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We’ve had our Contract Renewed and are Recruiting Again!

We’ve had our Contract Renewed and are Recruiting Again!

Hoorah!  Leicestershire Master Gardeners have been successful in bidding for the LCC Public Health food growing tender again.  In these difficult times, it’s a wonderful testament to the amazing work that our volunteers do, all around the county, and to the sheer power of growing to improve people’s lives.

We’re looking for new recruits to join our wonderful team and will be holding our next induction weekend on 20th and 21st May at a location to be confirmed, in Leicestershire.

If you are a food grower with a passion for sharing your experience and knowledge with others, get in touch with us to find out more about the programme and receive an application pack.

Click on Volunteering With Leicestershire Master Gardeners for more details about what it means to volunteer with us, and have a look around the website and our Facebook page to see what we have already done.

You don’t need to be a ‘Master Gardener’ to join us.  Some of our best volunteers have only a couple of years’ food growing experience, but can really relate to the new growers they support and are learning huge amounts about organic growing through their volunteering.  What we really need are those gardeners who love it so much they want the whole world to share.  Whether you prefer that sharing on a 1:1  basis with individuals, or love working with groups, whether your preference is working with small children, adults or older people there’s a role for you.

We are also looking for volunteers who can bring us other skills to the mix.  Maybe you re an IT whiz or are great with social media.  Are you unable to get out much but could help us from home?  Maybe you love writing, photography or filming and relish the chance to help us promote the work we do?

Over the next three years, we plan to develop our local teams and integrate them into their local food growing networks, building a community food growing support network across the county, with access to all the support and expertise that Garden Organic provides.  Get in touch with us now and become part of this exciting project.

 

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Oadby & Wigston Master Gardeners enjoy Awards Night

Malcolm Brown and Radha Bellur represented their fellow Master Gardeners at the Oadby & Wigston Borough Council Awards at Parklands Leisure Centre in Oadby last night.  Our team of 12 Oadby & Wigston volunteers were shortlisted nominees for the Physical Activity Participation Award, they are shown here with Coordinator Alison McGrath, displaying their nominees’ scroll.

This award is for individuals or community groups that have improved the health, well being or physical ability of themselves or others. This may include facing and overcoming personal barriers and challenges, or inspiring others to take up new challenges to achieve their own goals.

Awrd Nominees poster 2016The Awards were presented by Tigers player, Tom Daly, on behalf of Active Oadby & Wigston, Leicestershire & Rutland Sport and Active Together.

Gardening is increasingly being recognised as an important way of encouraging people of all ages to get up, out and active.  Those who are physically able can break a sweat and lose some weight with a good session of compost turning or cultivation and stretch their muscles pruning and weeding.  In June, many of the 120 pupils of Manor High School who participated in the school’s Green Day, digging new garden beds, commented on being ‘out of puff’ and enjoying the exercise.  At the other end of the scale, getting outdoors and pottering around a garden can help less mobile people at risk of falls develop better balance and coordination.  Having a garden to play and grow in is a great pull for children to get outdoors and active.  This is a particularly important consideration in a world where there are  physiotherapy courses for under 5s with delayed physical development after a lifetime of being either cooped up indoors or strapped into a buggy.

Ultimately, our Master Gardeners were beaten by  a lady who has worked for years supporting an activity group for older Asian women, but nevertheless, they enjoyed an inspiring evening amongst like-minded people dedicated to helping others enjoy sharing sports and other non-competitive physical activities together.

Their work to inspire their local community to get involved in food growing, whether at home or through community gardening received well deserved public recognition, with a poster describing their activities and a photograph taken with Tom Daly on stage as they received their nominees’ scroll.  This was followed by a buffet and time to mingle with the other nominees and share more of what they do with others.

We are very proud of all our 67 Master Gardener volunteers across the county, and the tremendous effort they put into inspiring and supporting new food growers.  In under three years, they have become a well recognised part of many local communities and valued contributors to existing and developing local community food networks.  Keep up the good work everyone!

