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Seed saving success!

Seed saving success!

Warwickshire Master Gardeners enjoyed a day of learning the how and why of seed saving this weekend. A really interesting day of training was given by Vicki Cooke of the Heritage Seed library, here at Ryton Gardens.

Starting off by learning the biology behind seed production, and knowing when your plant will produce seed – to harvesting lettuce and radish seeds and discovering the benefits of inbreeders and challenges of outbreeders! The good news is our Master Gardeners are now ready to help local residents to save their own seed – save money, and enjoy the rewards in years to come! Anybody can save seed, but start off with the easy vegetables – french beans, peas and tomoatoes. Save your favourite varieties, share with friends and save seed miles too.


Biennial or annual? Important to know your plants life cycle before you save the seed






















Some things our Master Gardeners found out at the course…..

“Leave your tomato seeds on the paper towel when you are drying them – just plant the seeds still attached to the paper in spring”

“Most commercial seeds are produced abroad”

“I’m going to introduce a seed swap”

“I’m going to try saving seed from selected carrots in order to grow more successfully on my allotment”

“I didn’t realise so many things could cross breed”


Find out more about the Heritage Seed Library.

Read about local Master Gardener case studies.

Become a Master Gardener in Spring 2013

Vicki Cooke shows us how to harvest radish seeds




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Ideal for new growers & households: Grow your own Veg course launches online

Ideal for new growers & households: Grow your own Veg course launches online

Working with leading on-line course providers Love to Learn, Garden Organic is excited to present a new way to learn the joys of growing your own Veg.

What’s more, every booking made through the Garden Organic web link ensures a 10% donation of the course fee goes to supporting the charities projects.

Recommended for householders mentored by Master Gardeners.


What is the course about?

Want to pick your own fresh peas and taste home-grown organic tomatoes? Start from the basics on growing your own vegetables in your own garden or allotment. Learn the important stages and cycles of growing veg, and acquire new skills for sowing and reaping a harvest of fresh, seasonal, organic veg.

Take the course now

Is this the right course for me?

You value the idea of healthy, seasonal, self-sufficient eating and want to start making a difference in an enjoyable, organic way.

Why should I choose this course?

· Learn to grow your own vegetables with this beginner’s course.
· From planning your plot to harvesting your results, Grow your Own Veg will teach you the basics of growing the most popular vegetables, with lots of practical advice and tips.
· Follow the easy step-by-step process featuring How-to videos with Bob Sherman, your expert tutor and Garden Organic’s Chief Horticultural Officer.

How will I learn?

· Start the course at any time of the year as there is always something to do or to plan.
· Get advice and tips from your tutor, Bob Sherman, Garden Organic’s Chief Horticultural Officer, and former presenter of Channel 4’s gardening programme ‘All Muck and Magic’.
· Work at your own pace to suit your gardening needs.
· Enjoy an estimated of 10 to 12 hours of online learning plus your gardening activities.
· Make your own notes in your personal workbook.
· Learn from the comfort of your own home, or out on your patch with a mobile device.

What will I study?

· Course Introduction
· Unit 1: Grow It Yourself
· Unit 2: Planning and Preparing
· Unit 3: Know Your Veg
· Unit 4: Late Winter/Early Spring
· Unit 5: Late Spring/Early Summer
· Unit 6: Late Summer/Early Autumn
· Unit 7: Late Autumn/Early Winter

Take the course now

About Love to Learn

Love to Learn is part of Pearson, the world’s leading learning company. Pearson provides learning materials and services to people in over 70 countries and is home to Penguin, Dorling Kindersley and the Financial Times.

User reviews

“Bob is excellent, like a favourite uncle; good tips, I’d feel confident to start.”
“Very good starting point, it gives you confidence to get out and try it, very good instructions and record-keeping tips.”
“I like the bits you can’t do by using a book, the activities and immediate feedback.”
“It’s very clear, easy to follow, and the overall feeling is one of support “there’s not a ‘right or wrong’ tone to the course.”

