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How are your grafts going?

Apple Grafting

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 quite a few of you have been successful; however it might be a good idea to go over the finishing points just in case you missed them on the course.

– Rub out any growth on the rootstock below the join, as this only weakens the objective of getting the scion (top bit) to take and grow away, for it needs all the resources being directed to it to maximise the new tree.

– In doing the graft, for ease of use, the scion was not cut back as it’s far easier to hold and work with when it’s in its full length. Its only when this fiddly bit has been completed that the scion should be cut back to three buds (this gives two insurance policies), some go for two buds giving only a second chance.

– When the graft has taken you are now in a position to choose which bud you want to grow on into the tree, and its best to choose only one. This means that the others should be removed, if going for the top rub out the shoots below. If going for another lower down prune above with a slanting cut, and rub out any below.

It might seem that you are putting all your eggs in one basket, but it is best, for the objective is a solid trunk which you start to form into the tree shape that you require after it’s got away so to speak for the first year.

If you have not been successful and the graft has not taken all is definitely not lost, for the rootstock should still grow on, and as in most things there’s always a second bite of the cherry, with a different grafting technique in the summer, so let me know if yours didn’t take.

For feedback and more of Roberts blogs, visit his page here

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Growing and Reminiscence

Breckland Master Gardeners- care home visit

The great thing about the Master Gardener network is the wide range of people you can help and encourage to grow their own. Most of the Breckland Master Gardeners currently work with schools and families, but we had recently been invited to make a visit to a local care home.

Master Gardener Robert ran the session with seven of the residents, bringing with him some fantastic examples from his garden. First he showed them different types of herbs and wild flowers, with lots of different textures and smells. Lemongrass and basil were particularly popular.

The group then tasted some pea sprouts, prepared some cress seeds to grow on their window sills and Robert spent some time talking about growing. The group shared some really interesting stories of things they used to grow, or things they would like to be able to grow in their garden at the care home, something Robert is happy to help them with.

Breckland Master Gardeners- care home visit

We had a fantastic afternoon with the residents and the feedback from them has been great.

If you know of any similar groups that would benefit from similar sessions or talks, then get in touch with your local Co-ordinator.


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Makers Meet-up

Makers Meet-up, Breckland MGs

At the beginning of December, Master Gardener Trevor and I joined some creative folk at Norwich Castle Museum, Makers Meet-up event. We were invited to join crafters, coders and brewers to demonstrate how fun it is to build, make and grow your own.

This event is also tied into the amazing Temporary Exhibition Build Your Own: Tools for sharing, which runs until 3rd January 2016. You still have a couple of weeks to see it, if you have not done so already.

We took with us some pots and seeds for people to sow and take home, which proved really popular with visitors of all ages and lots of new growers amongst them. We also challenged a few visitors to the guess the seed game and made lots of new contacts.

A really good part of these activities is meeting other great organisations doing brilliant things, especially when they are ‘making their own’. We were next to a really creative group called Slow Makers a group of designer makers in Norwich. Representing the group was Kally who had made some amazing gloves, sculptures and Christmas tree decorations made with wool and some with onion skin, which provided gorgeous effects.

The Norwich Craft Brewers Society were also demonstrating brewing your own, they had a selection of locally brewed ales including some pumpkin ale! So why not combine growing your own with brewing your own!

We had a great time spreading the word of Breckland Master Gardeners in Norwich for the day.

If you would like more information about Breckland Master Gardeners, contact Co-ordinator, Michelle

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Apple Day at Oxburgh Hall

Apple Day at Oxburgh Hall

It’s that time of year again, when beautiful locations across Breckland play host to Apple Days celebrating the many wonderful varieties of apples produced in our orchards and back gardens.
The second Apple Day of the year to be attended by our volunteer Master Gardeners was at the wonderful Oxburgh Hall. We were once again located alongside East of England Apples and Orchards Project (EEAOP) in the large marquee adjacent to the Hall.

The sun was shining from the moment myself and Robert arrived to set up our stand. Robert brought with him a fig tree and some watercress he has been growing, brilliant examples for people to try at home. The fig tree was a great talking point and something easier to grow than you might expect. For tips on growing your own fig tree see Roberts blog, a taste of the Mediterranean!

The watercress was equally a hit with the visitors on the day. You can find Roberts advice on this and lots of other useful tips from our Master Gardeners for growing in the autumn in this short audio

Master Gardeners Trevor and Andy were also on hand to offer lots of advice to the public and with over 1,000 people through the doors there was plenty of questions being asked. Our Master Gardener Maggie, who is based at Oxburgh Hall was also helping with the ever popular Apple Pressing next to our stand.

Our Master Gardeners are here to help! If you or a community group you support need some help growing your own or you don’t know where to start, then get in touch and you could have the one-to-one support from one of our experienced volunteers. Just contact your local Breckland Co-ordinator Michelle. It’s that easy!


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A friend in need!

A friend in need!

The longer you have adopted organic gardening the more you notice the importance of balance between “problem” creatures and their controllers. Its surely cheaper and in the long run easier to rely on a natural balance between predator and prey than attempting to eradicate a problem with chemicals which one hopes are tested singularly, but rarely in combination, and always seem to exhibit unforeseen problems.