Radha O&WBC Awards 201620161123_194316

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Learning to Grow Exotic Veg.

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The sun broke through the recent gloom to shine brightly on our latest volunteer in-service training day on Saturday, as our Master Gardeners gathered at Leicester Botanical Gardens to learn how to grow ‘exotic’ vegetables.

Volunteers arrived with a desire to support a wider diversity of growers , and particularly those refugees, asylum seekers and overseas students who come to our county; to ‘liven things up’ and get more creative with growers in their own communities and to expand their own growing horizons.  As ever, the day was also a chance to enjoy meeting like-minded gardeners and swap stories and growing tips.

20161119_103430The day was led by Garden Organic’s Anton Rosenfeld, who runs the Growing From Your Roots project;  gathering information and stories about  the wide range of new crops that immigrants bring to our English allotments and gardens, as well as seeds adapted to our climate by years of growers’ seed saving.  Some of which are now available to members of  Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library.

Our Master Gardeners learned about everything from Ying’s Chinese lablab beans to sharks fin melon and giant Dhudi squashes, which featured in an excellent curry lunch.  They got hands on with angular loofas, bitter gourds, turmeric, methi and mooli and visited the gardens’ greenhouses to see Taro, sugar cane and pineapples growing.  Before lunch, appetites were sharpened as  they made freshly ground garam masala, a delicious way of using home grown coriander and cumin seed.  Click here for the recipe to have a go yourself.

 

I20161119_142531n the afternoon, after trainers and volunteers alike were chivvied back from the fascinations of the gardens to those of the classroom, there was more hands on learning as they took root cuttings of lemon grass and African kale.   Coordinator Alison McGrath now has the daunting responsibility of bringing on cuttings of Vietnamese coriander and Carribbean Thyme to propagate more plants for our volunteers in 2017.  The day ended with mincepies, coffee and a quiz to test their new knowledge.

We all went home with plans and ideas for expanding our own growing and that of the people we support.  Who knows, maybe one day, home grown turmeric  and coriander seed will be as much a part of the average Leicestershire gardener’s normal repertoire as the once ‘exotic’ chilli.

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Oadby & Wigston Master Gardeners Shortlisted for Local Physical Activity Participation Award

Our Oadby & Wigston Master Gardeners have been nominated for the 2016 Oadby & Wigston Sports Award in the category of Physical Activity Participation.  the Awards are presented by the Oadby & Wigston Borough Council, Everyone Active, and the local sport alliance ‘Active Oadby & Wigston’.

… for individuals or community groups that have improved the health, well being or physical ability of themselves or others. This may include facing and overcoming personal barriers and challenges, or inspiring others to take up new challenges to achieve their own goals.

Good luck to them all on 23rd November and well done!

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Leicestershire Master Gardeners are Supporting South Wigston’s Growing Edible Landscape

South Wigston is developing into an edible landscape thanks to the new Incredible Edible Oadby & Wigston project, supported by our Master Gardeners.  It all began with an inspirational trip to Incredible Todmorden in West Yorkshire in the spring, where community food growing in public spaces ahs been a hugely successful tool in bringing the town together and developing the community.

A new project to develop a food garden at the Bassett Street Community Hub has recently received £4132. funding from the Local People’s Programme Community Fund  in addition to another £1000 that the Community Action Partnership that runs the Hub has pledged.

Later this month local gardeners, supported by our Master Gardeners, will be clearing weeds from existing planters at South Wigston railway station in preparation for new herbs and other edibles that local commuters will be able to harvest on their way home.

A new community growing space is also planned for Crow Mills and local people with an interest in food growing are encouraged to get involved and come along to upcoming activity sessions

 

 Monday 24th October 2.30pm at South Wigston Station – to clear the planters

Thursday 27th October at 11am at Crow Mills – to carry out some clearing and preparation work

S Wigston Tour April 2016

Master Gardeners and Incredible Edible Members Touring South Wigston in search of likely spots for some visible community food growing spots.

