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Could you be a Growing Buddy?

Breckland Master Gardeners- care home visit

Now launching an exciting new volunteering opportunity in Breckland!

We are recruiting volunteer ‘Growing Buddies’ to join our current network in Breckland. Growing Buddies will support older and more vulnerable residents in Breckland through growing activities within well-being hubs; care homes, dementia cafes; carer groups; Age UK, walking groups, resident’s associations etc

15 new volunteers will be recruited over the next year to support Breckland residents, encouraging interest in growing, reminiscence about growing and activities that will encourage healthy eating and getting active.

As a Growing Buddy, you don’t have to be an expert gardener, just interested in growing and happy to support others to get involved. As a volunteer you will be encouraged to give your time promoting the programme and supporting others to have a go at growing.

Induction course will be held in June, with continuing training and support from a local Co-ordinator.

So, if you have an interest in growing or just want to learn more by helping others or would like to support your local community and be part of a wider network of those with a passion for organic growing, contact your local Co-ordinator.

If you know of somewhere locally that would benefit from having a Grow Buddy visit them and their residents, then please get in touch.

For more information, call Michelle on 07584 583803

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Norfolk Masters get grafting!

Apple Grafting

On a wet, but thankfully not snowy February morning, Breckland Master Gardeners and Norfolk Master Composters gathered together at The Green Britain Centre, Swaffham. The event marked the celebration of two successful years of Breckland Master Gardeners and the hard work of both Masters schemes in Norfolk.

The day started with a cuppa and a catch up, followed by the main part of the event, the Apple Grafting Master Class, lead by Breckland Master Gardener Robert. He expertly explained the different techniques used when grafting apple trees, with the group practicing on willow trees to start.

After a short break, it was time to put practise into action, with the real thing! Root Stock was provided, along with many different types of apple trees to choose to graft. Grafting apple trees is much harder then willow trees, so this proved quite challenging, but thankfully everyone ended up with a grafted apple tree and all fingers in tact!

Apple Grafting

For more information on the benefit of this technique see Robert’s blog.

Following the Apple Grafting Master Class, the groups split up, with the Master Composters building bug houses and the Master Gardeners spending some time celebrating the past two years of the scheme. Sadly we also spent some time saying goodbye to long standing Co-ordinator Gabbie Joyce who after many years leading successful Norfolk and Breckland Master Gardeners schemes, has decided to leave the organisation to move onto other endeavours. We wish her all the best for current and future projects and thank her for all her hard work. The Master Gardeners also received their certificates of achievements and were given an update from Garden Organic.

Over lunch, a gorgeous allotment cake was cut and all volunteers were thanked for their contributions and hard work.

Apple Grafting

For more information about how to get involved with either the Master Gardener or Master Composter Scheme, contact your local Co-ordinator

There are also lots more photos of the event on our Flickr page so take a look!

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Breckland Master Gardeners discover traditional willow-weaving skills

Breckland Master Gardeners discover traditional willow-weaving skills

One of the perks of being a Breckland Master Gardener is learning new skills through our seasonal in-service training events.  In the spirit of winter, the latest training day featured a masterclass in traditional Willow Weaving, delivered by Katy Fullilove of the Swaffham ESCAPE project.

The event was held at Necton Community Centre, where their main hall was large enough to cater for 15 of us, plus 9 foot long willow canes.



Preparing the smaller willow branches for weaving through the uprights.

The willow was harvested locally by Katy from both the ESCAPE allotment and the Green Britain centre.

A couple of the Master Gardeners did willow-weaving in the past, but they all thoroughly enjoyed this practical workshop, producing a garden feature which will support new plants in the spring.


Master Gardener Paul getting to grips with the weaving pattern, in, over, out and again.

Once the artistic willow creations were complete, it was time for lunch – a Christmas bring & share to celebrate the festive season.  Savoury and sweet home-made treats made from home-grown organic vegetables with enough for seconds, thirds and even another round.  To help this wonderful food go down, Robert brought and prepared mulled applejuice – simply delicious.  There was no waste.

Listen to what people thought of this event, by clicking this link to The Breckland View.

Find out more about Breckland Master Gardener here.

Read some of our case studies.

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Cold, empty and unproductive!

Cold, empty and unproductive!

