateurs are sharp and disinfected between each tree, a rough and scruffy cut is more susceptible to disease.

2. Bend down upward growing new growth to produce replacements for any branches that are removed after 4 years and remove all other upward growth to maintain an open framework.

John and Sandy Young

1) If you can throw your hat through the middle of the tree, you have got it right regarding clearance in the centre of the tree. (a quote from a Mr Hayes an orchard man from Hampshire)

2) Concentrate on retaining the young growth cascading downwards and pruning out the growth pointing to the sky, which will only produce fruit out of your reach.

Keith Wellsted

1. Sharpen your secateurs!

2. Be hard/bold.

 Rodney King

1. Work on a 4 year rotation, i.e. cut out laterals after 4 years

2. To encourage fruiting, tie down one year old growths, so that they point downwards.

Carole-anne Roper-Hall

1.Ensure all pruning tools used are super-sharp,to ensure a clean cut.

2.Ensure all pruning tools are thoroughly clean and sterilized before use and during use (when moving from one tree to another). A good product to use is citrox.


Derek and Carole-anne – excellent pruning!

Find your local Master Gardener

Become a Master Gardener this spring – find out more!


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‘Grow your own food’ a boost for health and sense of community, says Coventry University research

‘Grow your own food’ a boost for health and sense of community, says Coventry University research

Encouraging people to grow more of their own food is not only beneficial to the environment but leads to improved health and wellbeing and creates stronger local communities, according to new Coventry University research released today.

In a study of the Master Gardeners programme run by the UK’s leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic, researchers at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) and the Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) found that those involved enjoyed an increased sense of community and improved life satisfaction, as well as having a significant impact on their food growing and consumption habits.

Through this new mentoring programme, Garden Organic recruited, trained and supported more than 400 volunteers in five areas – North London, South London, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire – to become Master Gardeners.

These volunteers, aged 16-81, then worked with their local community to encourage more people to grow food. As part of their commitment volunteers then recruit 10 households to mentor in horticulture for a year.

The Coventry University research found evidence of real behaviour change as the majority of both volunteers and households grew more food and a greater range of food after joining the programme. 63% of volunteers and 79% of households have increased the amount of food they grow, and as a result a quarter of households and a third of volunteers were able to reduce the amount they spent on food each week.

A third of mentored households now report spending 3-5 hours a week growing their own food, with a further 50% giving it a go for 1-2 hours a week. It is not just the households that are learning more about growing food; over 95% of both volunteers and households say they have increased their knowledge about food growing through involvement with Master Gardeners.

As a programme built around a network of local volunteers, the Coventry University researchers were keen to explore any possible impact on community. 94% of volunteers said that they felt part of a community, with two thirds saying their sense of community had increased since being involved in the Master Gardeners programme. And the average life satisfaction scores for both Master Gardener volunteers and households has increased; from 7.4 out of 10 to 8.4 amongst volunteers, 7.2 to 7.8 amongst households.

Families are now growing their own

Dr Moya Kneafsey, a researcher in CAFS and part of the University’s Grand Challenge Initiative in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, said: “For many years we’ve been told anecdotally that gardening is good for you as well as good for the environment. What these results show is how significant the impact can be in terms of health perceptions, life satisfaction and involvement in the local community. It also highlights just how important volunteering organisations and networks are in creating stronger, more engaged communities regardless of whether this is in an inner-city borough or a rural county.”

Philip Turvil, project manager for the Master Gardeners programme at Garden Organic, said: “We have always felt that our Master Gardeners programme has 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 cabbage, we want to teach them how to pass this information on to others in their community, to share their passion and experience so that everyone is learning from each other and feeling the benefits. The outcomes of this research show us that this approach is working. By working with volunteers in their communities we’re proving 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.”

The Garden Organic Master Gardeners programme is supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authorities.


For more information please contact Hannah Murray on 01727 737997 or email

Notes to Editors

Garden Organic Master Gardeners programme

Since its inception in April 2010 the Master Gardeners programme has overseen 44,608 food growing conversations, supported 560 community events and mentored 1,834 households (4,053 individuals including 1,387 under 16s). More than 15,000 volunteer hours have been given to communities in North London, South London, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire. Garden Organic has trained 449 volunteers and seen an 82% volunteer retention rate. The programme is supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authorities. The Master Gardeners programme was devised around the model of another successful scheme also led by Garden Organic, Master Composters.

