Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday 30 June 2011

Keep on keeping on

A quiet week, this week, as our New College Nottingham group couldn't come because of the strike. This meant that we just got on with lots of jobs that needed doing.

One of the nicest jobs, is picking fruit. We've been doing it for a few weeks now, and we're getting some lovely stuff. We're freezing it so we can use the fruit to make mini summer puddings for our celebration event on 21st July.
Gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries and red currants. Yum!

We also feel like we're in the most beautiful place on the planet at the moment, as it's full of wildflowers - loads of poppies, cornflowers, marigolds, corn cockles and May weed. The sensory bed in the orchard is also looking very special, with clump-forming morning glory, night scented stock and even more poppies. We've also got lots of wildlife - birds singing fit to bust, including one that does a car alarm impression and a mobile phone! Today we saw our first small blue butterfly, which was a lovely surprise.

Purple-pink poppies in the strawberry patch

One thing that's not so good about the site is vandalism. We've had our old scarecrow burned and recently, the new clay oven structure was also destroyed by fire. We won't let it deter us, but we are taking precautions. The new clay oven structure will be different and hopefully less flammable. We've also been removing dry wood chip from some areas, like the new kitchen (thanks Dan and Ellis), so that it is less vulnerable, and we plan to pave the floor here as well, so if you have any old slabs available, let us know!

Friday 24 June 2011

What a difference Wates make!

Today was a little mind-boggling. Wates is a national construction company, and the local branch chose Windmill Community Gardens to be one of their community day projects. This meant that over 30 folk descended on the site and started to fix things!

Councillor Mohammed Saghir cuts the ribbon to start the Wates Community Day

The team make a start on weeding in preparation for the fire pit area

Amazingly, one of the joiners managed to mend the very broken picnic table

Testing the new picnic table 

Making a start on the putting in the seats

We provided barbeques on site, so the Wates team could have a cooked lunch with burgers and sausages they'd brought, and we harvested some more potatoes to cook as well. Peter from the Mill Allotments let us have some salad to go with it, even turning up with a fantastic basket full of freshly picked strawberries, raspberries and cherries, which were much enjoyed.

Picking tatties for lunch

The ladies of the team prove it's not just the blokes who can carbonise sausages!

The team put the finishing touches to the kitchen

Thanks to the amazing efforts of the group, we now have a kitchen area with a non-leaking roof, windows on 3 sides, a sink and a work-surface with a shelf underneath. We also have a completed set of compost bins, a fire pit with seats around it and they have even mended the dodgy picnic bench! As well as all of that, the work party weeded all the paths, removed brambles from the orchard, and finished weeding and leveling the surface inside the polytunnel. Special thanks to Annette who tidied up and swept out the shed single handed.

The team with the wonderful new fire-pit circle

Windmill is now looking amazingly spick and span with so much work having been done and the beds nearly painted. We will be having a celebration day to officially open the project on Thursday July 21st at 12noon, so we hope anyone who is interested will come and have a look at what we've done.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Everything's coming up potatoes!

A busy day today, as we had 2 groups from New College Nottingham along to help us.

The NCN Land Team

A member of the NCN artist's team

The NCN land group got to work helping us to clear the compost store into builder's bags to make room for our new fire pit, and also made a great start on fighting the mare's tail that is growing up through the paths. They also harvested the first potato crop! Of course, this was too good an opportunity to miss, so we immediately prepared the spuds, cooked them and ate them with a little butter or cheese for lunch.

We dig and dig and dig!

Some of out finest potatoes!

Mare's tail: here today, gone tomorrow!

This means that we managed to have a lunch with very few food miles, since the cheese and the butter were local too. We're keen to help people think about food miles, as part of our remit to help make the allotment into a showcase for sustainable growing. We are also very keen to enjoy food at its best, and these potatoes certainly were really tasty - in fact NCN folk said they were "Awesome!"

Whilst the NCN gardeners were doing their bit, we also had some of the NCN painting team back to keep working on the decoration of the raised beds. These are close to being finished now, and look amazing. One more session is planned in the first week of July and then we are hopeful they will be ready for a grand unveiling.

Of course our usual team were also busy, Helen and Alison worked in the polytunnel to weed the beds and tie up the tomatoes which are beginning to grow like crazy. Ellis was also on hand and got busy with some late seed sowing and plant care. It's a good time to plant florence fennel seeds, as the soil and weather are hopefully warm enough to let them grow without running to seed.

Helen and Alison weeding away
Helen poses with one of the NCN ladies!

The allotment is really starting to look great, with all the poppies and other flowers in the meadow and crops growing happily in most of the beds. Thank you to all for your hard work. It's really appreciated!

Thursday 16 June 2011

I love it when a plan comes together!

This was the week when the herb garden was finally brought into use after painstaking work removing weeds for the past five months.  Tracey, Tez, Helen, Ellis and Dan were joined by a group from Nottingham Trent University who carried out the bulk of the work on the herb garden.  Tasks included removing the remainder of the weeds, the most invasive being horseradish, weaving and lining of the willow raised beds and of course planting of the herbs! The herb plants included sage, rosemary, fennel, Russian mint and curry plant amongst many others.

Weeding to clear the area ready for the herb beds
Tough work - very deep and very large roots!

The mass weeding session

The weaving begins!

Then for the lining.

Planting up

Elsewhere in the allotment, the volunteers continued the vegetable planting.  Ellis and Dan did a brilliant job of planting beans, namely runner and French beans. Helen was involved in planting of more exotic seed including shark's fin melon and Vietnamese mustard. She also planted some Chinese lantern plants to provide an edging to a couple of the raised beds and also to add a bit of sparkle to the orchard!
Last, but by no means least, Tez made fantastic work of spot weeding the brambles in a highly over grown orchard - very brave!

