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Impacts of Master Gardeners – Health case studies

Impacts of Master Gardeners – Health case studies

Our health outcomes show the physical and mental benefits for people that start and continue growing their own food with the support of a Garden Organic Master Gardener.

The benefits to new growers are as striking as the benefits to their mentors. Below is a selection of health case studies.

Read more case studies showing impact: social, environmental, local, summary. Or tell us your story.


Case study 1: Otway Street gardeners grow together for better health

Healthy living at new community growing space

Master Gardener, Irene, is the guiding force for a community growing group in Medway for people with health problems and difficulties with confidence and self-esteem.

One of Irene’s households is Julie, with husband Ivan and their children Bobby and Ollie. They got involved at the garden to improve Julie’s physical health. Irene said: “Julie was feeling the effects of her diet and wanted a healthier lifestyle.

“She told me ‘even going down to work in the garden I am getting exercise. Now I want to eat better. I feel I am actually getting healthier’.”

The gardeners have been sharing a harvest of tomatoes, beans, lettuce and even a few strawberries and sweetcorn cobs.

“They have realised they have got to be flexible and work together to get results and that people have different abilities and work at different paces,” said Irene.

Case study 2: Accessible allotment at Brunswick Healthy Living centre

Master Gardener Sue Wensley with Natalie and Wayne.

Master Gardener, Sue, supports people with learning disabilities and mental health problems during her weekly allotment group at the Brunswick Healthy Living Centre in Leamington Spa.

An allotment group member, Darren, not only helps on the allotment with digging, weeding and planting veg, but also helps in the centre’s cafe. The harvest is sold at low cost to local people who use the centre; a fantastic advertisement for the great taste of home-grown veg.

Sue’s input to the allotment has made huge difference to the group. They learn new skills from their Master Gardener and grow the right crops at the right times, mostly in right place!

Case study 3: Recovery by volunteering: over 200 people now growing

One of our Coventry Master Gardeners started growing as part of her recovery from post natal/reactive depression. She now runs sessions at a church allotment project in a deprived urban area.

“Learning to grow my own vegetables has been an amazing journey for me personally and I’m sure it ‘keeps me well’.

“Some of my volunteers and families that I mentor had never even seen a seed before! It thrills me to think that our little allotment project through the Master Gardener Programme can enable so many people to have a go at growing their own.

“The support I have had from Garden Organic has been fantastic. The training is really useful and the co-ordinators are quick to respond if there are any queries.”

Case study 4: Adults with physical disabilities growing with Master Gardener David

Hovenden House staff, client and Master Gardener David

Residents at the care home, Hovenden House, are now growing food at their shared growing space thanks to nearly 60 hours volunteering by David (and his popular green poloshirt).

Due to his engagement of the residents, South Holland District Council in Lincolnshire awarded the home a grant to create a more disabled friendly growing environment.

“The grant was used to build a paved area for raised beds which can be accessed by the residents from their wheelchairs. The boxes for the raised beds were made by young adults as part of the National Citizenship Scheme.

“I have made bespoke gardening equipment for the disabled residents to use from their wheelchairs as many of them have physical as well as mental disabilities.”


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Impacts of Master Gardeners – Social case studies

Impacts of Master Gardeners – Social case studies

Our social outcomes show benefits to individuals and communities by getting involved with the Garden Organic Master Gardener Programme. Many people have reported many changes. For some though, their involvement is life changing.

Below is a selection of social case studies.

Read more case studies showing impact: health, environmental, local, summary. Or tell us your story.


Case study 1: Shared harvest in deprived neighbourhood

Master Gardeners Kelly and Liz

Families from the Wayfield estate in Chatham have been sharing their first year harvest after advice from Master Gardeners Liz and Kelly.

Potatoes, radishes, beans and peas were on the menu as families met at the weekly gardening club throughout the school holidays.

Set up in 2013 with funding from the Deprived Neighbourhoods Approach, the Wayfield Community Garden is used by the Sure Start children’s centre and primary school on the site.