Visit Garden Organic’s website

Back to Master Gardeners

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What to do in November: food growing space

What to do in November: food growing space

As falling leaves smother fruit and veg crops, it’s a lovely time of year for quick outdoor jobs.

There are broad bean seeds to push in this month for a earlier crop in 2013. Although wait until February if your soil is already sodden. Read more growing tips here and visit the Organic Gardening Catalogue to admire their tempting varieties.

Garlic is worth reaching for your coat this month. They like the winter cold to properly develop next year. Select varieties for UK growing, splitting bulbs into individual ‘cloves’ for planting. Read more growing tips here.

What else?

Indoors, pea shoots are magic, where young seedlings on windowsills offer a nutritious snack from a small compost-filled tray. Read top tips here from our Master Gardener Alice.

And it’s a great time for seed sprouts such as mung bean and alfalfa. In a matter of days, damp seeds in a room-temperature jar offer delicious sandwich and stir-fry fillers. Read about seed sprouts here (links opens PDF).

Autumn cold protection: race against time.

What else to do in the garden now: Garden Organic Guide.

November summary (links open PDFs)

Plant Sow broad beans and garlic.
(under protection like cloches).
Fruit trees and bushes. Read Garden Organic’s free fruit manual here.
Grow Insulate greenhouse and polytunnels from frost with bubble plastic.
Stake Brussels sprouts and kale; pull up soil around stems to lesson ‘wind-rock’.
Protect cauliflowers by snapping and folding leaves over flower heads (‘curds’).
Prune black and redcurrants and gooseberry bushes. Use suitable prunings as hardwood cuttings. Click here for how…
Put out food and water for birds. Read more here with RSPB.
Eat Annual spinach, Brussels sprouts, winter and savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke, kohl rabi, leaf beet, leek, lettuce, parsnip, salsify, swede, turnip.
Others Drop hints for gardening vouchers as Christmas presents from friends and family.

Since the odd weather continues, my October summary too (links open PDFs)

Plant In mild regions, sow broad beans, plant garlic, bulb onion, rhubarb.
Indoors, sow radish, autumn and winter salad, pea.
Grow Collect fallen leaves to rot down to make ‘leafmould’. Click here for instructions…
Cut fruited canes of hybrid berries to ground level. Read Garden Organic’s free fruit manual here.
Cover bean plants with horticultural fleece to extend cropping.
Eat Beetroot, carrot, Chiness cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kohl rabi, leaf beet.
and Brussels sprouts after frosty weather has improved flavour.
Others What are you still eating? Email me here to let me know!

Garden Organic’s growing resources

Click here to discover unusual crops

Step by step growing activities…

Become a Garden Organic member…

Lively growing blogs by volunteer Master Gardeners:
Coventry & Warwickshire, North London, South London, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire

Article by Philip Turvil

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15 minutes of fame at last!

Our 15 minutes of fame is over!!!!

Marion from Coventry and Warwickshire radio has been, interviewed us live on the morning show, and gone. She has her own allotment, recognises veges when she sees them in the ground, and was only to happy – eager even – to talk about Garden Organic and Master Gardeners! Result

We got as many plugs as we could in, told people to contact Kate @ Garden Organic to arrange their very own MG, so all in all, a successful morning …. :-D

Huge thanks to the BBC

Visit BBC Coventry & Warwickshire website

Read more Master Gardener blogs here

Please click here to get in touch with Kate Newman to become a Master Gardener or to receive their support growing food


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Pressing, tasting, printing, identifying, peeling – everything apple related was enjoyed at Ryton garden’s Apple day last weekend. It really was ‘Fun to the core!’

Warwickshire Master Gardeners were present in abundance enthusing about food growing and apple tasting.

Visitors were able to get their mystery apples identified by fruit experts from Warwickshire College. A vast array of apples were also available for tasting and choosing, from cookers to eaters, late to early fruiters.

