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A Right Royal Visit

A Right Royal Visit

On Friday, our Leicestershire Master Gardeners and their guests enjoyed a day trip to Highgrove Gardens, the home of Garden Organic’s patron HRH The Prince of Wales, as a thank you for all their hard work and enthusiasm in supporting new growers across the county.

HRH runs the estate on entirely organic principles and has created a beautiful and productive landscape, overflowing with beautiful ornamentals, trees, fruit and veg, interspersed with some surprising artistic touches.  Unfortunately, tight security regulations meant that we were unable to take any photographs, but we recommend an online search for ‘Highgrove Gardens images’ to see something of this beautiful estate.

Highlights include a magnificent walled kitchen garden divided by two huge apple tunnels, dripping with fruit and leading to a central dipping pond occupied by giant carp and pink water lilies.  The large asparagus beds and other vegetables are intermixed with flowers, from sweet peas to cannas, a veritable banquet for pollenating insects, and bordered by wide bands of African marigolds.

The central walkway leading to the back of the house features a thyme path, bordered by quirkily clipped yew shapes; the scent of thyme reached us even although we were not allowed to walk on the path.  A giant Magnolia grandiflora reaches to the third floor, covering several of the windows and a deep purple glory vine smothers the front of the house, trailing into the pathways and requiring HRH to push the fronds aside as he passes through his front door.  All through the gardens, formal clipped yew and box hedges contrast with the relaxed, organic approach to planting, in which flowers, ferns and grasses are allowed to intermingle and spill over edges rather than conforming to immaculately trimmed edges.  ,

A walk through a large flower meadow leads to a series of wooded gardens, including an arboretum and stumpery, a Victorian gardening feature through which wealthy gardeners displayed their collections of ferns and other shade loving plants.  Brightly coloured benches and gates are dotted throughout, drawing the visitor’s eye down long vistas and inviting entrances to hidden gardens.

Throughout the garden, HRH’s artistic interests are apparent in sculptures, doors, monuments and topiary, both commissioned by and gifted to him.  The Spirit of the Woods sits cross legged between two oak temples among the trees, but had apparently been less tranquil last summer when wasps nested under her bottom.  Highgrove reflects everywhere its status as a deeply personal project, from a large oak monument featuring a portrait of the Queen Mother, to a topiary elephant dedicated to the Duchess of Cornwall’s brother who died recently, or a young poplar planted by Prince George; HRH shares our view that you can’t start children gardening too young.

We finished with the exquisite Turkish Carpet Garden, designed by HRH and inspired by a carpet in Highgrove.  Its high walls surround columnar cypress trees and a magnificent central waterfall,, surrounded by bright mosaics, in which the water spills over into a series of bright turquoise tiled channels, descending in geometric patterns to the edge of the central carpet.  The garden is studded with highly scented and coloured  jewel like flowers, creating a wonderfully relaxing and enchanting space.

The day was over all too soon but the delights we had seen kept our volunteers and their guests chatting all the way home through the long, 3 hour journey.

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Welcome to Our Newest Recruits

It was a weekend of sunshine and showers for our latest induction course in the wonderful setting of Leicester Botanical Gardens.  On Saturday, as the rain poured down, our six new volunteers explored the new role that they have taken on and got to know each other, amidst much laughter and sharing of gardening experiences.  There were lots of ideas for activities to get new growers inspired and we enjoyed the company of our first canine Master Gardener, Daisy, who is a service dog.

By Sunday, these enthusiastic volunteers had already found their first new growers to support and the sun shone as we explored the basics of organic growing, learned how to assess a site when planning a garden and visited the greenhouses with Garden Organics expert on exotics, Anton Rosenfeld.  We were also joined by Oadby & Wigston Master Gardener, Radha, who shared her experiences as a volunteer over the past year and the confidence she has developed in supporting students at both Manor High School and South Leicestershire College.

Our new recruits went home full of ideas and enthusiasm, ready to share their love of growing with their local communities and we look forward to sharing their achievements with you over the coming months.

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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.








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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