Liz works with families who live in an area of considerable deprivation. One of her keenest young gardeners is a boy of eight.

Liz said: “After coming to the gardening club his family bought some strawberry plants to tend at home. Billy brought in his first strawberry for me to try! Some of the children had never seen radishes before, or eaten peas and beans from the pod.

“It’s definitely making a difference to them,” Liz said. “They are curious, so we have dug up an onion to see the roots, and they have tried raspberries off the canes. They are asking to make a pizza garden next year.”

The potato harvest was recently shared with families reporting back that they had eaten them as baked potatoes, a frittata and in a salad.

Case study 2: New shoots at community allotment

Cleared by Master Gardener Tony in social group

Once home to a few fruit bushes and a lot of weeds, Hazlemere Drive community allotment in Gillingham is now thriving thanks to Master Gardener Tony.

The allotment had been used as part of the Public Health project ‘Medway Grows!’, but by the end of 2012, it was looking rather unloved. Step forward Master Gardener Tony. He has been working with the allotment users during after-work sessions on Tuesday nights.

Tony and the keen growers he is supporting planted tomatoes and peppers, sowed chard, winter cress, mustard, carrots, and baby leeks. They weeded mightily and even cleared some extra ground.

The results are a productive allotment, happy gardeners enjoying their exercise and growing, and recently, a crop of lettuces to take home.

Case study 3: Single homeless people at new garden in Great Yarmouth

Master Gardener Sarah with Sue Williams and their bags of growing goodies, ready for action.

Master Gardeners, Chris and Sarah, have transformed an unused space at Herring House Trust hostel to help clients develop life skills with social and learning activities.

Working with the association manager, Sue, the new garden supports clients on their journey away from substance misuse and back into employment and healthy lives.

Sarah said: “The area looked alive after the planting. All the participants engaged in the activity!”

Chris said: “Sue had raided the pound shop and came back with all sorts of goodies, containers, plants and compost. Some of the men started to paint the walls whilst the rest of us started planting up – tomatoes, squash, aubergine, leeks, peas, beans and salad.”

A couple of staff members are also keen to learn basic growing skills that they can pass onto future residents enabling the garden to continue to be a source of interest and learning. Sarah and Chris visit now weekly for a mini masterclass.

Case study 4: Older people and children working together

Master Gardener Steve working with the Catton Grove school group

Master Gardener, Steve, has run 40 growing sessions that bring together old and young members of the community for their mutual benefit.

He played a key role in establishing the ‘Mile Cross Intergenerational Gardening Project’ in autumn 2011 with children from Catton Grove Primary School, older volunteers from Age UK, and staff from Mile Cross library.

As well as learning about growing food in a sustainable manner, the project helps older people enhance their social contact and sense of purpose, and provides children with mentoring and adult role models.

Steve recalls, “I delivered a presentation at Catton Grove School for the kids (yrs 4 and 5), teachers, and residents from sheltered housing close to the Library. There were 30-40 kids present and 7 potential volunteers. From that we got a few design ideas and a list of vegetables, herbs and flowers that they’d most like to grow.”

Case study 5: Two champions overcome odds at football pitch size space

Master Gardener Shirley with a community gardener

Master Garderers, Sue and Shirley, have transformed a large and remove grassland in a housing estate to create the Mablethorpe Community Garden.

Against the odds, with a somewhat difficult community to engage with (a resident’s own words), the pair has encouraged numerous families to grow on the site. This includes two children from the travelling community and local dog walkers.

Community Payback has helped to dig the turf and have been wonderfully creative in bed designs. Through hard work, networking and visible success, the Master Gardeners were awarded a grant to help improve the site with a water butt, bench and various tools.


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Impacts of Master Gardeners – Environmental case studies

Impacts of Master Gardeners – Environmental case studies

Our environmental outcomes show the extent of food growing and importance of wider messages. The benefits to new growers are as striking as the benefits to their mentors.