Wigston Library Group photo June 2016

Happy Growers and Master Gardeners creating the new community food garden at Wigston Library

PCSO, Wigston Library

Local PCSO Sarah always likes to get stuck in when there is gardening to be done

Wigston Library June 2016

Bean Planters in Wigston

Lliz Bellamy, Wigston

Master Gardener Liz demonstrating some planting in Wigston

 

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Community Engagement Through Food, Fun and Kindness: North West Leicestershire Master Gardeners Visit Incredible Edible Todmorden For Inspiration

Last week, four of our Master Gardeners from North West Leicestershire joined representatives of NWL District Council, Coalville Heroes and Voluntary Action Leicestershire on a visit to the inspirational Incredible Edible Todmorden project in West Yorkshire. They have been meeting together over the past few months to explore ways in which they can develop community food growing in Coalville and Ashby in particular. Coalville Heroes are currently working with the support of the others on this trip, on a project to develop a community garden, which will serve as a learning and meeting point for Coalville residents who want to enjoy the social, physical and mental health benefits of growing together.

 

 

Veg Beds Outside the College Educate Everyone About Crop Rotation

Veg Beds Outside the College Educate Everyone About Crop Rotation

In the past 12 months, similar expeditions have inspired our Master Gardeners and other community growing stakeholders in the Harborough District and in Oadby & Wigston Borough. In Harborough, Sustainable Harborough worked with the council to run a public consultation, which demonstrated a strong support for more community growing in Market Harborough. Master Gardener Judy Rowley has gone on to initiate Grow and Pick, a community group transforming neglected areas of the town with edible planting. She is also continuing to offer her support to new growers through the Master Gardeners programme.

In Oadby & Wigston, the Todmorden visit in March was followed by the establishment of Incredible Edible Oadby & Wigston, which has already initiated several new growing projects around the borough and secured funding for a new food garden at the Bassett Street Community Hub in Wigston. A food growing themed mural is planned for the Wigston Railway Bridge as part of a project to develop edible gardens around the station and its approaches.

 

Pictures from our NWL visit, with descriptive captions, can be seen on our Facebook page by clicking here or on the Garden Organic Flickr pages here

Deanna exploring the willow bee hive

Deanna exploring the willow bee hive

Highlights of the trip included the willow bee hive, which is part of an area that was once full of the detritus of drink and drugs sessions, in the shelter of a canal tunnel in the centre of town. Now, Coalville Heroes Director, Deanna Wildgoose, can safely crawl through a willow representation of a bee hive on the same spot, that encourages local children to learn about the importance of bees for pollination of crops and honey production. Growing by this feature is a soap garden containing plants used by a local soap manufacturer, and a little further along, an apricot tree flourishes on a south facing wall, warmed by the ovens of the Take Away behind. This is a town bursting with herbs and salads, available for anyone to pick. In the late summer and autumn, the health centre, market, canal tow path, theatre, community college and parks offer a bounty of fruit which rapidly disappears as the locals descend to beat the birds to the pickings.

 

 

Kindness and Food, the Key to Successful Community Engagement

Kindness and Food, the Key to Successful Community Engagement

Less obvious to the day tripper, but of greater importance to the town, is the way in which all this community gardening has brought people together to enjoy growing and cooking, rather than viewing their activities as volunteering for others’ benefit. The key word is ‘Kindness’, written in large white letters in gardens around the town. This focus on food, and particularly sharing good locally sourced food, is a language understood by all classes, races and creeds. It has helped rejuvenate local food businesses and reduced antisocial behaviour as the townspeople now take a real pride in their surroundings. Todmorden is now the destination for tourists from across the world, looking to see how its lessons might be applied in their own towns and cities. ‘Veggie Tourism’ has even struck police services, who come to find out how growing sweetcorn outside the Police Station has helped improve the town’s community policing.

