How are your gardening skills? Are you just starting out and confused about what to plant when? Or are you an expert with a wealth of knowledge built up from years of experience? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these then the Master Gardener programme may interest you.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help individuals and communities to grow their own food. They run events, give talks, write articles, and also mentor householders who are new to food growing. There are 95 of them in Norfolk, and they have committed nearly 3000 hours to nurturing new food-growing skills in the county. So successful are they that two Master Gardeners in Kings Lynn have just been crowned Local Food Heroes, an award that recognises outstanding contributions to developing community food-growing skills.
Master Gardeners offer advice through community growing spaces, events, talks, stalls, articles and other innovative ways that suit their skills and lifestyle. They also mentor 10 households each, offering 12 months of free support and seasonal advice to those just starting to grow their own food. So if you are just starting out and need help, find your nearest Master Gardener by going to the website, norfolk.mastergardeners.org.uk.
Researchers at Coventry University have evaluated the scheme and found that it had a significant impact on the food growing and consumption habits of those involved. The majority of the participants, both volunteers and householders, grew more food and a greater range of food, and also reduced their weekly food bill. But in addition, involvement in the scheme brought an increased sense of community and improved life satisfaction.
The Master Gardener scheme provides a practical model for a volunteer support network to encourage and mentor people and communities to grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens and on local communal land. The scheme is part of a three-year pilot programme run by Garden Organic, an organic growing charity that promotes organic gardening in homes, communities and schools. It uses “innovation and inspiration” to get people growing in the most sustainable way through the Master Gardener scheme and through other projects such as the Food for Life Partnership, the Master Composter scheme and the Heritage Seed Library.