Apple day was also a great opportunity for the households that Master Gardeners mentor to get together. We invited them for tea, cake and lots of food growing conversations, including some huge parsnips!! It was great to hear how families have got growing and are enjoying their own grown produce, with the help of  local Master Gardeners.

A wide variety of apples on display!!


Best parsnip in show!!

To find out more about growing apples download this great guide from Garden Organic

Look for more local events

Interested in becoming a Master Gardener? Find out more


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Raring to go……

Raring to go……

My Householder has been very keen to get back into the garden after a long absence, an absence called “life”. Knackering one’s back is not fun, but meeting someone with the absolute desire to grow is what Master Gardeners was made for.

It’s a big garden with plenty of space and massive potential.  Help and advice on recycling and replanting as ecologically as possible was requested. The aim was to quickly grow “cut & come again” salads, herbs and install some planters for next year, all to take advantage of the late summer months, whilst preparing for the next growing season. We decided it would be best to do the “hard-standing” nearest the house first, to make it instantly productive and look fabulous.

Evening gardening

Recycled Herb Garden ~

The first project was to rescue some unwanted herbs from another garden and get them planted in whatever could be “blagged, borrowed or scrounged”. Essentially, recycling other people’s unwanted wooden furniture to make some very alternative attractive planters. This is actually called “looking around” your community and being lucky enough to spot some stuff. So, keep your eyes peeled and have the nerve, audacity, to knock on someone’s door and say, “Can I have that please?” Most neighbours are more than happy to oblige, even if they meet you with “odd stares”.  Their “waste” is your booty. Please note recycled “coil drum” rescued from a supermarket car park, thrown away, but making a superb “Sitootery” table. [Vernacular Glaswegian, Scots: “Sit-out-ery”] Holds a glass of red very well.

We used two sets of unwanted drawers, arranged in a “staircase” effect, with Parsley, Sage and Chives planted on top and Thyme and lettuces in the drawers. The thyme is now spilling out of the middle drawer, the chives are going berserk and three crops of lettuces have been had. All drawers filled with MG peat free compost. I suspect, because the aspect is sunny, the drawers are raised and the installation keeps heat, that the productivity over autumn will be good. Perhaps some “drawer cloching” over winter will keep the leaves & herbs frost free? Notice extremely good use of unwanted “Belfast” sinks by our lovely householder, who also has some original stained glass window panes which will make the most amazing cold frames.

Recycled growing space



















Cut & Come Again ~

Filling the window box with “cut & come again” green leaves has given a fresh supply of rocket and lettuces of many varieties. Filled with compost from the garden, this has been a great success. Very good eating. Even the “Household” Teenager has taken to harvesting handfuls of the greenery and has not only prepared some great instant healthy meals for herself, but also the household. Please notice inability of any organic gardener to coil a hosepipe properly…

Packing Cases

“Cases” we may be, but shipping crates which are usually recycled by “pallet companies” are very good planters. One could pay an awful lot for a raised bed which could take over 200 L of soil/compost. Why pay when one can wheedle the perfect planter out of a local pallet company for free?

The case is about 2.5 m long (hence only partly photographed), 0.5 m deep and at least 0.5 m wide. This made it perfect for immediately dropping three organic grow bags in and planting up with tomatoes. And yes, some tomatoes are now almost ripe, regardless of the inclement weather. That’s just a bonus. The real bonus is to get this planter filled with organic home made compost and grow all kinds of herbs, salads and culinary goodies as part of the “recycled kitchen garden” next year. All part of forward planning.

Recycled Raised Beds

One pallet, one saw, one householder, some elbow-grease and a hammer. Mantra. That’s all it takes to make a 1m by 1m raised bed. By the time you’ve got in the car, driven to xxxxbase, parked, bought something for £££ and something you didn’t need, waited in the self-service queue, got exasperated, driven back, unloaded the car, etc…  You could have built this! We did.