This is the sad lament of many an unheated Greenhouse, tomatoes finished and cleared out. Lots of space but not a lot doing. I could mention the delights of growing lambs lettuce or even late rocket (much mellower flavour and slow to seed) but for the latter, time’s probably run out. So lets be positive and concentrate on one of the easiest plants to grow now, and whats more is so packed with nutrients and vitamins its classed as a super-food.

I’m talking about water cress, no you don’t need running water to grow it, but try not to use stagnant old water from a butt, clean one out just for this purpose.  Now to the process of growing, no seeds just a jam jar full of water and a bag of water cress from the supermarket. Selecting the right bag to buy is probably the hardest thing to do, look for a long sell-by date (freshest) make sure its not too bashed and has few yellow leaves.

The next step is simplicity itself just pop the growing shoots (those with a growing point) into the jam jar brimful with water (it helps being on a saucer) and wait until they show 2 inches of fresh root (middle finger tip to second joint). Please bear in mind that the plants have had a rough time to this stage so avoid direct sunlight, but give good indirect light.

Now the hardest bit, pot on into 3 inch pots place them all on a drip tray and give plenty of water in the bottom of the tray, about half way up the pot for 5 days, to get them over the transition. Then replace with fresh water just to keep the bottom half inch of the pots moist and don’t let them dry out.
Relax and remember to keep visiting to pick and water, and don’t forget to use that staging to save your back!

As an after thought why not pot up some bought parsley for Christmas Turkey stuffing (lemon and parsley). Most supermarkets sell pots of growing parsley for less than £1.00 and all you need to do is hold the root ball in water and gently shake, there’s probably 20 plus plants in those small pots. Pot on carefully and allow time for them to recover, for they have, truth to be told, been some what forced to get to this stage.

Robert explaining the easy steps to growing your own cress at our recent event at Oxburgh Hall’s Apple Day.

More great growing tips from Robert by visiting his homepage.

Another job you can do at this time of the year – start making your own compost.

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 us. It’s that easy!

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Breckland Master Gardener supports a winner in Thetford

Breckland Master Gardener supports a winner in Thetford

The Thetford Community Association allotment was the proud winner of first prize in the Thetford Town Council Allotment Competition 2015.  Breckland Master Gardener Anne went along to Kings House Garden on Saturday, 5 September, to accept this prize on behalf of her mentored growers and fellow plot volunteers.

The TCA allotment provides an opportunity for young people to learn a new skill whilst meeting similar aged people.  Have a look at our short video, and see how one of their supported growers is benefiting from this community project.

Read some more news from Breckland Master Gardener.

Learn more about the Master Gardener programme.

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Make your own Compost and reduce your waste

Make your own Compost and reduce your waste

The average UK household throws away £470 per year through food waste!

The ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ website has lots of useful tips including advice on portion planning and tasty recipes to help you use up odd items of leftover food.   If you still have some food waste after making sure you’re reducing it as much as possible, then you might want to consider getting a compost bin. Garden waste and food waste makes up almost half of all general waste in the UK. Composting is a way to save this going to landfill sites, as well as reducing the need for chemical fertilisers in your own garden –it’s a win-win situation!

Recipe for the perfect compost:
• 50% Green material – grass cuttings, fruit and vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, cut flowers, soft prunings
• 50% Brown Material – newspaper, torn up cardboard, crushed egg shells, kitchen towels, nuts, thorny prunings, autumn leaves
Keep these things out: cooked vegetables, meat and dairy products, dog mess and cat litter.
It takes between nine and twelve months for your compost to become ready for use, so now all you need to do is wait and let nature do the work. Keep on adding greens and browns to top up your compost.

You can buy discounted composting bins at this website: and contact Master Composters at for composting tips!

If you have any unwanted items of food that are not perishable, still in-date and not suitable for compost (e.g. dairy and meat products), you can donate them to your nearest food bank to feed local people in crisis.
Thetford Food Bank: 01842 820825
Swaffham Food bank 01760 725349
Dereham Food bank: 01362 850624

So make sure to avoid food waste as much as possible, and compost it if you do have any.   Throughout September, Breckland Council will be tweeting #wastefreewednesday tips about food on their twitter account @BreckCouncil, so check them out!


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Blooming with Brown Bins

Blooming with Brown Bins

Summer time can be a busy time of year, especially in your garden, and the last thing you want to be thinking about is taking your excess garden waste down to the nearest recycling centre!

