Archive for 04/10/2013


Trench composting is an underused way to improve your soil texture and add fertility to your soil. And it has the added bonus of getting rid of those tough old stems of spent sunflowers, sweetcorn and brassicas. We spent a day trench composting the quarter of our allotment in which we shall be growing our roots next year. Many books tell us not to add manure or humus to the patch where you are planning to grow your root crops but we have found by experience that if the trenching is carried out in early autumn it works just fine. As the depth of soil on our plot is less than a border fork deep we need to keep adding to it in an attempt to build up some depth.

The job gets started as Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, takes out a 2 foot wide trench down…

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Where's Wally? 250 Master Gardeners and Composters (including me) line up for the annual group photo

Where’s Wally? 250 Master Gardeners and Composters (including me) line up for the annual group photo

It was an early start- 5.45.a.m to be precise. Having travelled into Norwich and boarded a coach, we set off for Ryton Gardens, near Coventry. Garden Organic’s HQ, formerly known as the ‘Henry Doubleday Research Association’ in honour of the pioneer organic grower, presents a rich mix of gardens aimed at informing, educating and inspiring gardeners in the ‘organic way’.

I attended the annual ‘Masters Conference’ last year and got to see the gardens for the first time too. This year’s visit was equally interesting and energising, not least due to the concentration of 250 plus growing and composting enthusiasts in one place for the full day conference.

No, not a set from 'Dr. Who', just a display of 'dalek' and other types of compost bin!

No, not a set from ‘Dr. Who’, just a display of ‘dalek’ and other types of compost bin!

Garden Organic do things right – a highly professional outfit, with some world class credentials when it comes to research and education in organic growing, they value their volunteers, and this shows. Little, but important touches like personalised ‘goody bags’, name badges and schedules as well as the cheery welcome from the large number of staff and volunteers around helped to make the day a big success. And of course there are the annual awards, lots of cake and coffee and the group photo that all bind this volunteer community together in their ‘crusade’ for food growing and composting.

One of two Cakes specially made to celebrate the conference-a masterly effort from a Norfiolk Cake maker!

One of two Cakes specially made to celebrate the conference-a masterly effort from a Norfolk Cake maker!

It was interesting finding more out about community composting, some of the ‘goodies’ in the garden (as far as bugs are concerned) and of how projects are using food growing to reach communities that find it difficult to fully engage with society for various reasons.There were also some wonderful tales of Master Gardeners and Composters from around the country who are helping people not only to grow food, but to ‘grow’ themselves! And several of these were from Norfolk.

Apart from the chance to look round the gardens once more, the highlight was veteran naturalist Chris Baines, who gave an inspiring talk about how important it is to create parks, gardens and other green spaces in an increasingly urbanised world to help keep cities cool, air clean, provide habitats for wildlife and psychological respite from living and working places that will in all probability become ever more hectic, hassled and hot! He shared some encouraging signs that developers are starting to integrate such features as ‘rain gardens’ and other nature havens in their plans.

Further information:

Ryton Gardens

Garden Organic

Master Gardener

Master Composter/ Home Composting

Old School Gardener

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