Garden Organic

Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity, has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years. Dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools, it uses innovation and inspiration to get more people growing in the most sustainable way. Garden Organic’s charitable work delivers the organic growing message 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.

Local Food Scheme

Local Food is a £57.5 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. It was developed by a consortium of 15 national environmental organisations, and is managed on their behalf by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT).

Coventry University

The research was undertaken by Dr Moya Kneafsey from Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS), the research centre which is responsible for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Grand Challenge Initiative strand of activity which examines how to create resilient food systems on a worldwide basis. In order to tackle this challenge head on CAFS recognises that solutions lie not only in the development of sustainable production technologies but are also concerned with the stability of food supplied and of communities themselves, the means by which people obtain food and aspects of governance, ethics and human behaviour.

The research was supported by Elizabeth Cheese at Coventry University’s Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE). Research at SURGE focuses on bringing the social and economic aspects of regeneration together, helping society to achieve a more equal, just and sustainable society for the future.

The findings presented here were based on 215 questionnaires, 29 face-to-face interviews and 8 focus groups.


Master Gardeners help local communities grow and share their own food

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Running a stall at a local event – case study

Running a stall at a local event – case study

We asked Master Gardener Allen Farren how he went about organising a stand at a local event and why it was so much fun. Allen has been to many local events, and organised one of our very first Master Gardener stands back in May 2010………… 

“Your first one is a learning curve. You need to choose your event well if you can. There needs to be lots of people, preferably families with young children.  This way you can get to the parents through the children. It needs to be a general event, a Summer Fair, Agricultural Show, Party in the Park, Food Shows etc. Events aimed at a specific target, not to do with gardening or food, do not work.

I think it helps to decide why you are there and what you are going to do.

Why are you there? Possibilities:
To find households – ask if they need help at their homes, schools etc. Sign them up there and then.
Promote Garden Organic through Master Gardeners.
Offer advice and growing tips to the general public.
Promote the principles of grow your own and healthy eating.

These are fun events and people are there to enjoy themselves. It was a chance for me to converse on my favorite subject of food and gardening from different angles and at many levels.

My advice is to go you there and enjoy yourself.

Allen’s Top Tips

Allow time to set up.
Make the site attractive, have plants on show, posters etc. Stand back and look at the stall and look for balance and attractiveness.
Do not put the banner up in windy weather. It is fragile. I put it up in Kenilworth and broke it.
If you have not put up a gazebo before, make sure there are two of you.
Have someone in front of the stall to pull people in.
Do not give the impression that you are selling anything which will cost people money.


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Brunswick Healthy living centre – Ryton visit allotmenteers – part two with a compost loo

Brunswick Healthy living centre – Ryton visit allotmenteers – part two with a compost loo

Following on from a visit to Ryton by some of the allotmenteers from the Brunswick Healthy living centre – it was my turn to visit them!

Read part one first!

On yet another sunny morning last week, I made way to the Whitnash allotments to see the allotment group at their regular weekly session. Master Gardener Sue Wensley was there to meet me and show me round.

Anthony was removing some tomato plants which unfortuately had succumbed to blight – a disappointment, but something lots of people have suffered this year. The patch was soon looking tip top again and the diseased plants all removed.

Darren was harvesting carrots and potatoes, with a super crop of very healthy looking carrots and  the last of the spuds all harvested.

Darren harvest the carrots!

There was watering to be done to, by Natalie and weeding too amongst the leeks by Sarah. It is a very friendly and welcoming group, and they have grown some great stuff in this quite challenging growing season.

Wayne, who works at the centre, then showed me the new and very impressive compost loo.  It has been built to be fully accessible, it’s very spacious inside and has a large smooth concrete ramp entrance. Along with the raised growing areas and adjacent parking, this makes it a really accessible growing space.

Keep up the great growing!!

Read another case study about local food growing


The compost loo at Whitnash allotments

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Helping households grow  – case study

Helping households grow – case study

We asked Master Gardener Helen Kelly about the households who she helps to grow their own…….

How did you find your households?

Most of my households are people I already know: family, friends, neighbours etc. but some are ‘new’ friends…..people I met at events at Ryton or out and about and signed them up.