 

Fun But Educational.  Keeping Everyone in the Know and Encouraging Participation

Fun But Educational. Keeping Everyone in the Know and Encouraging Participation

Throughout the day there was an excitement and inspiration around every corner and on the way home, the bus was buzzing with conversation and ideas. We wait with eager anticipation to see what this bus load of community growing advocates will inspire the people of North West Leicestershire to achieve in the coming years.

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Come and Join Us!  We’re Looking for Enthusiastic Gardeners Who Want to Share

Come and Join Us! We’re Looking for Enthusiastic Gardeners Who Want to Share

Leicestershire Master Gardeners are currently on the look out for enthusiastic food growers with a passion for sharing their knowledge and experience with others.  We have a wonderful team of 58 volunteers who cover the whole county, but we are particularly eager to boost our numbers in Melton, Blaby and North West Leicestershire.

If seeing what we’ve been posting on this site has piqued your interest, get in touch and find out more.

Our next induction course is on 3rd and 4th September, but we’d like to receive applications as soon as possible or the holiday season will arrive and September will be upon us before we know it.

Can you see yourself supporting friends, neighbours and aquaintances in their own homes and gardens?

Would you like to get out and meet more people in your area who want to share your love of growing?

Are you already supporting others, informally or in a community group, but would like the extra confidence and resources that Garden Organic training and a wide network of like-minded colleagues offer, as well as the support of a full time coordinator?

Are you looking for employment or a new career direction and want some stimulating, enjoyable and useful experience to add to your CV?

Do you have an idea for a community garden but don’t know where to start?

Are you interested in organic growing and would like to learn more?

Get in touch with our coordinator, Alison McGrath today for an application pack, or just to find out more about what we do.

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Feed Your Soil and Not Your Plants: Master Gardeners and Composters Join Together to Learn More About Composting and Weeds

We held our busiest in-service sessions yet last week, learning about weeds and composting alongside the Leicestershire Master Composters, in the wonderful surroundings of Leicester’s Botanical Gardens.

17 Master Gardeners and Composters gathered on Wednesday, and another 21 on Saturday, to  spend the morning learning to identify, understand and control their weeds and the afternoon exploring ways of composting and using the finished products.

 

As ever, it was a great opportunity for our volunteers to enjoy getting together to swap stories and learn from each other and our delegates ranged from complete novices through to seasoned composters.

Discussions touched on the pros and cons of using coffee grounds to deter slugs or boost compost heaps, how to manage a ‘hot composting system, and the comparative benefits of the huge range of bins available to see in the Botanical Gardens’ composting display area.

Weed Bingo: Who Grows the Full House?

Weed Bingo: Who Grows the Full House?

The day began with an enthusiastic “I’m looking forward to this!” from one of our Master  Gardeners and there followed intense studies and discussions of the various weed specimens laid out for their inspection.  There was great fellow feeling at the hard work involved in removing perennial weed roots and interest in the idea of no dig gardening using mulches, stale seed beds and other techniques to avoid developing the traditional gardeners’ back problems.  We enjoyed watching a film of the exploding seedheads of hairy bittercress, learned that chickweed is high in nitrogen and beloved by budgies, that creeping buttercup indicates a wet, compacted soil and nettles a fertile one, and that cleavers/goosegrass/sticky willie has many names, probably due to it’s fascination for small children (and Master Gardener/Compsters) who like to stick it on each others backs).  There were no answers for the suggestion that anti-clockwise growing bindweed might be confused by twining it clockwise.  After all, weeds are more successful than our beloved edible crops because they are smarter, stronger and better adapted for survival.  The mornings finished with intense debate over weeds, friends or foes, which highlighted the crucial role that wild flowers play in an organic garden, providing wildlife habitats and food as well as foods and medicines for the gardener.

Exploring the Possibilities in the Compost Display Garden

Exploring the Possibilities in the Compost Display Garden

In the afternoon, we visited the compost demonstration garden, which is full of a vast range of different compost systems, varying from the dulux costing hundreds of pounds to the recycled pallet bays and home made wormeries.  Kate demonstrated her passion for worms, bringing out a handful from the home made wormery to show brandling worm eggs and , unexpectedly, worms demonstrating worm reproduction.

