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Amazing Nettles

Amazing Nettles


It has been known for a very long that nettles are much more than just unwanted weeds. They are very useful in the diet and an excellent source of plant nutrients. They contain a lot of nitrogen, iron, calcium and many other minerals. Preparations of nettles have been known for centuries. They heal, regulate, promote whole plant and green parts growth, enhance resistance of plants and protect plants from aphid attacks. They are an indispensable part of environmentally friendly production. The various processes of preparation are very simple.

Tina Ternjak, Master Gardener

Preparation    Cold extract  Sludge Boiled
  • 1 kg of fresh leaves or
    150–200 g dry nettles
  • 10 l of water

  • 1 kg of fresh leaves or
    150–200 g dry nettles
  • 10 l of water
  • 1 kg of fresh leaves or
    150–200 g dry nettles
  • 10 l of water
Process Pour cold water onto nettles and let stand in a cool dark place for 24-48 hours (up to 3 days). Then strain and use. If the extract is left unused for too long, the “hot” and healing substances decompose. Nettles are soaked in the water for 24 hours. Then boil them for half an hour on a slow fire. Then leave sludge to cool down and strain the preparation.. Pour water onto nettles and leave it in a warm place and stir every day. Chamomile or valerian can be added to mitigate odor emitted by fermentation. When the liquid stops producing a foam, and scrap herbs sink to the bottom, the preparation is done. Allow to cool and strain it. Before use, dilute it. Most of boiled preparations can be stored in dark bottles in a cool dark place for a month or two.
  • Should not be diluted
  • Spray on leaves

(caution with hot weather and strong sun)

  • Dilute 1: 5
    Spray on leaves
  • (caution with hot weather and strong sun)
  • Dilute 1: 10
  • Water the soil and root zone
  • Significantly diluted can be  sprayed on the leaves


  • Against aphids
  • Strengthens general plants resistance
  • Against aphids
  • Strengthens general plants resistance
  • Fertilizer with nitrogen, calcium
  • Strengthens general plants resistance
  • The soil, fertilized by this preparation attracts earthworms


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Sunny Sunday Morning with Steve

This Sunday was full of sunshine and promise, not just with the weather but also for Steve who has just signed up to receive the support of myself as a newly qualifed Master Gardener!

Steve has just aquired a new plot on his allotment site and asked if I could go along to discuss the best way to begin clearing the ground. Steve was about to get a friend to plough the plot but I asked if this could wait until we had looked over the site together. He was really glad he took my advice as on inspection the plot was covered in couch grass, docks, thistles and bindweed. I helped Steve identify each weed and we discussed the problem of clearing with chemicals or by ploughing. I demonstrated how one dock or bindweed root could easily become 5 if the blade of a rotivator had just chopped it up! We could see evidence of this on some of the other plots!

We looked at what Steve had available and discussed composting and water collection as there are no taps on the site. Old pallets were on site which will lend themselves easily as a compost heap!

I demonstrated how to do a simple soil test and presented Steve with a lovely rounded ball of clay! We talked about the benefits and pitfalls of having a clay soil.

After discussing with Steve what he hopes to gain from the land and his preference of what crops he would like to grow, I left him with a clear (if not long) list of jobs to tackle over the next few weeks!

I am looking forward to visiting him in a couple of weeks to see how the plot is progressing! We will be taking photos to share with you all over the coming season.

So for now, I wish you all a sucessful Summer of sowing seeds, see you all again soon,


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New growing mentors in your area!!!

New growing mentors in your area!!!

Last weekend saw the induction of 18 new Master Gardeners – all from the Coventry and Warwickshire area.  An enthusiastic and passionate group of volunteers are now out and about in your local community offering free food grwoing support and advice.

We had a really super weekend, with plenty of food growing ideas and stories being swapped and shared amongst the group. From bean enthusiasts to basil lovers there was a huge range of expertise and experience!

We were joined by one of our exisiting Master Gardeners,  Keith , who shared some of his experiences volunteering.

Master Gardener Keith shares his experiences

The afternoon was spent looking at ‘Getting the organic message across’ withAnton Rosenfeld,  finishing the first day off with a quiz of the days learning – with prizes of course!

Day two began with a session on how to find households to support and what to offer them. Including, support, encouragement, advice, inspiration and fun!