Below is a selection of environmental case studies.

Read more case studies showing impact: health, social, local, summary. Or tell us your story.


Case study 1: Office workers grow food on London roof garden

Ramboll Edible Roof Garden

Master Gardener, Nat, led the ‘Edible Terrace’ project in summer 2012 to transform an unused roof space of her employer’s office.

Over 25 workers got involved to create an attractive food-growing garden by filling the vacant terrace with growing containers made from recycled items. The assortment of materials for use as planters included wooden cable reels, large tin cans and old buckets.

The group have grown a mix of salads, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers, despite contending with urban pigeons and struggling with windy wet weather!

The Edible Terrace was a runner-up in Capital Growth’s ‘Bee-friendly Urban Gardens’ competition.

Case study: CSR partnership at St Saviour’s community garden

St Saviours Community Garden

Master Gardener, Emma, excited the community to turn an overgrown and abandoned churchyard into a thriving community garden for the benefit of local residents.

The project arose through contacts made at a Ward Partnership meeting between an anti-social behaviour team and the local church partnership. Emma then involved her employer, Partners for Improvement in Islington, to become their main corporate social responsibility project of the year.

There is now a committed group of food growers. The project is expected to be self-sustaining and an asset to the whole community for years to come.

Case study: Three years in the making: housing estate social

Master Gardener Pamela doing what she does best – sow seeds

Master Gardener, Pamela has improved life on her estate, the Cressingham near Brixton, and her own confidence and well-being.

Having stopped work under trying circumstances, Pam had been keen to develop her food growing passion to get growing going locally. She’d spent a long period leafletting, doing consultations, and setting up meetings, but with not much result. Then, having the confidence and materials following her Master Gardener induction course in June 2010, she set up a One Pot Pledge event the following Saturday on the estate.

Pamela said: “The gardening involved people being outdoors and actually talking to each other, sharing issues about our Tenants and Residents Association”.

From there, more beds were colonised. Pamela has since set up community composting and is advising the Josephine Avenue growing group with Quadrant Housing Association.

Case study: Household Ania talks about her support from Master Gardener, Liz, since summer 2012

New grower Ania

“What has been great for me is that having some degree of self-sustainability, even if it is small, has clarified my thinking in terms of other lifestyle choices and outlook, so something relatively small that this scheme supports has had a much larger impact on other parts of my life.

“Liz has been crucial in me pursuing my goal, which was to have my own fruit and veg growing. Liz has been coming over to my garden regularly and is always really enthusiastic and realistic about what I can achieve.

“Being a part of this scheme and knowing that I had someone there to ask for advice and help me along the way gave me the confidence to really go for it. On my own, I would have struggled knowing what was realistic in planning and also in the practicalities.

“It has also been great because I wanted to do everything organically and Liz is full of ideas about that and through her input. I am now getting involved with the Master Composter scheme with a wormery and a big compost bin so that I can nourish my soil.”

Liz adds: “It’s been great helping Ania get started in growing her own fruit and vegetables for the first time. She has managed to transform her growing space from a patch of weeds to a productive vegetable garden, with fruit trees, bushes, flowers and climbing plants and even grown tomatoes, chillies and herbs in pots. I do believe it’s had a very positive impact on her in other areas of her life”.


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What happened at November training: propagation, harvest celebration, top tips

What happened at November training: propagation, harvest celebration, top tips

We hosted lively training days across England in November 2013 as part of Garden Organic’s unique support for our enthusiastic Master Gardeners.

As with all our ‘in-service’ training, the topics are based on requests by volunteers. We use expert tutors and practical activities.

The training is geared at developing the confidence of each volunteer network to find and mentor people to benefit from food growing. Click here to read about recent training.