How do you support your households?

I support my households in different ways depending on their needs. I initially ran a couple of ‘workshops’ at my house to get people together and go through some GYO basics. Then I visit them at their home or plot to see how they are progressing and give advice etc. I also have a page on Facebook where I share posts, photos, updates and tips and advice and it means I can keep in regular contact with all of them. They can also share their photos which is really nice too.

What do you enjoy most about helping people grow?

The thing I enjoy most about helping people grow their own is the satisfaction I get when they post pictures showing their harvest on their plate…they are soo proud.

My top tips for other Master Gardeners  are…..

Don’t expect too much ...not everyone wants an allotment size plot….think ‘One Pot Pledge’!
If you can get them together in groups to do the basics then you know you have advised them all the same and it saves an awful lot of home visits.
Keep in touch…Very important. I kept asking on my facebook group page if everyone was happy and if they needed any help but people were reluctant to share failures at the start so didn’t ask for help. Giving them a call regularly keeps them motivated and stops them from giving up. I posted some of my own failures too so they didn’t feel so bad!

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Setting up a gardening club – case study

Setting up a gardening club – case study

Warwickshire Master Gardener Robert Taylor has started a gardening club in his  village of Baginton.

The club was launched in late 2011, inititated, in part, by the village plan. This highlighted an interest in a gardening club from a good proportion of local residents.

In addition to this Robert’s exisiting Master Gardener role gave him extra confidence to decide to start the local club, as well as being  a great way to reach the wider community.

Using the village newsletter and posters the inaugral meeting was advertised. To start with the group was asked what subjects they wanted to cover, and a schedule was grown from this original list.

Meetings are held every two months, which allows time for outings inbetween. These visits have included Highgrove, Coppice Acre and the local Russells garden centre. They have had a variety of local speakers including Garden Organic’s Philip Turvil.

The club as some 33 members, who pay £10 per year membership. Visiotrs pay £3 per session they attend.

The Baginton gardeners’ club has been  great success so far, reaching many parts of the local community, and being very enjoyable!

Robert’s Top Tips –

Raise funds to begin with – in Baginton they held a plant sale (plants donated by Smiths Nurseries), sold christmas table decorations and wreaths to kick start the kitty!

Use local contacts – local nurseries, organisations, speakers and member of your group who know useful people.

Meetings every two months – allows more time for outings at other times, and easier to arrange speakers througout the year.

To get in touch with Robert - click here

Find out about upcoming events in you area


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Household success – a prizewinner

A recent success story for Master Gardeners John and Sandy Young, they heard from one of the households they support……..

“Today I dug up my potatoes and as you said, they were very good. So I decided to enter a local horticultural show and guess what? They won 1st place. My runner beans came 1st too as did my courgettes, my tomatoes and my mixed basket of 2 of each of four different veg, I put in 2 courgettes, 2 potatoes,2  runner beans and 2 of my onions. Then my celery won 2nd place!!! You can  imagine how amazed I was.  Your advice was so very helpful.Thankyou.”

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Have your say this September

Have your say this September

Garden Organic has sent out exciting questionnaires this week to the Warwickshire Master Gardeners and the lovely people they mentor to grow their own food.

We’re working with Coventry University to monitor and evaluate the health, social and environmental impacts of the programme.

It’s very exciting with intriguing questions – and already intriguing findings from our autumn 2011 and spring 12 research. We’re announcing the findings in  few weeks…

Look out for your questionnaire in the post if:

  • you’re a householder registered by your Master Gardener between May 2011 and October 2011
  • a Master Gardener trained in autumn 2011.

We’re planning interviews and discussion groups during September and October 2012.

Alona and Susan planting apple trees in Mayow Park

Find out more -
Research overview and the pilot findings with Coventry University.

Get involved -
Register for your 12 months free growing advice or become a Master Gardener

Read latest news and case studies

Who’s who?

Master Gardeners Volunteers recruited, trained, and supported by Garden Organicto mentor registered ‘householders’ – individuals, couples and families wanting to start growing food or grow more at home and on communal land.
Garden OrganicWe’re the UK’s leading organic growing charity, dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools.
Coventry UniversityResearchers in the health, environmental and social impact of local food systems at the Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) and the Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS).


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