Tez gets a star for bravery!
The NBS team from Nottingham Trent University next to one of the 3 herb beds.

All in all, a very enjoyable and productive day, and the herb garden looks fabulous! Thanks to everyone, especially the NBS team from Nottingham Trent - who all worked so hard. We hope you are as pleased by the results of your labours as we are!

Thursday 9 June 2011

A day of mulching, planting, weeding and watering

Today turned out to be a day of small jobs which would create a big difference to the site.  The group consisted of Tracey, Helen, Ellis, Dan and Wayne.

The first major task which we all felt had been outstanding for an number of weeks was to weed, feed and mulch the raspberry canes.  This involved Helen and Dan pulling up a giant mass of weeds which had grown up around them and laying them down around the canes.  The specific species of weed meant that they would not re root and would die, ultimately forming a compost which would provide nutrients to the canes.  In order to mulch the canes, preventing moisture loss and further weed growth,  Helen and Dan, with Tracey's assistance, cut up long strips of cardboard from a disused box to soak and lay over the rotting weeds.  They then put a further layer of bark over the cardboard and these together would provide the mulch.

The newly-mulched raspberry canes

The next task involved the whole group coming together to transplant the lettuce seedlings which we had grown in one of the raised beds.  We are trying to fill up the gaps in the raised beds which would otherwise become filled with weeds until the pumpkins grow and fill up the space. It also means that the beds have a growing mulch which will help retain moisture.

Wayne with a giant-sized clump of lettuces!

Dan and Helen planting up lettuces

We also had a lot of watering in the polytunnel contents, plus planting of some willow trees and the remaining sweet peas.  Tracey believes that the willow trees will create a fantastic 'firework-like' display in the Autumn!

Sweet peas around the willow obelisk

A thriving polytunnel
The fountain of all tomato plants!
Finally, there was the moment we had all been waiting for - we got to pick some of the fruits of our labour! As you can see from the picture, the unseasonably high levels of sunshine over the course of the Spring had meant that we have had an unusually early crop of blackcurrants! Tracey has taken them home to freeze but we hope that there will be more to come!

Ellis with the much anticipated blackcurrants
We have fruit!

Wednesday 8 June 2011

New volunteers and lots to do

We got lots done today thanks to some new volunteers. Katie came along to see what we do, and helped Dan and Ellis get through lots of planting, which is great as we're a bit behind, having spent so long getting the polytunnel up.
Katie helps plant the pumpkin bed
We were also delighted that Mark's Dad came along to help him with the roof for the clay oven. We're aiming to use recycled materials where possible, so we re-used slats from pallets to provide us with the roof laths. We're also hoping to use opened-out aluminium cans to tile the roof, which should make for an unusual look.

Mark's Dad works on the roof materials

The oven is now safely wrapped up with a temporary shelter and we'll hopefully add the final layers and the can slates to it next week. 

Saturday 4 June 2011

Clay Oven Workshop

Today was the culmination of all our hard work over the last few weeks, when we finally began the creation of our clay oven.

We started bright and early at 8.30am, with the help of Rupert Dick from Real Clay Ovens. Rupert learned his craft at a course organised by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage group, and has been creating clay ovens for 8 years. He is a great enthusiast for both the craft of making them and of cooking in them, making our mouths water with stories of the wonderful dishes and bread that he's made in clay ovens over the years. We were joined by 7 enthusiastic individuals who were keen to learn the craft.

The first step was to put sand and bricks into the plinth. This is to create a level surface that will retain heat in the cooking area. We used bricks that Tracey got through Freecycle, which were recycled from a house being renovated in East Leake. Tracey's son Ash had already knocked off the remaining mortar, so all they needed was a quick clean up.

Kathy cleaning the bricks

Mary and Eleanor help level the sand

Gemma places the bricks in the plinth

Kathy admires the leveled surface of the plinth

Then we had to mix the clay and sand for the oven. We did this with our feet, which was a lot of fun. Some of the group even chose to do it bare-foot, and discovered that it's a great way to get lovely, smooth feet! We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny morning which made the job a pleasure.

The next step in the process was to create the sand form for the oven, which would allow us to mould the clay mix into the oven shape. The aim is to create something high enough to allow a variety of dishes to be cooked, and in the right shape to ensure the oven will have the right shape to keep a fire alight. We then put a layer of the clay mix over the sand form to make the first layer of the oven.

Rupert and Mary discuss the reasons for the shape of the oven.

Jo with the finished first layer of the oven.

The oven now needed to dry out for a few hours, so we took the opportunity to be creative. Some of the group added to the decoration on our raised beds, whilst others decorated some willow poles which we will use to create some colour around the allotment.

After the oven shape had had time to firm up, we cut the door out and scooped out the sand. This allowed us to set the first fire in the oven so that the heat could help the oven to dry out further. 

 Ellis cuts out the door

The oven before sand removal

Mary finishes removing the sand

Ellis sets the first fire 

Rupert explains how the shape of the oven helps the fire to get enough air

The oven now needed an entrance and chimney to help it work properly. This was created by adding more sand, this time over some bricks, with a cardboard tube to mould the chimney around. We follwed this by another firing to harden this element. This was the last stage for today, because the oven needs time to harden and dry. Eventually it will be double the thickness.

Making the shape of the entrance and chimney

Ellis sets the last fire of the day 

Everyone agreed that they really enjoyed themselves, and Catherine decided that she'd like to become a regular volunteer with us, which is great. We'd like to thank Rupert for his excellent leading of the workshop - making sure that we all got a chance to try every part of the job and giving us very clear instructions and explanations for each stage. We're hoping to have the final stage finished in time for a big work day in a few weeks, so we'll let you know how we get on.

The team with the new oven