November photos and links

 Cutting, layering and dividing – MGs get stuck in at another Training Day    A look back and a practical step forward for Norfolk Master Gardeners
Cutting, layering and dividing – MGs get stuck in at another Training Day (North London) Master Gardeners make plants for free at November In-Service training (Medway) A look back and a practical step forward for Norfolk Master Gardeners (Norfolk)
   Propagation day  – Master Gardener training  Fruit and veg talk at extra training day – we never tire of it!
Autumn Harvest Celebration biggest ever for county (Lincolnshire) Propagation day – Master Gardener training (Coventry & Warwickshire) Fruit and veg talk at extra training day – we never tire of it! (South London)

Upcoming local events & training

More news
Case studies
Get involved

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Local Food projects have unique day of learning at Garden Organic’s national conference

Local Food projects have unique day of learning at Garden Organic’s national conference

Co-ordinators from Local Food projects came together on the 28 September 2013 for Garden Organic’s ‘Shared Learning Exchange’ visit.

The co-ordinators joined over 200 volunteers that had travelled from across England to gather at Ryton Gardens, near Coventry.

In total, the group included Local Food funded ‘Master Gardeners’, Master Gardeners from commissioned networks, Master Composters, Seed Stewards and other growing and composting mentors.

The Local Food projects met each other and leading experts to celebrate the role of volunteers helping families and communities to live more sustainably.

There was a series of themed workshops across the day with subject areas including community composting, wildlife gardening, soil science and fruit growing advice.

Read more about the conference

See photos from the conference

Find out who won awards

Special moments

There was also a dedicated session (pictured) for Local Food projects with peer-to-peer support and troubleshooting. Selected quotes below.

“These projects are so important. It’s essential they get the promotion they deserve.”
Pippa Green, GrowCookEat-Common work

“Sharing positive experiences and problems with diverse groups from around the country.”
Caroline Brown, Somerset Community Food & Master Gardeners

“Improving links between people to provide greater feeling of belonging and doing a worthwhile job.”
Anthony Proper, Forty Hall Community Vineyard

“Comforting to hear that many projects experience the same frustrations.”
Lisa Agatha, Squash Nutrition & Project coordinator –  Toxteth Produce.

“The talk by Chris Baines will stay with me the most. Then meeting co-conspirators from throughout the country.”
John Horsfield, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden

“Estate to plate and events for St Mary’s Secret Garden.”
Antoinette Stammers, Horticulture therapist/trainer

Session notes on what was shared, learnt and exchanged


  • Get people interested – use multiple methods to spread risk and speed up word of mouth, such as the internet, personal invites, and visit to spaces/groups where people gather…
  • Measure the right impact – number of participants, saving in food costs, happiness/life satisfaction, press mentions, events, social media interactions, testimonies from paying participants, etc. All stakeholders should dedicate the time for measuring.
  • Get the message out quickly to media – use template press releases to customise at short notice to distribute soon after there is a noteworthy story.


  • Involve local university- their talent, land, and research interests. Example Master Gardener case study:
  • Find committed co-ordinators – many willing people are already over committed – and it’s too risky to depend on one person. While many willing people, that may be great volunteers, don’t want to or don’t have skills to become co-ordinators. Projects should commit enough time for expert and paid co-ordination.
  • Understand the necessity of scale – this provides a support network and adds value to funding bids, including links with smaller projects and partnerships. Advertise to gain momentum before committing.


Manage tension between growing activities with other project objectives, such as therapeutic return and project management.
Stakeholders need to understand horticultural demands, while horticulturalists need to understand the requirements for publicity, therapeutic outputs, reporting, funding bids, etc. This is made more difficult by the tendency for some people or projects to over-promise and/or over deliver.

The management solution is good role/job design and monitoring/reacting to performance. This establishes boundaries and tools to manage priorities on a daily basis and long term. While this is difficult to add retrospectively, it is necessary for long term survival.

Next stages

The Local Food projects from Garden Organic’s conference are keeping in touch with shared notes and ongoing exchange of top tips for how to benefit communities with food growing.

Our thanks to Local Food for their generous support for this Share Learning Exchange visit.

