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 21 July 2011

Windmill Celebration!

Today, Windmill celebrated the official opening of the polytunnel (now we've got the doors on!) and officially unveiled the murals that the staff and students of New College Nottingham have painted on our raised beds.

And our wonderful polytunnel complete with its doors!

It was a great day - the weather held and loads of folk attended, which was lovely as many of those who have visited us since we started this project came back to see how things are getting on, and they were all delighted to see how much progress has been made.

The day began with lots of work to do the finishing touches to the tidy-up and setting up, with lots of help from the work team from Groundwork - Dan, Dale and Rish - which was great as they were officially on their day off - many thanks guys. We also had had help from Ray, Khaled, Imran, John, Ellis, Rukia and Lisa who all worked like trojans.

Ellis adds the finishing touches to the feast
The food all arrived on time, with some fab veggie food from Ecoworks, some burgers and sausages from Harker's Farm Shop in Clipston on the Wolds (which came from animals on the neighbouring farm, so very local), and some things Tracey made from produce we harvested from Windmill itself - summer puddings using our berries, vegan beetroot and chocolate brownies, courghette and lemon cake, and filo parcels with rainbow chard, shallots and feta cheese. We also cut fresh salad from the raised beds where we've used it as a living mulch around the courghettes to reduce water loss (thanks Imran for being salad master for the day), so the table looked amazing.

One of the New College artists' fantastic murals
Pulp Friction, the smoothie bike folk, arrived to help everything go with a swing, producing delicious smoothies using pedal-power. Thanks to Jill for agreeing to come at short notice - Pulp Friction is a great project, as well as having the coolest name! Find out more about the project here - Pulp Friction Facebook Page

Trying out the Pulp Friction Smoothie Bike

We were also delighted to have Matt from the Cadbury's Spots vs. Stripes project who brought along lots of games for people to try.

Matt from the Cadbury's Spots vs. Stripes project with the giant Jenga

Visitors start to arrive
The celebration began with a short summary of the project so far and vote of thanks for all the volunteers and groups from Tracey, followed by a ribbon cutting to open the polytunnel by local Councillor, Mohammed Saghir. He then cut a cucumber for us which quickly got added to the salad!

Councillor Saghir opens the polytunnel

Councillor Saghir harvesting a cucumber to add to our salad
Councillor Saghir also presented certificates and garden gift-vouchers to our two longest-serving volunteers, Ellis and Daniel, who have been key to the success of the project.

Congratulations to Dan...

... and also to Ellis who have both been fantastic!
Then everyone dived in to the food - which was pronounced delicious! Even die-hard veggie avoiders enjoyed the cakes with hidden beetroot and courghette, and the beetroot hummus from Ecoworks was also a huge hit. We'll try to get the recipe off them and put it up here. Dan, Rish and Dale battled gamely with some slightly dodgy charcoal, and managed to provide the meat eaters with plenty to get their teeth into as well.

And we all tuck into an amazing feast!
Everyone was invited to take part in a harvest of the produce ready on site, and happily set to, so peas, carrots, lettuce, courghettes, cucumbers, rainbow chard, shallots, onions, leeks and callalloo were all collected by delighted visitors, many of whom were picking what they had sowed earlier in the year.

Rukia and son Adam harvesting peas
The meadow area is still looking pretty good and got lots of positive comments

Our visitors from Acorn appreciated the new seating circle

Members of the Breathe Easy group harvest lettuces they sowed during their visit in Spring
Thank you to everyone who came to help on the day, especially all our volunteers who made the day run so smoothly. A special mention to the work team, who not only helped on the day and ran the barbeque, but have also put in a lot of hours to help finish off the polytunnel doors, and even found time to work out how the small shed should go together! 

Well done all and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Finishing Touches

One more day to go before the big celebration! It's been all go, trying to get everything looking its best and keeping on top of the weeding and all the other jobs that need doing, like watering, harvesting, and trimming back the plum trees before they break under the weight of their crop.

The regular volunteers have done a brilliant job, and the seating circle and picnic benches now look amazing and we've now got the fruit cage mostly back under control.

Ellis works in the freshly painted seating circle

We've also had the Groundwork work team in helping with the final touches to the polytunnel - and they've done a great job, including installing some of the totem-poles we made with New College Nottingham and the Clay Oven workshop folk.

Nick and Dan from the work team put the mesh on the polytunnel doors - notice a colour theme here?!

Rish and Dale from the work team installing the Jamaican-themed totem pole

So, fingers crossed that the weather holds tomorrow - it's looking a bit dodgy...

Thursday 14 July 2011

Getting ready for the big day

This week has been quieter after the marathon we did last week, but the volunteers have been hard at work getting the allotment ready for next week's Celebration. We obviously want it to look its best, so we've been cleaning, tidying and painting.

We welcomed new recruit Lisa who immediately got stuck in to every job she had suggested to her - a great start!

Lisa with some of this week's harvest

The fire-pit circle benchs are now a very nice shade of blue, as is the mended picnic bench. Thank you to Ellis, Dan and Lisa for working so hard to get them finished - hope the paint washed off! We've also completely tidied out and re-organised the shed - which may or may not make it easier to use - time will tell!

Now we just need to put the finishing touches to the polytunnel and see if we can convince the weather gods to give us a dry day next Thursday.
Ellis and Lisa start to paint the seating circle

Friday 8 July 2011

Water-colour day!

Well our run of bad luck with the weather did not let up today either! If you have a group of 15 people on a team building day who are supposed to be painting raised beds, then repeated heavy showers is not what you want. Sadly that's what we got.

