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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

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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.

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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

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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

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Dunchurch Infant School’s Big Feast

Dunchurch Infant School’s Big Feast


Friday the 5th July was the first lunch time feast for the schools garden club. The gardening club was only formed earlier this year and the children have been busy sowing and planting a wide range of vegetables and Friday was the chance for all 24 children that have been involved to celebrate their hard but enjoyable work in the garden. The menu included peas and broad beans that actually did not make the cooking pot and they all sat around the growing beds and eat them straight from the pods. Then in the dining hall they enjoyed boiled new potatoes with a side dish of lettuce. All grown in the garden.


In attendance were John & Sandy Young Master Gardeners and Lee Rose Jordan and willing parents and teachers who have been involved.




Dunchurch infants enjoy eating the harvest.


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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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Master Gardeners garden for wildlife

Master Gardeners garden for wildlife

Last month 40 Coventry and Warwickshire Master Gardeners met up for a morning of training on Wildlife Gardening. Fellow Master Gardener and ecologist, Adam Lee gave an informative presentation on easy ways to make your garden more welcoming to wildife. It was interesting and quite alarming to hear about the dramatic decline of many species in the UK, including the hedgehog.

Practical sessions followed, where Master Gardeners had a go at making basin ponds, and insect houses. As well as deciding the best location for the hedge pig house that Adam had made from upcycled wood.

It’s been to great to hear about the subsequent building and creating of habitats that has happened since, both in Master Gardeners gardens and those of the households they support.

After lunch, the day concluded with discussion of the volunteer role, exchanging of ideas and solving problems. It was fantastic to see newer Master Gardeners meet more established volunteers, and great to catch up and see everyone again!

Easy to make and will fit in almost any garden – the simple but effective basin pond!


Location, location, location – the ideal spot for an upcycled hedge pig house


Creating the insect house from part of pallet with teasel, elder and bamboo stems

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Dunchurch library gets a garden makeover!

Dunchurch library gets a garden makeover!

The children of the Gardening Club at Dunchurch Junior School have just planted up beds of herbs and a flower tower at the Dunchurch Library on Tuesday 4th June afternoon. In attendance was the teacher Tracy Miller, Master Gardener Paul Sanders from Dunchurch who supplied the compost and plants on behalf of the community and John & Sandy Young who attend the schools gardening club each week.
The children loved doing the job and know that they can show their parents and watch the plants grow.

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Pole to Pole – Steve’s latest expedition!

What has Steve ‘Bean’ up to???
Visit number 3 to Steve was as fabulous as ever! Steve has been receiving the service of a Master Gardener for just 6 weeks and has achieved so much on his once wild and unruly plot.

As a fan of the humble bean myself I was every ready to mentor Steve when he enquired about growing some on his allotment. Steve had chosen runner beans for his plot. As a huge fan of beans I mentioned that I also grew purple french climbing beans. These are great for an allotment plot as they can still produce a bumper crop in dry weather. Today when I visited, Steve had already put up his canes and planted his runners. I took along some of my spare Purple Climbers (available from the Organic Gardening Catalogue – Blauhilde only £1.89 for 90 seeds!). Before I had left the site, Steve had put up supports and planted and watered in the new beans! Steve is looking forward to growing and tasting these fantastic stringless purple pods which turn green on cooking.

Other jobs that Steve has achieved since I visited 3 weeks ago include planting of sprout plants and cabbages. He has also erected a frame to hold the netting as his plot is often visited by rabbits! There was no sign of rabbit damage but the slugs had certainly been having a nibble!

I always sow, grow and transplant way too many seeds – it is a pleasure to share these with friends and family. So I took along some other ‘spare’ plants for Steve’s plot. This included sweetcorn and purple sprouting broccolli plants.

The potatoes that were planted just before my visit 3 weeks ago are now through and Steve received advice on how to earth them up. If you recall the plot was completely over run with perrenial weeds. Steve removed these by hand and as a result there are a small number of bind weed stems just beginning to show through between the rows of potatoes. I discussed how to best remove these by hand before earthing up the potatoes.

The remaining 3rd of the plot was covered with thick plastic sheeting to keep the plot managable for the first season. Today we checked under the plastic and the weeds are beginning to rot down. I have given Steve two summer squash plants to take home and grow on ready to plant through the plastic in a couple of weeks time and hopefully the plants will cover the top of the plastic during the growning season.

Steve is hoping to get a sowing of peas in over the next week or two and also some beetroot. Already the plot is full of wonderful plants and full of promise for the harvest!

Well done Steve for all your hard work. You really have achieved such a lot in a short space of time. The transformation is amazing! I shall be along to see how the crops are doing in 3 or 4 weeks time!

Remember to sow little and often to keep a supply of wonderful veggies throughout the growing season. Why not plant share or have a seed or plant swap with friends and colleagues?

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Warwick University growers visit

Warwick University growers visit

The Warwick University allotment society had a group visit to Ryton gardens on Sunday. They bought the sunshine with them too! The forecast rain never came and the group enjoyed a sunny tour of the gardens with expert volunteer tour guide John Sargent, who always generously shares his 85 years of growing experience!

Following the tour the group had a compost workshop, and a picnic lunch in the garden.

The allotment society grow on the campus at Warwick University and also have an allotment in Leamington. They also encourage other students to get growing, and along with Master Gardeners helped people plant windowsill salads, chillis and beans during Go Green week.

Two of the society members, Carla and Chris, are also Master Gardeners, who help and encouarge others to grow successfully, both at the university and in the wider community.  The allotment is also involved with Big Dig Coventry, bringing together local community growing groups and encouraging more local people to get involved.

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Learning more about the orchard at Ryton with tour guide John Sargent

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