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 29 March 2012

More weeding and planting - hottest day of the year so far!

Today involved a couple of small but fun projects and lots of fairly minor but essential tasks which were a pleasure to carry out due to the glorious sunny and warm weather. It seems hard to believe this is still March.

Rosy and Helen get on with yet more weeding
Firstly, it was necessary to weed out the sensory garden and give it a general spruce up. As well as weeding, we felt that the area would benefit from an attractive border to distinguish it from the surrounding orchard and pathway. To do this, Tracey, Helen and Ellis gathered some old discarded and mouldy work boots which we had found during our last big clear out. They were far too worn out and decrepit to be useable, but not falling apart, so we thought they deserved to be recycled Windmill-style.  We filled them with compost and planted them up with beautiful colourful pansies. We then arranged them in a line following the curved edge of the sensory garden and created a really attractive display, complementing the primulas in the main bed. They were also arranged alternate right and left in order to create a theme of 'walking around the garden.'

Helen with the flowery boots.

Ray and Ellis help tame the chicken wire

Meanwhile, the rest of the team concentrated on preparing the new asparagus bed. This is a long-lived perennial crop (meaning it keeps growing every year without being replanted), so we needed to make sure it was as good as possible for the new plants. They like a well-drained soil, which ours is, but we added a bag of sharp sand, just to make sure, along with a few barrows of well-rotted compost. The asparagus plants look like mini mutant octopii, and they need special treatment, to make sure they sit in the ground in the best way and aren't damaged. You need to build a cone-shaped pile of soil in the bottom of the trench and then arrange them on top of it, so you can spread out the roots and make sure you don't damage the crown of the plant. We tucked them up safely in their new spots, and we'll be watching eagerly for the first growth. We don't get to eat any this year, but the spears do grow into attractive ferny foliage, so we should enjoy that. Then next year, we get the first taste, yumm!

Ellis and Chris arrange the 'mutant octopii' in the asparagus bed...
Another job that had us anticipating future taste delights was renovating the strawberry bed. This needed weeding, removal of the runner (baby plants that the parent strawberries grow on long stalks to root around themselves),  and a general tidy up. New volunteers Nathan and Mark got stuck into this and did a great job. Then we added a top-dressing of compost around the plants, and mulched them with straw. As the main bed was full with the parent plants, this meant that we had to find new homes for the runners including some being placed in pots and barrels across the site. Chris also hatched a great plan to plant up an old road cone he'd found in the hedge, so watch this space for the most novel strawberry planter in Nottingham!

Look - we finished the strawberry bed!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Weed and seed day

Today, as it turned out was a day of weeding and seeding. The first major and laborious task was to continue clearing brambles out of the orchard. Rosy and one or two helpers attempted to dig out each and every bramble where we would be extending our wildflower meadow.  With their long, thick running roots the task proved to be a long hard slog, as we had to dig out as much root as possible to prevent regrowth.  They dug and dug and dug, and eventually got there in the end and the area was nice and clear - many congratulations on a brilliant day's work!

Matt digs out a bramble

Rosy rightly looks pleased with her work

Meanwhile, while all this was going on in the back orchard, Helen also did her share of digging in the fruit cage. While the weeds in there were nowhere near as invasive and difficult as brambles, the task still took the majority of the session to complete. The cage was full of dandelions, couch grass and many other weeds with deep and rambling roots. In a similar case to the team in the back area, Helen also had to dig out as much weed root as possible to prevent regrowth and competition with the fruit bushes. We keep this area heavily mulched, but it will be a few years yet before we are completely on top of the deeper rooted weeds.

Helen in the fruit cage
Matt on log sawing duty

Matt, Chris, Ellis and Dan also took regular breaks from bramble clearing to saw up more logs for the fire pit. Whilst they were doing that, Ray made a good start on the path-side fence, which needs attention and lots of brambles woven into it. He also brought along a little friend to keep an eye on the proceedings...

Ray's little friend 
After all this digging and sawing, it was such a relief to finish the day by sowing some wildflower and grass seed into the prepared orchard. A highly relaxing task which will hopefully yield stunning results come the Spring and Summer.

Thursday 15 March 2012

A lawn at last!