Philip Turvil
Master Gardener Programme manager, Garden Organic

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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-ordinatorsSeed 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

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Read stories about training Master Gardeners

Read stories about training Master Gardeners

After the Garden Organic team inducts Master Gardeners, there are extra training days. Or ‘in-service’ training days, where as many as possible of our active volunteers join fellow mentors for top tips. 

The topics are based on requests by the volunteers and locally delivered by their co-ordinator with support from subject experts.

The following links are medley of stories and photos from our favourite courses

Please contact manager Philip Turvil here if you have suggestions for future training days.

Master Gardener training promotes winter food growing (Autumn 2010)

February training launches Master Gardener season (Winter 2011)

National conference celebrates Masters volunteers (Spring 2011)

Four garden tours celebrate growing (Summer 2011)

Pruning master classes (Autumn 2011)


Hundreds of new growers celebrate (Spring 2012)

Garden Organic thanks 200 volunteers at National Masters Conference (Summer 2012)
(See extra photos here)

Families celebrate harvests with Master Gardeners (Autumn 2012)

Seed saving spreads after Garden Organic training (Winter 2012)

Exotic veg training with Anton for Garden Organic Master Gardeners (Spring 2013)

National Volunteer Masters come together to celebrate growing people and plants (Summer 2013)

Propagation, harvest celebration, top tips (Autumn 2013)


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Future beacons – after our ‘Local Food’ funding

Future beacons – after our ‘Local Food’ funding

Garden Organic met with fellow ‘Beacon’ grant projects in April 2013 to plan ways to continue our education work after funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme.

I was joined by the South London Master Gardener co-ordinator, Fiona Law, where we met 20 delivery managers at a ‘Shared Learning Exchange’ visit.

Our two days were kindly hosted by Jacqueline Leach and her team at Commonwork in Kent.

Two messages were clear.

1. Prove and promote impact

There was no shortage of belief in our work among the 20 enthusiasts, which included Local Food grant managers Mark Wheddon and Maria Marsden.

The challenge is turning the passion we share for sharing local food into persuasive evidence using a language for which funders can respond.

For instance, we learnt an array of imaginative ways to monitor education work at one or more locations. Recording our achievements (and failures) was termed critical for sustaining success – where time must be found to collate stories and output numbers, even when busy delivering.

Then evaluation. Who cares that more people grow and eat local food? Where’s the testimony and independent voice showing outcomes beyond a radish? And how much does each intervention cost, compared with another (perhaps newer) idea, and compared for social return on investment?

Click here for Local Food’s take on this ‘so what’ scenario with their ‘More than just the veg’ report (link opens PDF).

Next for impact, is shouting. Swapping the quiet modesty of food growers for time dedicated to promotion, with mainstay and newer media. Wrapping up the outputs and outcomes into the funding equivalent of a menu to tempt our target customers. Whether these diners are long term volunteers, retained skilled staff, councillors, colleges, housing managers, etc.

This leads to models, as below.


2. Marketable model that secure funders

The accompanying message is turning the promotion of impact into a service and/or product that customers can buy to help meet their remit.

For instance, public health authorities are commissioning Garden Organic to delivery bespoke Master Gardener networks to help meet obesity reduction targets through community activity. This is based on the following three thoughts.

  1. Our lively rural and city-dwelling volunteers share their wondrous methods to find and mentor people to grow veg for meal time. Volunteers benefit in equally diverse ways, and they engage with support from their local co-ordinator. Thank you.
  2. Confidence boost that the Master Gardener role does sustain positive ‘behavioural change’ for people taking part in the programme. This is stated by an independent evaluation by Coventry University showing health, social and environmental impacts for volunteers and their mentees. Further thanks. Promotion brochure and events are in preparation this summer.
  3. Commercial pricing for each part of a Master Gardener network where – based on precedent, Garden Organic can deliver similar achievements in another scenario or location. In particular, managed mentor network with training, resources, and celebration.

