Tag Archives: garden organic

Trying to answer my question about GO going

I still cannot imagine GO without a garden. Part of my attachment to the gardens is personal; going there literally did change my life and gave me many extra years.

I first went to Ryton to visit the café which was in a wooden shed at the back of the shop. Then I found the gardens and the organic growing stuff. I went back many times and the gardens were always a place to see stuff growing, understand how brassica collars worked, learn the best way to deter slugs and importantly how to make compost. Seeing it, touching it, smelling it was a vital part of the experience.

So, back to the question, I do not think that GO should, well go. There certainly needs to be a ‘root and branch’ overhaul of everything starting with a concerted publicity campaign to get more visitors to the garden. The next is real consultation with members about the way forward. That means being honest and open, not just trying to justify the decisions taken by council, in secret, behind closed doors

There are rumours of a £1.2 million hole in the pension fund. Not sure how that has come about but if that is the main reason to sell then the decision verges on insanity. There are other ways to raise money which could include selling SOME the land or developing SOME in different ways that retains the bulk of the gardens. There are also other ways to raise money but that means being creative and asking for help.

Again, I make this plea to GO, please talk to us! You keep saying there are 20,000 members so why are you ignoring such a valuable resource? There is no need to waste precious funds on expensive PR companies to argue your case all you need to do is engage with members.

And PLEASE, PLEASE postpone the sale until we have had a chance to talk about all possible options.

Saving Ryton Organic Gardens

It was very distressing to hear that Garden organic is selling Ryton gardens. I first went there nearly 40 years ago when I was recovering from a life changing illness. I decided to grow organic food and have never looked back. I strongly believe that ‘being organic’ and eating good food has helped me to survive and confounded the doctors who cannot understand why I am still here! There will be many similar stories.

The big question is how much will it take to save Ryton? There are rumours of £1.2m hole in the pension fund. They keep saying they are considering all options so why the rush to sell? There must be a way of saving the place.

Please sign the petition to halt the sale

Why we need Garden Organic

For many years I have supported Garden Organic (formally HDRA.) At first they were the only organisation saying anything about organic gardening. Buying organic food was not easy and anybody gardening organically was seen as a little bit eccentric or a complete crank!

Times changed and organics became mainstream. Some of the old timers berated the fact that organic growing was now considered to be ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ as my generation used to say. They longed for the good old days when everything was done on shoestring and being organic was akin to colonising the American West.

If we are to survive the nest few years then we need to convert to sustainable food production on a massive scale and that mean growing organically. More than ever we need an organisation to promote and encourage organic gardening.

Like many charities the economic downturn has hit them hard. The recent announcement of a GO partnership with a commercial garden centre chain sent shock waves through the organic gardening community and resulted in various scare stories that GO is about to, well go. Personally I just do not believe that will happen and will continue to support them in any way I can and I  appeal to anybody who is interested in organic gardening to join Garden Organic.  Follow this link.

Can I just add that I have no connection with GO apart from being a member and writing the occasional piece for the member’s magazine, The Organic Way.

Garden Organic sells Ryton retail arm – the end of an era

According to a recent article in Horticulture Week,  Garden Organic has agreed that Webbs will take over the running of the GO retail arm which includes the, shop, catering and conference facilities at Ryton Gardens. (Please note: the Organic Gardening Catalogue is not included in this deal.)  The article also mentions redundancy negotiations with 90 staff.

As a long time member of HDRA and now Garden organic I am shocked and surprised by this announcement. To sell out the retail arm to a garden centre group is an amazing development. Ryton Gardens have always been the showcase organic gardens and the organic restaurant has won awards for many years. With the new ‘garden centre’ selling organic and non-organic products how can the site retain its organic credentials?

What bothers me most is that GO has been a campaigning organisation and have done extremely valuable work to promote the organic gardening message. Will they still do that? What about member’s services? There are so many questions that need answers as soon as possible.

Please see the comment from Myles Bremner (Chief Exec) which clarifies the position and offers some reassurance about Ryton’s organic status. What bothers me is that members should hear the news from a commercial press site rather than from GO direct. That only serves to encourage rumours and unease about such major changes.

It is too late to shut the door on GM?

The Guardian is saying it is too late to keep GM out of the country. They argue that there is already a lot of GM soya in the food chain so more is inevitable.