The sun had been ordered for our garden tour, and indeed there was blue sky and sunshine! We had an inspiring tour of  Ryton gardens with our head gardener, Andi. Learning about many pests, diseases and soil treatments.

Andi describes the different soil treatments

The afternoon finished off with a session using case studies and finally making personal action plans for each Master Gardener.


Coming up with solutions for food growing families

To find your local Master Gardener search here or contact us

Find out about the benefits of the Master gardener programme

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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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Which green fingers dared to plant their spuds on St Patrick’s day?

A good friend’s father in law and keen gardener once told me that he always got his spuds in for St Patrick’s day. It seems that this tactic of early sowing is used by our friends over the Irish sea and even further across the Atlantic Ocean. Is it just an Irish thing?

I would be interested to find out which Master Gardeners have planted their spuds already and how they’ve faired under this method over the past 2 or 3 seasons.

I display a pic of (Heidi and) my potato harvest/plot from 2012. Having harvested at the first sign of blight, which blackened 90% of the foliage almost overnight, the potatoes stored well for 6 weeks in potato sacks at which time they’d all been eaten! There was no visible sign of blight on the tubers during storage.

I grew last year’s harvest under the no dig method and earthed up with straw, whether or not this helped the tubers to survive the blight I’m unsure but I’ve heard stories of many losing their tubers so maybe it did. I was hoping to plough the straw back in at the end of the season but due to the blight, I decided to burn it instead.

Please let us know how your potatoes did last year with all that rain and if you have any tips for protecting against blight.

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New Master Gardeners out and about!

New Master Gardeners out and about!

Last weekend we had the delight of meeting and training 16 new and enthusaistic Master Gardeners from Coventry and Warwickshire. After lively introductions and swapping of favourite veg tips and tales we had a really productive weekend!

Our garden tour, with Head Gardener Andi Strachan, was a little on the chilly side, but we had a good look at soil improvers, the liquid comfrey feeds and green manures.  A swift tour of the all-weather garden and allotment garden  – after a warming cuppa!

Looking at the Hot Bin in the compost garden

Sunday continued with Anton Rosenfeld leading  a session on organic growing, exploring the best organic methods for soil treatments, and pest and disease control.

Never acceptable in an organic garden!!

We explored where to find people who would like growing advice and how best to help them, as well as learning all about the Master Gardener website and how to use it!

Making paper pots and practicing seed sowing demo’s


Becoming a Master gardener!!

If you’d like to become a Coventry and Warwickshire Master Gardener, we have an induction course coming up on April 27 and 28 – contact Jo or Kate to apply.

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Calling keen veg growers – Become a Master Gardener

Calling keen veg growers – Become a Master Gardener

We’re looking for gardening enthusiasts to become volunteer Master Gardeners during spring 2013 across Coventry and Warwickshire.

  • Master Gardeners mentor and inspire individuals, couples and families to grow and share food. Over 4,000 people supported in 1,900 households since May 2010.
  • Master Gardeners promote food growing through events, talks, schools, and other innovations to bring people together. Nearly 50,000 conversations since May 2010

Changing lives through food growing: ‘Grow your own food’ a boost for health and sense of community, says Coventry University research

Get involved today

Join a 338 strong network of lively volunteers that support local people and communities to benefit from growing their own food at home and on communal land. Read case studies and click here for latest stats.

  • We’re looking for volunteers with at least two years food growing experience and a passion to encouraging others to have a go.
  • We ask for about a half a day a month or 30 hours a year in a role tailored to complement your lifestyle and interests. You may already be doing quite a bit towards this!
  • Receive active support from your locally based co-ordinator with one-to-one guidance and resources following induction training by the UK’s leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic.

    Next induction training – 27 and 28 April 2013 at Ryton

Contact Volunteer Co-ordinator Kate Newman and Jo Sutch for more information

Meet new people & share your growing knowledge.
Read about spring 2012 induction for 86 lovely new volunteers

Click for more ways to get involved, including growing tips

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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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How to grow your seed potatoes

How to grow your seed potatoes

Now is the time to celebrate the spud with Garden Organic’s National Potato day on the 26 and 27 January 2013 and other themed events this month around the UK.





Wake up your new seed-potatoes by ‘chitting’. This gives the keenest start.