Our Master Gardeners who have completed their first 30 hours of volunteering were presented with their certificates and we returned to the classroom to learn more about compost and soil improvers, including the valuable free plant feed that can be made using comfrey leaves.  This return to the classroom was harder than expected as trying to steer 20+ keen gardeners through a Botanical Garden without losing some on the way is an extreme challenge for a volunteer coordinator and a large bed of comfrey plants and an alpine greenhouse proved too tempting for some.

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Tempted to Linger by the Comfrey Patch

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a highly enjoyable day for all concerned, packed with information and yet still only touching on this huge and fascinating subject.  There was a real buzz as our Masters met old friends, made new ones and planned how they could take the joy of growing and composting they shared over these two days out to their supported growers.

Exploring compost and soil improver samples

Exploring compost and soil improver samples

Enjoyable day – well done! Always interested in how to compost, visit to composting area veryinteresting but too short!

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Welcome to Our Newest Recruits!

Welcome to Our Newest Recruits!

With our renewed funding for 2016/17 and the addition of another 7 Master Gardeners to the team in April, the Leicestershire Master Gardeners are growing strong.

Our latest recruits are a great boost to the teams in North West Leicestershire, Melton, Oadby and Charnwood and enjoyed a sunny weekend at John Storer House in Loughborough, learning the ropes and sharing their gardening knowledge.  There was a particular slant towards supporting schools in this group with Radha, Bob, Sue and Emily already having schools ready to go with their support.  Suella and Radha shared their interest in growing exotics with us, while Lisa brought along a plan for the Grow Cook Share allotment in Castle Donington that she supports, for us all to pore over and share ideas and suggestions.  John is keen to get involved with the networking and planning already going on around NWL to encourage existing food growing projects and encourage more people to join in.

We now have 6 volunteers in Blaby, 12 in Charnwood, 10 in Harborough, 6 in Hinckley and Bosworth, 5 in melton, 8 in NWL and 10 in Oadby and Wigston.  With the arrival of spring we have been extremely busy responding to all the expressions of interest in our support and are delighted with the trend towards groups with similar interests in food getting together to plan joint activities and support each other.

Watch this space for stories of our activities over the new months, when we have time to sit down and write them!

If you would be interested in joining us as a volunteer, please get in touch as we are now looking ahead to our next induction, hopefully in early July.  Get in touch too if you’d like one of our lovely volunteers to give you some support,whether as part of a community group or on a one-to-one basis in your own home/allotment.

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Growing with the Alzheimers Society

Growing with the Alzheimers Society

Following our in-service training day in November, when our Master Gardeners enjoyed a session with a representative of the Alzheimers Society and signed up as Dementia Friends, we have booked a series of hands on growing sessions with the Society’s Activity Groups and Memory Cafes across Leicestershire.  We will be helping people living with Alzheimers and their carers to sow their own  salads and to pot on herbs for windowsill growing, as well as talking about their experiences of growing.

Hands on gardening is an enjoyable way for some people at these sessions to try a new skill and for others an opportunity to reconnect with a lifelong enthusiasm.  For carers, growing, whether on windowsills or in the garden, can be a welcome hobby that fits in the short times available between their caring responsibilities as we have shown in a recent case study.

In a Memory Cafe session last year we enjoyed hearing about an elderly gardener who developed Alzheimers.  His lifetime of knowledge remained, enabling him to continue growing, but his short term memory problems meant that he couldn’t remember whether his potato crop was lost or just not dug up yet.  He was helped to continue growing on his allotment by his neighbouring plot holders who gently reminded him of what he had and hadn’t done and supported him in holding on to this important part of his life.

We are looking forward to sharing our own passion for growing and hearing many more such stories over the coming year in

Melton – March 3rd

Lutterworth – 18th March

Oadby – 18th March (tbc)

Market Harborough – 4th April (tbc)

Syston – 4th April

Loughborough – 14th April

Groby – 14th April

Coalville – 6th May

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