Each Beacon project is developing and marketing their own model to sustain and expand on their pilot funding. The odds are better than for business start-ups, but equal to an expanding business, for which preparation and opportunity will yield success.


Concluding thoughts

Networking the Beacon projects

The April 2013 visit was the first time where Beacon projects – the largest Local Food grant holders, got together. We exchanged ideas that work at comparable scale and available resources. Another visit is likely. Keeping in touch is definite.

Co-ordinator Fiona Law commented: “We could network and share experiences of working to promote food growing in a relaxed setting. Evidencing social return on investment and celebration of projects were main themes.” Read Fiona’s full report here.

List of Beacon projects at the April 2013 visit: Brighton and Hove Food Partnership; Commonwork; Global Generation; Growing Greenwich; Incredible Edible Food Hub; Learning through Landscapes; and Sutton Community Farm.

Notes by Caroline Schofield of Brighton Permaculture are available from Commonwork’s report here. These notes form an extensive and practical record from the unique crowd of food growing champions.


Get involved

Come the national conference for volunteer mentors

Garden Organic is hosting their Shared Learning Exchange visit at the national volunteers conference on the 28 September 2013 at Ryton Gardens, Coventry.

We’re inviting Local Food funded projects with a ‘volunteer mentor’ element to join the day for free. There will be practical training and networking with industry experts and fellow food growing champions.

Read about the 2012 conference here, where 200 Master Gardeners and Master Composters were sent to Coventry…

The 2013 conference programme is due soon. Please get in touch with me for further details about our funded places.

Places are limited.


Further information



  • Local Food is a £59.8 million programme that distributes grants from the Big Lottery Fund to a variety of food-related projects that are helping to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities. Visit
  • Photo courtesy of Commonwork. See more at this Dropbox link.


Report by Master Gardener Programme manager, Philip Turvil, at Garden Organic



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Exotic veg training with Anton for Garden Organic Master Gardeners

Exotic veg training with Anton for Garden Organic Master Gardeners

Dudi, lablab, calaloo, haloon, yard long beans, chana, mouse melon, cho cho, mooli, oca, West Indian thyme…

Just some of the tender and exotic crops that over 100 Master Gardeners learned on their extra training days during February 2013.

Our volunteers were introduced to vegetables from a wide range of cultures including India, East Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.


More detail

The training follows research by Dr Anton Rosenfeld in the Garden Organic project ‘Sowing New Seeds‘.

The team has worked with growers in the West Midlands and London to discover how crops that we may define as ‘exotic’ are possible to grow in the UK and indeed flourishing on allotments in the more multi-cultural cities and regions.

Our thanks to Anton for so many intriguing growing tips for our Master Gardeners to pass on to the families and communities they mentor to grow food.

Get involved

Keen to grow? Find your nearest Master Gardener for free food growing support

Keen to volunteer? Become a Master Gardener in spring 2013

Read about exotic groups here

More growing tips from Garden Organic


What’s that?! Exotic veg training for London Master Gardeners

Veg on the Edge in Norfolk

Cutting Edge Veg in Warwickshire – volunteer training


“Growing callaloo!  I’m going to improve on my previous attempts using seeds I collected today.”

“I will be raiding local Indian and Asian grocers for seed supplies and I really want my own lemongrass plant!”

“I’m inspired to experiment with chick peas, turmeric and lemongrass!”

Master Gardener, Tish:
“I love the thought that we are benefitting from the result of immigrants to this country bringing in their own vegetables, selecting those that grow best in this country and learning to grow them under British conditions, and perhaps giving us a head start in learning to adapt what we grow to different climatic conditions.”

On this karella fruit you can see the evidence of a ‘traffic light’ activity – green ‘I know it’, yellow ‘not sure’, red ‘no idea’. Well, we all knew at the end that karella is a cucurbit from the Indian subcontinent best grown under cover, salted to remove bitterness, spiced and baked, and a natural aid against diabetes.