It is on this note of a natural balance, I want to highlight the dramatic fall in Hedgehog numbers, for if ever there was a garden friend when it comes to bringing balance to the slug and snail population then this is certainly up there amongst the best. The reasons for the dramatic fall in numbers are being actively researched, but seem to hinge on the enclosed nature of modern gardens and the lack of suitable habitat. Whilst the former problem is not easily remedied there is lots that you can actively do to improve the latter, and more interestingly they will have other unseen benefits.

Hedgehog homes are widely marketed but why not concentrate on the first part of its name and improve the habitat under a hedge which can provide both home, hibernation site and a back up larder. This can take many simple forms from adding all hedge clippings to the base of the hedge, immediately assisting the first two parts of the habitat to going a little further by adding other prunings, and fallen leaves. The object being to create a deep litter. If you have the option to choose a hedge, then one that provides some winter cover, like beech, is excellent. The unforeseen benefits are that in the fullness of time this all recycles nutrients to the hedge so it becomes a virtuous circle cutting down on future work.

Now for the larder, under the hedge is naturally a dry place and most of the dinner items usually require damper conditions, so spot add grass clippings and some windfalls to help the composting process and draw in prey items.

Photo by Kalle Gustafsson (

For more great gardening tips from Robert, visit his home page.

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Master Gardener presents another volunteer their Certificate of Achievement

Master Gardener presents another volunteer their Certificate of Achievement

Breckland Master Gardener volunteer, Gavin, is a keen advocate of growing your own.  In his role at the Green Britain Centre, Swaffham, he engages groups of young school children in food-growing activities; taking them on guided tours of the centre’s vegetable gardens, compost demonstration corner and polytunnels and encouraging them to experience the tastes and smells of growing fruit and veg.

The entire site is organically managed with produce utilised in the centre’s cafe and this provides an ideal opportunity to show case practical organic methods of protecting crops through to successful harvest.


Gavin in action, with a group of young pupils from a local school.

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Master Gardener Leigh promoting benefits of gardening@work

Master Gardener Leigh promoting benefits of gardening@work

Breckland Master Gardener Leigh is Breckland Council’s very own growing mentor.   The Staff Health & Well-being Budget (with support from The Staff Forum) helped to set up ‘The Breckland Plot’ in 2014 – a vegetable garden in the grounds of the Council offices in Dereham, where staff are encouraged to join in with the regular activites associated with food growing.  The funds provided for posts and wire for fencing and timber for raised beds.  The Staff Forum also provided some further funding for an apple and pear tree.  For 2015, funding from The Staff Forum has been agreed to cover expenses for a further gardening year.

Lunchtime gardening session report

Leigh runs a series of lunchtime gardening sessions, where staff can get practical experience with sowing and managing young seedlings, prior to their planting out in the vegetable garden.  These sessions take place in the inner courtyard of the office building.   Here’s Leigh’s report of yesterday’s session:

“Unfortunately the weather was not our friend and the heavens opened and tipped it down, right on queue at 12.30.

Thankfully, there was a break in the rain and we managed to get some planting done.  To show what can be grown in pots in a small space or on a patio at home, we planted a number of different vegetables that we’d sown earlier in April into seed cells:

  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Courgette
  • Cape Gooseberry
  • Carolina Reaper – the holder of the Guinness World Record for the World’s hottest variety of chilli pepper
  • Peas
  • Tumbler Tomato
  • French Beans

Results of the lunchtime session at Breckland Council.

 In addition, some sunflower plants and runner bean plants were taken away for growing at home too.”


Top photo is Master Gardener Leigh with Leanne Neave, Chair of the Breckland Staff Forum.


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Master Gardener Robert talks to Mattishall Annual Parish Meeting

Master Gardener Robert talks to Mattishall Annual Parish Meeting

22 April 2015, Breckland Master Gardener Robert was invited to share his volunteering story with the audience at Mattishall’s Annual Parish Meeting, hosted by the Parish Council Chairman, Mr Norton.

Robert gave a brief update on his work with the Mattishall Primary School where he holds weekly growing sessions with children.  He also spoke about his most recent actvity helping the pre-school apply for funding to develop their garden area.

Elsewhere in Breckland, Robert is working with Elsing village to bring their community orchard back to shape and has facilitated a number of community work days.

Never to miss an opportunity to inspire a new grower, Robert brought with him a selection of heritage peas for the audience to take home and grow for themselves.

Read some great gardening tips from Robert, by visiting his home page.

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Sowing Herbs at Oxburgh Hall

Sowing Herbs at Oxburgh Hall

A very hot, sunny day saw lots of people visiting the Hall and quite a few stopping to investigate our stand and engage in a variety of horticultural discussions.

We had Basil and Orgegano seeds available for people to sow in pots and take away.  We suggested using the herbs in a large terracotta pot when they had grown and planting up with a tomato plant and garlic to make a pizza pot !

Visitors were intrigued by the sprouting seeds and how prolific they are and the speed of germination.

We also showed pea shoots in pots – all ideas for people who may only have a window sill or small balcony/garden area as a means to achieving Grow Your Own.

Here’s a link to how to grow your own pea-shoots.

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Master Gardener at Dereham Library

Master Gardener at Dereham Library

Master Gardener volunteers Robert and Keith set up their displays and a range of growing-related activities to engage young visitors to Dereham Library this morning.   ‘Guess the Seed’ and ‘Friend or Foe’ were just two of the fun games that people played.

Robert brings his Master Gardener resources and activities to Dereham Library regularly during school holiday periods, so keep an eye on the library events list for next dates.


MG Robert engaging a young visitor with his very popular ‘guess the veg’ game.














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