As all good gardeners know, composting is the way forward; it improves the fertility of soil, reduces waste to landfill and contributes to tackling climate change. Some of you will have been composting for decades and some just starting out, but the idea is environmental gold! However, to produce good quality compost needs a variety of waste. Often gardeners find themselves with a bit more of one thing and not enough of the other – this is where the brown bin garden waste service, provided by Breckland Council, can help!

For a small cost which works out at £1.62 per fortnightly brown bin collection, They will collect your garden waste; this includes grass cuttings, hedge prunings and clippings. Because they collect substantial quantities, they are able compost on a larger scale and balance the ingredients to produce top quality compost.

To find out more, and to order a brown bin follow the link below:

Whether or not you currently subscribe to their brown bin service, you may be interested in finding out just what happens to the garden waste once it has been taken away on the refuse lorry.
Here is a link to the short video about the process:

If you don’t have a brown bin already, here’s an incentive for you; you can now receive a £10 National Gardening Voucher when you subscribe for a year! Just quote ‘VOUCH’ and phone 01362 656870 to subscribe.

On a more general recycling note, this year every month Breckland Council will have a different focus on recycling issues; a clear message of the yays and nays to help you know what can go into your recycling bin, so we can all RECYCLE RIGHT! So keep your eyes peeled for any information as it all kicks off in August with a focus of never putting plastic bags into your black recycling bin.

If you would like some help and advice with your home composting, then contact Norfolk Master Composter.

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A thank you for gardeners at Breckland Council offices

A thank you for gardeners at Breckland Council offices

Master Gardener Leigh has been supporting fellow work colleagues as they learn to grow fruit and veg on their staff allotment plot at the Council offices in Dereham.  This photo is a harvest picked last week to say thank you to two of his plotters, Jess and Amanda.  As regular gardeners on the Breckland Plot, he felt they would appreciate an edible reward for all their help.

The Breckland Veg Tray

The onions were started off in cells and transplanted to the ground in early spring.  The tender (but wonky) carrots and French beans came from the courtyard pots, as this was a safer environment away from rabbits.  The patty pan squash is the first harvest, whilst the potatoes and strawberries are the last harvest.

Now the spuds are up, the space will be filled with a late sowing of peas and carrots, which should provide a crop in late autumn.

Read some of our other news from across the District.

Fancy joining Breckland Master Gardener and help others get growing for themselves.  Find out more.

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Mileham primary school track down growing veggies in Master Gardener’s garden.

Mileham primary school track down growing veggies in Master Gardener’s garden.

Our Master Gardener volunteer, Jeffrey, has been mentoring the children of his local primary school in Mileham.  Each week, he’s worked with children in their school growing space sowing, potting on, nurturing and harvesting their veg and soft fruit.  As an end of year treat, he invited them to walk down the road and visit his garden.

Here is a short video of this visit.


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French Beans ran down Watton’s High Street today

French Beans ran down Watton’s High Street today

Breckland Master Gardeners gave away 100 Runner Beans at this year’s Watton Carnival. This event is a highlight in our calendar with planning and sowing starting several weeks before. Our Watton based volunteer, Keith, gives over more than half of his greenhouse to sow and nurture a vegetable to give away each year. Last year it was pumpkins, this year is Runner Beans.

Also on the stand this year people had the opportunity to test their knowledge with ‘Guess the Seed’ – a bit of free fun, but amazing just how competitive people became. For the younger visitors, there was seed sowing – with Chard being the hot favourite choice. Plus for the early visitors, the opportunity to take away a healthy young tomato plant – red robin bush variety.

Master Gardener Trevor potting up Chard seeds with a young visitor to the stand.

Many thanks to our lovely Master Gardener volunteers, Keith, Trevor, Rita, Robin and Paul. Well done on another great day at the Carnival sharing food-growing conversations with over 2000 people.

If you were one of the lucky 100 people who went home with a Master Gardener Runner Bean, do let us know how it grows for you. Facebook or Tweet your photo to us. We’d love to hear if you have a special bean recipe that you’ve used them for.

Master Gardener Keith laying out his 100 runner beans for giving away at the Carnival.

Hear Keith speaking with Breckland View Reporter, Paul Young about the day.

Check out our next events.

Read some of our case studies from across the district.

Find out more about Garden Organic, the organisation who manages Master Gardener.

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