Of the 2.6m tonnes of soya imported into the UK last year, nearly two-thirds was genetically modified. The vast majority of this came from the Americas and was used as animal feed, although most people remain unaware of it. GM soya oil is also now used in quantity in the catering industry, according to government reports.

I for one am not about the throw in the towel and am outraged that the government has let this happen. Why did they do that knowing that there was so much consumer opposition in the UK?

The cynics and conspiracy theorists will argue that the government has not been passive and have actively constructed a scenario that means we have no choice but to accept what the biotech companies want. They have systematically rubbished organic food and are now openly saying that they will judge the use of GM in food on a case by case basis. That is a change of policy that slipped through unnoticed without debate.

This is not about ‘feeding the world’ or combating hunger or increasing yields or any of the other nonsense that has come out of biotech company PR departments. The only reason that the biotechs want GM in Europe is profit, money loads and loads of it. They do not even bother about rigorous independent tests before releasing their products on an unsuspecting public.

Make no mistake, GM is untested. Any attempts at testing on animals have been dismissed and the scientists sacked. Look at the case of Dr Arpad Pusztai who tested GM potato on rats and found it caused problems in their digestive system. He was hounded out of his job and ridiculed. The rumours surrounding the case say that there was direct intervention from ‘number 10’ in the way of phone calls to the institution employing him.

What is also concerning is that the president of Garden Organic, the largest organic gardening charity in Europe, has changed his stance and is now supporting the ‘democratic’ use of GM. It is the technology that is the issue here, the forcing of alien genes into plants in a way that would never occur naturally, that is the issue and not just who owns the technology.

“If there were a “people’s GM”, I wouldn’t be against it” – Tim Lang, president of Garden Organic.

So are we to assume that opposition from the organic sector is crumbling? Absolutely not says Myles Bremner the CEO of Garden Organic; but there does seem to be a contradiction here just at the time when the organic movement needs to present a united front!

It is NOT too late to stop this nonsense. Ireland has recently declared itself GM free. Their Irish government see this as a way of increasing food security and developing a strong export market in GM free products.

Things are also changing in the US where a judge recently refused to allow a GM crop to be planted as it would prevent freedom of choice i.e. it would be impossible for neighbouring farms to grow non GM crops due to the pollution from pollen drift and pollen on visiting bees.

Why oh why is the UK government so set on forcing GM on us? Why are they risking our health and taking away our choices just so that biotech companies can make more money? The policy stinks more than the current expenses scandal!

See this site for some good information about why we just don’t need GM food.

Please do something now; write to you MP and your MEP telling them that you do NOT want GM to be forced on England (both Scotland and Wales have declared themselves to be GM free) – find your MP/MEP here.

Please help to stop GM, there are other more eco friendly ways to produce as much food as we need. Write to Hilary Benn, the driving force behind the rush to GM food in the UK. Tell him you do not want it and demand that all food is tested for GM contamination. His email address is bennh@parliament.uk or phone him on phone 020 7219 6714

In the Constituency:

Hilary Benn MP
2 Blenheim Terrace
phone: 0113 244 1097
fax: 0113 234 1176

In Westminster:
Hilary Benn MP
House of Commons


Now is the time gardening sites and publications will tell you to plant garlic. Even Garden Organic are advising members to plant their garlic in the October newsletter. The advice is slightly misleading as it depends on where you live and what variety you use. If we planted garlic now it would rot in the ground, further south it could work well.

There are two types of garlic; short dormancy and long dormancy. Short dormancy has become the most popular and is for autumn planting. Long dormancy types should be planted after Christmas, I usually plant mine in early February if the ground is not frozen.

We have always had a good crop with around 60 bulbs a year which last well into spring if stored well. Short dormancy types will only last about ~4 months.

Long Dormancy; Arno, Christo, Printanor, Sultop

Short Dormancy; Messidrome, Sprint

There are lots of other varieties out there so check to see which you have before planting.

We need an organic gardening champion

For many years I have actively supported Garden Organic (formally known as HDRA, the Henry Doubleday research association.) They were my introduction to organic gardening and living only a few miles away it was easy to get involved.

HDRA championed organic gardening when it was relatively unknown. Organic growing is now almost mainstream but we still need a champion.

If you are reading this then there is a good chance you are interested in organic gardening; if so I urge you to support Garden Organic because we need them to continue to fight for us on many fronts.

If you live anywhere between Matlock – Bakewell – Buxton then please contact  info@organicgarden.org.uk  re starting  an organic gardening group.