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?

Saturday 27 April 2013

Today is Saturday, work and smile!

A great Saturday session today. If you didn't know already, we have started Saturday sessions on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month from 10am until 12 (ish!). These seem to be very popular and this week's was no exception. Admittedly, Tracey had decided there was so much to do that she drafted in her family, which swelled the numbers but still a good turn out, and we go lots done.

Pete applies rock dust

Most jobs involved weeding. The severe Winter did knock back the first appearance of the weeds, but they have enjoyed the warmer weather and are all happily springing into growth.

Pete and Holly helped prepare some beds for us, bringing in rock dust to add minerals and weeding to remove the dreaded bindweed and horsetail which don't seem to have been knocked back by the Winter at all. Of course, they weeded in that special Windmill way, where you keep the bee friendly weeds to place in the corners of the beds.

Holly prepares a raised bed, ready for our potatoes

Rowan and Carrie weeded the asparagus bed and transplanted some of the red orach that has planted itself in the beds.

Carrie and Rowan free the asparagus bed from Red Orache

Jeremy and Dan weeded the new raspberry bed, and planted wild roses along the fence line.

Dan and J tackle the raspberry jungle

Ulrike and Hazel worked in the Orchard to plant two currant bushes that Ulrike brought with her (volunteers who bring presents - v. nice!), and also added some roses to the fence line along the ditch.

Ulrike and Hazel have a quick rest
in between jobs

Tracey and Ash did some general weeding and Sally did a grand job weeding the fruit cage.

Ash reaches the weeds other volunteers can't get to!

Sally and friend de-weed the fruit cage

All in all, a fab session - well done team! In 2 weeks time, we'll do it again, but we're going to hold a plant and seed swap this time, so hopefully folk will come along to share seeds and plants.

Friday 26 April 2013

Potting up and getting on

Quick quiz: What's bright red and yellow and tastes great at
the moment? Read on to find out.

We really feel like we are on a roller-coaster at the moment. We've got several months work to do in the next few weeks, and just to top things off, we're having a dry spell! All the fun of the garden, with added watering, we're going to be really fit by the time we're done.

Today we got our tomato, cucumber, melon and pepper plants potted up before the polytunnel got too hot, basically setting up an assembly line and then going for it. We also planted up the sweetcorn and put it hopefully well out of mouse-reach (though with recent experience, we may need to start hanging things from the roof!).

Mark, Andrew and Chris pot up before the sun drives us out.

The final layer went on the key-hole bed and we started adding rock-dust to the beds. We're hoping this will help the soil to get a full range of minerals, so that our plants are extra-healthy.

In the Sensory Garden we started on the last big weed before the annuals really get going. We have some hopes that we can reduce the range of the various dodgy weeds but the roots of some of them are HUGE, so we'll see how long the effect lasts.

Getting the Sensory Garden into shape

And most exciting of all, our first asparagus of the season has appeared. The spears are popping up all over, looking pretty thick and juicy, not bad for a first season. We can't harvest this year, so that the plants have time to get really strong ready for next year. Can't wait.

Budding excitement!

We did manage to pick something though - the first of the rainbow chard that is recovering nicely from having over-wintered. It made a nice addition to an italian-style tomato sauce and rice dish we had for lunch. Spring is definitely here!

Rainbow chard stir-frying nicely.

Friday 19 April 2013

Secret Ingredient and a Big Thank You to the Folk at Collins

We want to thank the lovely folk at Collins Cash and Carry, who helped us to get our delivery of rock-dust down the narrow track when the lorry couldn't fit.

It was really kind of you to help us, and we're delighted to have the product. We hope you will join us at our Summer Garden Party in July so we can thank you properly.

Thursday 18 April 2013

This week at Windmill - Mice 3, Us 1!

Finally - a bit of warmth came to Windmill this week, and we made the most of it. The weather has actually been quite dry and the winds have dried things out even more, so we were able to get into the area next to the fruit cage where the brambles have gone a bit mad.

Pete is a forester, so he's a hardy soul who laughs in the face of jaggy vegetation - just the man for the task. He did a great job of taking the growth back to appropriate side-branches, and also of digging up areas where the brambles had planted their heads into the ground and rooted. We used these to plant a row of blackberry along the fence line by the new raspberry bed, as well as weaving the cuttings into the fence itself, the better to deter raspberry-thieves later in the year!

Pete tames the brambles next to the fruit cage.

Carrie concentrated on getting more paths sorted, with the able assistance of Andrew. The main task is to remove the composted bark (which makes a great soil conditioner, but also a great place for weeds to root), and replace it with fresh wood chips which will hopefully reduce the amount of path weeding we need to do. We've still got a few more to do, but we getting there.

Carrie with a tamed path!

Pete also found time to give our rhubarb some tlc (tender loving care, not tables, ladders and chairs!), with a nice thick mulch of compost.

Giving the rhubarb a treat

We fitting in plenty of planting too. Mark finished the onion planting, and we also managed to put in some Weld, to complement our Dyeing Herbs area which already has Woad in it. Now we just need some Madder, and we'll be able to make red, yellow, blue (and from them, lincoln green).

Weld and Woad 

In the polytunnel, the saga of Windmill vs. the Mice continues! You might remember that we had tried to get peas going in the tunnel, and found that the mice nipped out the growing plants and peas, just leaving the top leaves? We tried putting them into gutters (the mice climbed in and happily dug into the feast), and in desperation, we put them on a pot stand (the mice scaled the structure and chowed down on the peas in the first 2 levels!). We also grew them in egg-boxes on the metal table, and finally had a bit of success. So new volunteer Ulrika got to work and used them to replant the small pea bed that we had created.