Fortunately Matt from the "Spots vs. Stripes" sports project* was kind enough to lend us his big gazebo so we were able to keep some of the painting area dry, keeping the rain off a few other areas with off cuts of polythene from when we put the tunnel up. (*Spots vs Stripes is a Cadbury project that Groundwork is running - find out more here - http://www.spotsvstripes.com )

The intrepid band of staff from New College Nottingham weren't put off by the weather, and all trouped in ready to get stuck in. We organised some of the group to paint the beds, some to weed the paths, another group to dig over the quiet area in the orchard so we can sow meadow grass there and a final group to paint totem poles in the polytunnel.

mulching the squash bed

Getting the big weeds out of the contemplation circle.

Everyone set too with a will, and did amazingly well, given the weather. They have left Windmill looking remarkably tidy and organised, with some great raised bed designs, mulched crops and a cleared and raked contemplation circle. We've also got some great totem poles now, which we'll hopefully put up next week.

A fabulous Jamaican-themed totem pole

We were also joined by Khaled, a new volunteer, who made a great start on getting the log pile cut down to size. Many thanks!

Khaled takes on the woodpile.

The New College Team with one of their wonderful painted beds

Thank you to everyone for making a real different - and we hope to see some of you at our celebration event on 21st July.

Thursday 7 July 2011

A Day of Ins and Outs

This week the weather is great for providing the crops with plenty of water, and helping to fill up our water butts, but it's unfortunately also the week we've got the most groups coming, so it's entirely unhelpful for our guests!

Here comes the rain.... again!

Our group today was from the Acorn Day Centre. We were delighted to have them along, as they had agreed to assess the site for ease of use for wheelchairs and other disability issues. In return, we promised them lunch - as long as they would harvest if for us!

Hopeline, Yvonne and Mark tour the site

The look around the site went pretty well, although it's clear we need to create a turning circle in the path in the wild-garden / orchard area. We also discovered that the polytunnel is going to need quite a bit of modification to the entrances to make them fully accessible, although everyone managed to get in. Actually it was good that they could, as we had to make a dash for the polytunnel every time it rained - and it did, quite a bit!

Tammi, Tom, Yvonne and Tanya harvest potatoes from the raised bed.

Fortunately the rain held off long enough for everyone to have a chance to harvest potatoes, including the gorgeous Edzell Blue, which is an astonishing blue-purple when it is picked. The raised beds got the thumbs up, making it possible for all the chair users to harvest. We then boiled up the potatoes (thanks to Catherine for helping with that), whilst the group went on to harvest lettuce, carrots and radishes.

These all contributed to a delicious lunch of potatoes with cheese and salad, which was much enjoyed, with many folk having seconds. Over lunch we discussed food miles, and also the various crops we grow.

Fortunately the rain held off long enough for lunch.

We hope to see our Acorn visitors back again soon for our celebration on 21st July.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Sowing New Seeds

Wednesday was a big event for us at Windmill, as Anton Rosenfeld from the Sowing New Seeds project at Garden Organic came to do a talk.

The Sowing New Seeds project aims to enable allotment holders, schools and community groups in the Midlands to grow exotic crops not traditionally grown in the UK. There is already a wealth of non-traditional crops grown on allotments in the UK but these crops and the skills to grow them are in danger of disappearing as they are not being passed onto younger generations. The project aims to capture and preserve both the crops and the knowledge and is making seeds and skills available to those who want to grow these crops, with a growing list of "how to" guides specific to each plant.

Starting the talk

The talk drew quite a crowd, despite showery weather. Anton gamely started off in a light sprinkling of rain, as we all sat round him on the fire pit benches. However, the rain sound got harder, so we sheltered in the polytunnel. This worked pretty well, apart from 30 seconds when the rain drummed so hard on the tunnel roof that we couldn't hear Anton at all,  but then the sun came out again, so we went back to the outdoor benches to get away from the heat!

Anton covered a huge range of different crops, and observed that saved seed from allotments was giving him far better results than packeted ones from seed companies. He also covered how to process and cook the various crops, and it was really interesting to hear from the audience the different names and cooking styles they had for some of the plants. 

Anton shows us a range of unusual veg in the tunnel

A chance to examine unusual crops

Anton shows us a dudi

Back out in the sunshine.

Everyone agreed that the talk had been excellent, and were delighted to pick up some seeds and fact-sheets. Anton has left us with a Sowing New Seeds file, so we can lend this to anyone who is interested. We also got the spare seeds, so again let us know if you would like some. Anton is also hoping that we can organise a session in the Autumn where we will do some cooking on site to help people make full use of the exotic crops. 

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Planning planting to fit the school year

One of the things that I'm very interested in, is planting so that the crops will come ripe as and when I need them. I'm also very keen that schools are able to do this, having seen the criminal situation of a polytunnel full of over-ripe tomatoes that were fallen and rotting on the floor because it was the middle of the holidays and there was no-one to eat them.

This interest meant that I was delighted to be able to host one of the local Eco-Schools Cluster Group meetings on this topic. 7 teachers and support staff attended along with Rachel Sweetland who is one of the local co-ordinators. We looked at different strategies which would help different school situations, and looked into mulches, to help reduce watering needs. At Windmill we use a few different mulches, including a twiggy municipal compost, composted bark and also living mulch - ie. we plant up the space left between slower growing plants with quick growing ones like radish and lettuce, so we can harvest them as the other plants spread out, but the ground is never bare. All these systems work well in different situations, so it was useful to discuss the pros and cons of the different methods with the group.

Standing by to water the green manure

We finished by sowing a green manure crop which will help one of our poorer beds to recover from having wood chip mixed into the soil, and then there was a quiz on gardening facts, the prize being... a packet of green manure!

Sowing the green manure

Thanks to all of the group for coming and helping us to prepare and plant up the bed. We hope to see some of the teachers again in the new school year.