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 18 December 2014

Fabulously Festive Fuddling

Today we had our final fling of the year at Windmill, with lots of lovely people coming to help us decorate the polytunnel and even more coming to enjoy food with us at lunch time. As is usual on these occasions, we ran the clay oven, and as is also usual, the wind direction was wrong and it didn't behave to begin with!

Clay oven - being re-lit - again!

Whilst the valiant oven lighters were doing their best outside, a happy group were working inside the polytunnel to make it look lovely. Tracey helped the Gateway to Nature gang and some of our own volunteers to create a swag using ivy, hedge cuttings, ribbons and tinsel to create a lovely effect. 

Jon with the swag

We then got to work on a fun activity that someone showed us on Facebook - a bicycle-wheel wreath! The spokes of the wheel make a great base for threading in foliage to create a nice, well-covered wreath, and are also good for tying decorations on. The final effect was really impressive, even sprouting "bells" made from foil cups (blame Tracey's custard tart habit!). 

 Making the wreath

Finished wreath looking splendid

Then the final touch - clove pomanders with a twist - the base is an apple, not an orange. This actually works really well if you use enough cloves, as these prevent the apple from going mouldy and help it to dry out. Our apples may not have had quite enough, but they only needed to look good for a wee while, so it didn't matter, and we added some extra glittery bits to make them look even more festive.

Apple pomander making

Finished articles

More lovely pomanders

Once we had organised the decorations, we moved onto getting food ready. Pre-prepared ingredients made it easy, so cubes from one of our green-point orange squashes, onions, garlic and sage went into one of our famous pumpkin risottos. We also used dough that had been warming on the oven top to make beautifully thin pizza bases which we spread with a pizza sauce that was made this Summer using only our own home-grown ingredients and cheese. There was also a treat as some of the delicious new potatoes we grew in the Autumn made an appearance as mini-roastie toast-racks (scrub leaving skin on, cut 5mm thick slices about 2/3rds of the way into each potato, as if you were trying to slice it up but didn't quite. As they cook, the spuds open, and rubbing them with olive oil or coconut oil makes them into yummy crisp bites that just need a tiny bit of salt to taste good enough to make a snack on their own). A great and very healthy alternative to chips or roast potatoes.

Pizza ready for the oven and pear
frangipane tarts - yum

Guests brought along lots of other wonderful stuff, so the polytunnel table was soon groaning with a huge spread - though everyone did their very best to get through it.

Didn't get to the table quickly enough to take
a photo of it in full glory!

Danny and Dan took charge of the pizza oven with great skill

And our guests also washed up - it made a great early Christmas present!

Joy of Washing Up - and Frogs!

Thank you to all the volunteers who have helped us this year and worked so hard. Special thanks to Hassan, who has been a brilliant support and really made a difference to the site. Also to Chris, who has as always got us to get going, had some excellent ideas and kept us well entertained with his singing. Joyce - lived up to Tracey's nickname for her - Joy of Gardening, and was a wonderful friend, being especially willing to turn out for early and late calls. Andrea, Ellie, Mark, Guy, Brian, Dan, Danny and Jason have all been stalwarts during the week, with Kathy, Lynn, Rosie, Steven, Sibel, Ash, Rowan, Jeremy, Dianne and Derek being a big help at events. We also welcomed back Helen, Ellis, Matt and Dan for visits, and had help from many visitors especially Gateway to Nature and classes from Robert Shaw Primary (thanks to Sheila for organising this).

What a great year - here's to the next one!

Thursday 11 December 2014

When Life Hands You Hay....

The lovely people at Woodthorpe Park have lots of spare hay bales to give away at the moment, so we took advantage of the offer, and got a load, re-carpeting Tracey's car with stray hay stalks as we did so! The hay is cut from meadows on the Council's parkland, but the bales we have don't seem to have much obvious seed in them. We're hoping that this makes them useful for lots of different things in the allotment. 

One thing we were interested in trying was this - 

From Permaculture Magazine

This was really Hassan's baby, as he suggested that we should make an insulated cold frame, and these bales will be great insulation. Brian should also get some thanks, as he kindly provided some old window panes which turned out to be exactly the right size to make a roof, and heavy enough not to blow away in the gales that immediately hit!

Hassan and Guy with bale-bed mark1

First, we tried putting the bales the same way up as they are in the image that gave us the idea. They we realised that with the low sun we get in Winter, the high-sides would mean that any plants would get very little direct light, so we turned the bales on to their flatter side instead. This made the bed sides lower so more light could get in.