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Seed saving spreads after Garden Organic training

Seed saving spreads after Garden Organic training

Heritage Seed Library’s Seed Officer, Vicki Cooke, delivered a series of engaging and thought-provoking day-long training courses for Master Gardeners during November 2012.

Local venues played host to the dissection of flowers from brassicas, identification of pollination methods, and practical seed preparation. This was all towards learning techniques for helping the households and shared growing spaces supported by Master Gardeners to save their own seeds.


Feedback from volunteer Master Gardeners

“The training was amazing, well presented and interactive. Also it was great to see familiar faces and hear their stories. Lunch was deliciousssssss… the packets of seeds and the garlic, most appreciated. Thank you.”

“Vicki was tremendous, a brilliant tutor. I am really inspired to spread the message about seed saving for sustainable London crops!”

Read top growing tips

Saving seed is an exciting and money-saving way to complete the growing cycle. It lets you preserve your favourite fruit or vegetable varieties to grow again next year or swap with friends – a great way to get others growing.

Anybody can save seed and for beginners, the best crops to start with are peas, French beans and tomatoes. Read guidelines here.

Some of the highlights of learning for those who came along:

“As many seeds have good longevity, if you want to grow for seed, you don’t need to do it every year.  You can concentrate on a particular crop one year and a different one the next.”

“Finding out a lot more about veg that cross pollinate was fascinating and with limited space, I’ll take greater care over the variety(ies) grown of those plants where I intend to collect seed.”

“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 spent my sunny morning reading the handout and my notes about why and how of seed saving. I’m feeling more confident about it now, I already have the tomatillo seeds in water to remove the gel.”

For more information on seed saving, go to the Heritage Seed Library.

Connect with your local Master Gardener.

Read the latest case studies of food-growing across the Master Gardener Programme.

Enthusiastic Vicki with seeds from Heritage Seed Library


All in – dry seed processing

Annuals, inbreeders, exceptions – Master Gardener work out what’s what

Vicki’s feet took part in the training!

How Terry saves seeds!

From MG Carole Wright – sorting out what’s what of seed saving – how many can you guess…?

