PUBLISHED: 22:09 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 22:09 17 March 2014
The organic approach to gardening is what South East Essex Organic Gardeners (SEEOG) is all about, so Philippa Pearson visited the group to find out more and get her hands dirty
Organic gardening is something that Carole Shorney, secretary of South East Essex Organic Gardeners (SEEOG), has grown up with.
‘Years ago, my mum gave me two books on organic gardening and they really sparked my interest in growing everything this way,’ says Carole, who lives in Hockley. Carole joined the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), now Garden Organic, to learn and find out more about this method and enjoyed meeting other organic gardeners in Essex. HDRA was spearheaded by Lawrence Hills who formed the national organisation in Essex after growing and experimenting with comfrey at Bocking, near Braintree.
He named the organisation after his pioneering Victorian mentor, Henry Doubleday, a Quaker smallholder who introduced comfrey to Britain in the 19th century. The first HDRA local group in Essex was at Brentwood, which inspired Carole to form a group for the south east Essex area where she lives, and SEEOG was created in 1994. The inaugural meeting was held in Southend Central Library with Alan Armstrong, HDRA’s then local groups coordinator, as guest speaker. The lecture theatre was packed that night, as Carole recalls. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it and we certainly weren’t expecting that much local interest about organic gardening,’ she says.
Joining a local organic group is a good way to learn about organic gardening as it’s easier to learn by seeing others put organic methods into practice and have the chance to discuss things. SEEOG meet regularly for talks and events at the Cheryl Centre at Growing Together Gardens in Southend, while there are also organised outings and the group attends farmers’ markets at Leigh on Sea and Rochford. Talks start at 8pm and the centre opens from 7pm, so if you get there early there’s a chance to discuss any organic gardening questions with other members.
‘It’s a sort of organic chit-chat time,’ says Carole, ‘when we have questions about organic gardening before the meeting starts at 8pm. We’ve also got our own library there of useful books on all sorts of organic principles and methods.’
Talks this year include the future of allotments, growing wildflowers, beekeeping, foraging and being a smallholder. The group also organise an annual Essex Seed Potato Day in February where members can choose from more than 40 different varieties of seed potato. The event is organised jointly with Leigh on Sea Allotment and Leisure Garden Society, Trust Links and East Anglia Potato Day.
SEEOG also plan a couple of trips each year to interesting venues both within Essex and outside the county, and the group displays at local shows and events.
SEEOG members are gardeners of all ages, expertise and abilities. ‘We’re a really friendly group,’ says Sheila, ‘and welcome anyone who wants to know about organic gardening or wants to share their experiences with us.’