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We're hoping these peas are not so succulent and tender as the freshly sprouted ones, so fingers crossed! Now we just need to get some going outside....

Ulrike replants the peas

A visit from the Green School

Today we were delighted to welcome pupils from the Green School on their first visit to Windmill. The school have their own growing area, and they are hoping we can help them to learn more about gardening. We are also hoping that they will help us by growing some seeds and giving us some of the seedlings.

Half of the group getting on with planting in the high beds

The group had a tour of our various growing areas, and other environmentally-friendly features. Then they got kitted up, and got down to work. Pupils planted our first potatoes of the season - first earlies which should give us new potatoes by the end of June. Then one group went on to plant onion sets with Mark and Ulrike, whilst the other group worked with Tracey and Jade to plant pumpkin, squash and sweetcorn seeds. These have now been taken back to school, and we look forward to seeing how they grow, and hopefully to getting some of them back.

Preparing the ground for potatoes

Planting potatoes

Planting lots of seeds - hopefully we'll get lots of plants

The group took the opportunity to have their lunch with us, and just fitted nicely onto the fire-pit benches. We kept them entertained by showing them some of the many strange things we've dug up, including a medicine bottle, metal bolts, hooks, butter knives and even oyster shells!

Actually we left something out of the story - something else we dug up. When they first started to dig, one of the pupil groups discovered that our local fox had left us a present... Carefully buried in one of the raised beds was a duck! We presume that the fox has decided that our allotment is a good place to cache food, where before it just seemed to be digging for worms and beetles. It hopefully won't be too upset to find that we have now buried the poor beastie in the hedge instead.

So sorry me duck.

Foxes use their scent to show that the cache is theirs, or that an area is their hunting patch, so if the fox keeps burying food, we will try smearing vaseline mixed with citronella around the beds. This strong scent acts like a calling card, saying "My smell is stronger than yours, buzz off!" We won't try this straight away though, because foxes can be a great help in the garden, reducing the numbers of mice and other things that like to eat our crops. We do, however, make sure we don't leave any food waste out in bin bags, as the fox will rip them open and have a party. One person discovered that they had a block of cheese in their compost heap, presumably from someone leaving it out in a bin bag and the fox  taking advantage of the tasty treat!

Thursday 4 April 2013

Dyeing to tell you what we've been doing at Windmill!

 For the last 2 afternoons, we've been trying something new at Windmill - dyeing and spinning wool.

You might remember that last year, some of our meadow plants turned out to be weld - a dye plant that produces a rather nice yellow dye. Apparently, combined with woad, weld was used to create Lincoln Green, so there are a lot of historical associations with it in this area. Knowing we had the weld, we contacted the Spinners, Weavers and Dyers Guild, and they put us in touch with Sue Routledge who happily agreed to help us find out what to do with it.

Sue gets set up - don't be fooled by the L plates
- she knows what she's doing!

The Wednesday group get ready to dye their wool.

So for the last 2 afternoons, Sue has been running workshops for us to show us dyeing techniques with weld. She has experimented with the dye and discovered that the effects can vary from a gold to an almost flourescent yellow, and we managed the same variety over the 2 days. We were given prepared wool (it needs to be treated so that the dye will be taken in), and we bound some of it with string to give a tie-dye effect. On the second day, we made our own "Lincoln Green", though we used artificial blue to simulate woad, by painting it on to the wool we had already dyed. With the string effect, we ended up with white, yellow and green wool. Sue kindly gave us some woad plants though, so hopefully next year we will be able to make our own woad blue too.

Tying string round parts of a wool skein for a tie-dye effect.

Pip placing the wool in the dyebath

Wednesday's gold wool

Thursday's dye batch - a few tweaks meant a stronger colour

Carrie shows us the 3 colour effect of adding
blue in patches and steaming in clingfilm

The final result - and Mary arrived ready colour co-ordinated

Sue is a skilled spinner too, so she provided us with drop spindles, made using old CDs and dowels, and showed us how to do it, and also got out her spinning wheel. The spinning was a big hit, with some of our visitors finding it almost addictive!

Sue shows us how to use a drop spindle.

Getting the hang of spinning by hand

Sibel with some of the woollen thread she made

Trying out knitting with some chunky wool and big needles

Sue shows us how to use a spinning wheel
it's not as simple as it looks!

If you missed the fun but would like to know more, keep an eye out for Sue and other spinners at the Sherwood visitor centre at their monthly visit there. We are also hoping that she will visit again soon. We'll keep you posted. 

More about weld and how to use it to make dye here.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Spring celebrations at Windmill

It was great to celebrate the coming of Spring at Windmill this Wednesday. We hosted Bilborough Family Centre to help them discover the joys of the season. The volunteers came out in force to help families to enjoy lots of different activities.

In the orchard, Carrie helped our visitors to make nests and art using natural materials, as well as advising what to do if you find a chick out of the nest.

Art in the orchard

The nests were works of art.

In the polytunnel, Chris and Mark organised planting peas in gutters and making bird feeders out of plastic bottles.

Planting peas in gutters

The clay oven was running, with Tracey and Matt helping everyone to make "bunny buns" which were   delicious - with cheese or butter and our own home-made jam.

First wash your hands - the tip tap worked well.

Making the bunny buns

The last few bunny buns

Pete and Andrew helped everyone to find hidden egg pictures with activity ideas to try on the back of them and later hid egg tokens to swap for chocolate!