In today's session, Tracey was joined by Ellis, Dan, Matt, Rosy, Philippa Chris and Helen. The primary focus was on sowing grass seeds to produce a lawn in the back area of the site. After much hard graft on digging out brambles and building debris and flattening out the ground it felt very good to finally sow the seed which will (hopefully) produce our much longed for lawn.  In addition to this, the weeding and digging continued in the other parts of the sensory area and we will hopefully have a path to our willow obelisk which we created last year.  The aim is to grow more sweet pea plants up the obelisk. We will have this site looking perfect eventually.

Lets sow a fine seed

We will have a lawn at some point!

Rosy digging out the toughest rooted bramble in the world!
Meanwhile, Chris and Matt took it in turns to cut up more wood from the trees which we took down.  We will have a fantastically large supply of wood for our fire pit once all the logs have been cut!

Tracey, Helen and Dan pose for the camera

Thursday 8 March 2012

The School Trip to Windmill

Well today it certainly appeared that the new Windmill year was fully back on swing with our first school group visit of 2012.  The group in question was class P5 from Robert Shaw Primary school.  The session was based around water and  how it can be conserved. This was done through three fun hands on activities: building a rain water collector, modelling a river flow and taking part in a water conservation trail around the site.

Welcome to Windmill!

For the rain water collector task, Matt split pupils into groups and tasked them with building a collector using only plastic sheeting, sticks, a plant pot and tape/ string. The intention was to collect as much water as possible from a square metre area, and channel this into a bucket using only the materials provided. It got pupils to work together as a team, while thinking about what shape is most effective to collect rainfall. The pupils created all sorts of contraptions, with varying levels of success. It ended up being a dry day, so we used watering cans instead to test how much could be caught, with sometimes messy results!

Matt and his team begin collecting 'rain'
Is this an effective rain collector? Matt finds out

For Tracey's river flow activity, a large bucket of water was channelled along a tray of sand, to simulate the flow of a river. Instead of flowing in a straight line, the 'river' created meanders (bends), showing how water acts in real life river systems.

'Let's flood Buckingham Palace!' - the children place clay house (and palace) models beside the 'river' to see if they would flood
'Can we have a flood yet?' - Tracey demonstrates how a river flows

Rosie engaged the children in an exciting water conservation trail of the site, showing pupils different methods used on the allotment to help conserve water. Armed with maps and marker pens, the task certainly got pupils thinking about the importance of water conservation, and how everyone can do their own bit to save water.

Smile! Rosie with her team holding an all important map

Rain = tastey fruit! Rosie's team

The pupils finished the morning enthusiastic, and full of questions, after a highly enjoyable few hours! We rounded off the day doing a few tasks around the allotment, such as working on levelling the contemplation area (well done Dan and Ellis), and some weeding. It can safely be said that today has been a highly enjoyable and successful day down at the allotment!

Last but by no means least - we mustn't forget the fantastic weeding done by our regulars

Thursday 1 March 2012

Spring is here - or is it?!

Well what glorious weather we had today! It definitely felt like the warmest day of the year so far and what an enjoyable and productive session it made for.  In Tracey's absence, Craig managed proceedings fantastically as always and was joined by Helen, Philippa, Rosy, Chris, Ellis, Dan and last, but by no means least, a very familiar face from the beginning of the project had made his return - Matt!

The session was very mixed and matched in terms of duties as there were many small but essential tasks which took place.  Firstly, Rosy and the men began the mammoth task of sawing up the branches from the trees which we took down during the snowy session and cut them up into manageable logs for the fire pit.  Meanwhile, Helen and Phillipa gave the strawberry beds a good tidy up by removing any weeds - dandelions proved to be the worst culprits for taking over. Helen also took it upon herself to prune the fuscia bush within the blue barrel and deadhead the primulas in the sensory garden.

While this all took place in the first half of the session, the second half was mostly devoted to flattening out the grassy area around where our memorial bench to Paula Dixon will be situated.  While this area will be turned into a lawn and grass was already growing there, it was growing into clumps making the ground lumpy so many of these had to be dug out to achieve a flatter surface.  We also found that the ground was sloping at a rather odd angle so we were require to level out the soil by raking - and having great fun jumping up and down! Finally, the seeds (vegetables and flowers) and newly planted primulas were given a much needed water.

All in all, it had been a fun and enjoyable day, and it definitely felt like Spring had arrived, or may be even Summer! This was not a time to get comfortable though, as the weather was to go downhill again by the weekend. We are hoping it will improve for the next session, however.