Well, one has to de-turf the plot, add an awful lot of well rotted compost, but that’s part of the fun. Cheap as chips. Sifting the compost from the “mega heap” at the bottom of the garden was immensely enjoyable for the household. These “pallet” raised beds can be made anywhere, to any size, grow anything and after the hard groundwork are very easy to maintain. Tip ~ good for winter veg and ready for spring planting with goodly crops!

This is only the “one slat” model, good if there’s ground beneath it. Another pallet, some self tapping screws and half an hours gumption can see this model, 2, 3 even 4 slats high and at that height very appropriate for growing on hard standing or a balcony. Total cost to householder in this case £0.00.

Pumpkin Pyramids

So what has our householder decided to grow in newly raised bed? Pumpkins, beans, climbing plants for next year? Vertical growing is the concept. So, with some “reduced, end-of-year sale” canes at 50p for six, from Wilko’s, we made a Pumpkin Pyramid. Total cost £2.50. You can get four plants climbing up in here, producing in a good year, two big fruits each. And, grow nasturtiums, sweet peas even beans and sweet corn in the same space. Twine, twigs, seeds and time is all you need.

Here’s our very lovely householder “Shelia” with her newly installed “Pumpkin Pyramid” looking forward to planting, growing & harvesting next year. Shelia has also taken on board “Wildlife Gardening” big style. Her home made insect hotel, nay, insect “high rise” is the “Le Corbusier” of the invertebrate world, filled full of teasels and dried sunflower heads. But that’s for another blog…



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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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Meet the Masters at the Exotic Food Fair Sept 15th 2012

It was a beautiful day for the last Saturday “Meet the Masters” event.

I came across to Ryton with my husband and daughter, accompanied by her best friend – who is also a member of one of my Households. They had never been before, and were very keen to see what Ryton was actually like, having heard so much about it from me.

Family safely packed off on the morning guided tour of the gardens, I could concentrate on my duties as an MG and MC. I had fellow MG Ray and MC Diana, both of whom I know, so we had some good conversations in between questions.

And we had LOTS of questions! About composting, about crop failures, vermin, slugs, crop failures, the weather, slugs, the weather, crop sucesses, …lots of people were very worried about how poorly their veg had done, so we were all able to re assure them that everybody had had a pretty poor year.

Interestingly we had lots of questions about Leek moth – is it on the increase? And Blight – in tomatoes and potatoes came up a lot as well. Beans are now (finally) doing well for everybody, apparently.

We had a really good day and spoke to 43 people (at least – they were just the ones we counted!) and I had a good look round at the new Exotic garden and visited the Fair to chat about seed saving.

My husband was very impressed with the whole place and Ryton can keep two 11 yr old girls amused for 5 hours ( if there are Alpacas thrown in) And they LOVED the Vegetable Kingdom – thought it was wonderful :-)


To find out more about visiting Ryton Gardens – click here

And to learn about our Sowing New Seeds project – click here


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NEW! Master Gardener forum launches

NEW! Master Gardener forum launches

Exciting news! The launch of your very own Master Gardener forum.

An opportunity for you to share ideas and information with other Master Gardeners across the country!

It is live NOW, so please make your way to your local website to login (use your usual website login), or visit

Once you have logged in to the control panel, just click on the forum link and you are ready to join the discussion!

More details

Choose a specialist topic, such as ‘Schools’ or ‘What’s growing well?’. Or chat with other Master Gardeners in your own local network or any network!

Click here for top tips on how to use the forum (link opens PDF)

Prize draw!

Anyone who posts on the forum before the end of October 2012 will be entered into a free prize draw to win one of three sets of Growing cards (25 in a set) – so join in the discussion now!

The growing cards are new and exclusive, printed on quality A5 card, with handy growing instructions including planting, growing and eating tips! As an example……..

Many thanks and enjoy the forum!

Click here to get in touch with questions

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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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