See more photos on Flickr



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    Plants evolved to avoid being eaten – so most of them are poisonous – but that hasn’t stopped us making good use of their toxicity to create useful medicines. Nor...
  • Free wildflower kits! Posted on 18 November 2015
    Master Gardeners enthusiastically took part in Kew’s Grow Wild programme last year, transforming spaces into colourful, bee-friendly wildflower havens. The good news is that you ...
  • Courgette pasta at Aberdeen Park Posted on 11 September 2015
    By Master Gardener Dorothy Aberdeen Park is an 11-bed rehabilitation unit, part of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation in North London. It offers support with independent living fo...
  • Master Gardeners nail upcycling at In-Service Training workshop Posted on 7 September 2015
    What can you make out of scrap wood, abandoned pallets and disposable brewery kegs? Amazing things, as North London Master Gardeners found out at their latest In-Service Training D...
  • Goodbye Master Gardeners and Food Buddies Posted on 15 May 2017
    It’s now the end of the Master Gardener/Food Buddy programme in Croydon. We’ve had an amazing couple of years and we’ve seen community food growing and healthy ea...
  • Chutneys and preserves at In-Service Training day Posted on 21 November 2016
    What a wonderful autumn In-Service Training Day for Master Gardeners and Food Buddies, learning to make chutneys and quick-cook jam at Mum’s the Chef cafe in Croydon. We chop...
  • Food Buddy Kate Brown Posted on 6 June 2016
  • Pakoras and pumpkins! Croydon has new Food Buddies Posted on 16 May 2016
    What a great day’s Induction Training we had on Saturday (May 14th) when 8 more enthusiastic Food Buddies joined us! We were only minutes in before the new volunteers started...
  • Growing on prescription Posted on 5 May 2016
    This great idea, where GP’s turn over outdoor space for community gardening so patients can grow their own could work in Croydon! Story and picture from The Guardian. The Lam...
  • Meet the Master Gardeners and Growing Buddies Posted on 6 September 2016
    This weekend you can take your chance to ask those all important growing questions, get some fantastic advice, find out how Garden Organic Volunteers can help you or your local com...
  • WILD STRAWBERRIES Posted on 6 September 2016
    Small and sweet and no need to net, but you’ll never get too many just the odd tasty treat now and again. If you’re lucky enough to spot some growing wild then one or two berri...
  • How are your grafts going? Posted on 7 June 2016
    For those Breckland Master Gardeners and Norfolk Master Composters who attended the grafter’s course in February, can you let me know how things are progressing? It seems that qu...
  • Gooseberry – Size and Picking Posted on 7 June 2016
    Well now’s the time to decide big ones or little ones, or should I say fewer, but bigger? For there is always that choice to make when growing fruit you can have lots of littlies...
  • Could you be a Growing Buddy? Posted on 22 May 2016
    Now launching an exciting new volunteering opportunity in Breckland! We are recruiting volunteer ‘Growing Buddies’ to join our current network in Breckland. Growing Buddies...
  • Debbie Chessum Posted on 20 October 2015
  • Heather Lowe Posted on 20 October 2015
  • Spreading the organic growing message….. Posted on 2 September 2015
    I have lots of visitors to my allotment, some want to come and share tea and biscuits with me in my shed, some laze in deckchairs, some swap allotment tips while others stay for lo...
  • Forward Footing on Allotment 17b Posted on 26 August 2015
    On Monday 24 August I hosted a Wellbeing funded art project on my allotment! I was pleased that several members of Dementia Support South Lincolnshire attended, along with several ...
  • Lincolnshire Master Gardeners at Big Boston Festival Posted on 17 July 2015
    I was asked to make some creative interventions for the BBG festival site for the weekend of 4/5 July and also provide some activities on the day….I asked MG Tracy of Boston ...
  • Learning to Make Plants for Free Posted on 13 June 2018
    Plants for free was the theme of our latest in-service training day, held at the Leicester Botanical Gardens on Saturday.  Garden Organic’s Sally Cunningham, a fount of knowledg...
  • Welcome to Our Newest Recruits Posted on 15 May 2018
    It was a glorious weekend at the  Attenborough Arboretum in Leicester for our latest Master Gardener recruits’ induction course and, as ever, a thoroughly enjoyable day in w...
  • Europe Comes to Leicestershire Posted on 28 March 2018
    Friday was an exciting day for the Leicestershire Master Gardeners, who hosted a group of visitors from the Erasmus Plus exchange project on a tour of therapeutic gardening sites i...
  • Spring Has Sprung! Posted on 28 March 2018
    Spring is here and our volunteers are busy enjoying the spells between rain and snow to support our new  food growers. In Wigston, Master Gardener Radha continues to support group...
  • We’re Recruiting Again! Posted on 21 March 2018
    Are you a keen gardener who just loves sharing your enthusiasm for food growing with other people?  Would you like to join a team of like-minded gardeners mentoring novice food...
  • Welcome to Somerset Master Gardeners Posted on 21 November 2012
      Garden Organic is delighted to announce our partnership with Somerset Community Food to support volunteer ‘Master Gardeners’ to help communities grow their own f...
  • A fresh start Posted on 11 November 2014
      Trying to beat a drug addiction is a huge challenge. Trying to detox whilst serving a prison sentence can be even more complex. But sometimes the simple things in life can h...
  • Blogs coming soon Posted on 9 February 2013
    Our programme at HMP Rye Hill begins in spring 2013. Please visit back soon for latest blogs. In the meantime, please click here to read Master Gardener blogs from across the UK Ab...
  • Case studies coming soon Posted on 9 February 2013
    Our programme at HMP Rye Hill begins in spring 2013. Please visit back soon for latest case studies. In the meantime, please click here to read case studies from our Master Gardene...
We’re creating a model to establish custom networks of volunteer Master Gardeners in more UK areas. More information available here.

Photos on flickr