  • Pop your seed-potatoes in a clean egg box ‘rose’ end up – the end with most buds.
  • Label the variety. Most spuds look similar to start with!
  • Put the egg box in a cool light place for four to six weeks.
  • The potatoes will grow sturdy green shoots ready to offer an earlier harvest.

Keen growers choosing choosing their seed potatoes at Ryton Gardens

Chitting tips

  • Keep your young spuds out of very bright sunlight – although not too dark, otherwise pale brittle shoots develop that easily break.
  • Chit potatoes that are already sprouting straight away. Otherwise leave in a cool, dark place until you are ready to chit them.
  • Plant your chitted spuds 15cm deep. Space ‘early’ varieties 30-50cm apart from mid-March for a June-July harvest. Space ‘maincrop’ varieties 35-70cm apart from April for a September-October harvest.

Potato growing advice

See below for potato growing instructions (scrolling PDF)
Click here for advice choosing varieties from Master Gardeners (opens webpage)
Click here to read about growing potatoes in containers (opens PDF)
Click here to read about growing potatoes no-dig (opens PDF)

Find out about Garden Organic’s National Potato day

Growing instructions for potato

Written by Philip Turvil, Project Manager for Master Gardener Programme

More growing advice

More about Master Gardener programme

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Local Food heroes – WINNERS

Local Food heroes – WINNERS

Warwickshire Master Gardeners John and Sandy Young have won the Local Food heroes in the West Midlands!

John and Sandy Young beat all their competitors to be named West Midlands Local Food Heroes 2012.

On Wednesday, December 5, they were presented with their award by Alex Boys of the Big Lottery and Marc Lupson from Local Food.


Garden Organic’s Master Gardener Programme received a £459,709 grant from Local Food in 2009 to develop a practical model for a volunteer support network in Warwickshire and elsewhere to support people and communities to grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens and on local communal land.

Kate Newman, Warwickshire Volunteer Coordinator at the Master Gardener Programme, nominated John and Sandy jointly for an award in the summer because of their dedication to the project, as well as their passion, reliability, and ability to enthuse others about food growing. Kate said:

“John and Sandy have endless enthusiasm and passion to help others discover the benefits of growing their own food, and we are thrilled they have been recognised as Local Food Heroes.”

John and Sandy proudly display their trophy with Alex Boys from the Big Lottery and Marc Lupson from Local Food (right)

Working as a team, and with many years of gardening experience and composting knowledge between them, John and Sandy help with local school gardening clubs and attend events, as well as running a regular stall at Rugby Farmers’ Market, where they offer advice and support to local people. They give talks, run workshops and question time sessions, encouraging people to grow food at home – no matter how small a space they have to grow in.

Over the past two years, they have clocked up more than 600 hours of volunteering, and have supported more than 30 households to grow their own – offering young plants, demonstrating gardening techniques and helping new growers to make a success of their vegetable plots.

John and Sandy, who have been members of Garden Organic for 25 years, were initially shortlisted by a Local Food panel, and then competed jointly against two other West Midlands finalists in a public vote to decide the winner. Thousands of people across the country voted for a Local Food Hero, in one or more regions of England, by visiting the Local Food website.

Mark Wheddon, Local Food Programme Manager, said:

“Since we opened the Local Food programme in 2008, we’ve heard many wonderful anecdotes about the fantastic contribution that members of the community are making to ensure the success of their local projects. So we decided to celebrate and recognise some of these unsung heroes by encouraging projects to nominate the ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

“We had a great response, and are delighted to present John and Sandy with this very well-deserved award. They are true Local Food Heroes, an inspiration to others and champions of the benefits of food growing. It is thanks to individuals like these that our projects are going beyond the aim of making local food more accessible and affordable, and are building community capacity across England.”

Chris Worman, of Ruby Borough Council, said:

“John and Sandy are not only Master Gardeners but also Master Composters and I class them as ‘local ambassadors’ who are always happy to assist others in the growing of local, organically produced food. It is my pleasure to support and congratulate John and Sandy on this very well earned recognition of their enthusiasm and passion for their volunteering.”

There is even a video to watch!
Watch a video about John and Sandy


Alex Boys from the Big Lottery with Kate Newman, Volunteer co-ordinator

John and Sandy Young with their Local Food heroes trophy


Find out Master Gardener Adam lee has been helping his household!

Become a Master Gardener

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