The bed planted with lettuce

Then we added some well-composted manure on the surface of the soil, and planted some lettuce seedlings into it. Finally we added Brian's double glazing panels, which conveniently were just the right size to cover the top. We'll now monitor progress and let you know how the bed works for us. We're also hoping to plant into the bales themselves once they start decomposing.

The finished bed, covered with old window units.

Finally we treated ourselves to some well-earned soup - tagine-spiced butternut squash and sweet potato - made extra special with stars of orange zest stirred into it - delicious. You'll find the recipe in a separate post. 

Starry, starry soup....

Monday 24 November 2014

Wonderful weather, wonderful willow

Today we got a lovely Winter's day - a crisp and frosty start turning into a lovely sunny fresh day. The perfect weather to tackle the fedge. If you have kept an eye on this blog for a bit, you've probably met our fedge before - it's a fence made of living willow - a cross between a fence and a hedge - hence "fedge". Each year, it needs a haircut, because it yields some lovely pole wood, and also wood we can do other things with, like crafts. This year, some of it is also going to be used to create a new willow fedge at Chilwell School, and another one at Nottingham Trent University, which is great - our willow is going places!

Our fedge got some expert treatment from Hassan, who helped to deal with it last year, and has become a dab-hand at tying in the new growth that is bendy and working out which bits to cut out. Essentially, bending over the new bendy wood will make more of the buds sprout to provide a thickened barrier, and lots more new growth. If we don't bend it, then the fedge will quickly grow upwards, making a poor barrier with tall, thin trees.

Hassan vs. the fedge.
Our new recruits Danny and Dan did a great job in cutting out the thicker stems for use in living willow work, and also in making some wreaths with some of the cuttings (which are wonderfully bendy at this stage).

Dan decides which stem to cut

Danny working on the fedge

Dan sizes up a stem

Thursday 20 November 2014

Of Mice and Men and Peas and Salad...

One of the great things about having a polytunnel is that you can grow things inside when the weather isn't warm enough to grow things outside. That same polytunnel is a nice warm place for critters as well - especially rodents. These animals aren't stupid - they watch us trying to grow things with amusement and then come along and snack at will, unless we "help them make different choices".

One of the things we found last year is that the little darlings (yes, my teeth were gritted when I typed that), really do take the mickey. We planted some lettuce, and they waited until it was growing nicely, then nipped off the stems and just ate the succulent bases, leaving the leaves in a little pile by way of saying "ner ner na ner ner" to us. They also like peas and do the same thing. We tried a few ways of stopping them but found that the allure of peas was even enough to persuade them to shin up a slick metal pot stand - we had visions of mice with crampons and ice-axes, or pole-vaulting voles...!

Pricking out Winter salads

This year, we're going for the high-level solution, so Ellie, Guy and Brian pricked out some Winter lettuce, lamb's lettuce (also called "corn salad") and planted some peas, and we hung them on trays well above the ground. We also constructed a gadget using 2 metal chairs on the table, with a tray resting between them. Hopefully these will do the trick. We've discovered before that the key is to get the plants to a large enough stage as these choosy pests don't seem interested once the initial "gourmet treat" stage is past.

Ellie and Brian with some of the "anti mouse" measures

Anti mouse or adventure playground for the wee beasties?!
Looks like Ellie's not sure.

Of course we various other things before we did the vermin vanquishing stuff. Hassan and Andrea did a brilliant job with the continuing project of weeding out the fruit cage, with Tracey lending a small hand. Brian put up a much-needed shelf in the loo, so we can hopefully avoid snails enjoying the loo roll now! And we had a very nice lunch - carrot and beetroot soup (all our own produce), with bread, cheese and our own preserves - sauerkraut, green tomato chutney and green-bean piccalilli - very nice!

Enjoying lunch in the polytunnel

Recipe - Carrot & Beetroot Soup 
1/2 lb / 450g carrots 
1/2 lb / 450g beetroot
2 large onions 
2 cloves of garlic
1 pint / 1/2 litre Vegetable stock 
Coconut oil
Coriander seed powder
Celery "salt"
Cream cheese
Nut butter (for vegans)

  • Remove leaves from beetroot, rinse then place in a pan of water and boil until soft. Leave to cool then rub off skins and dice the flesh.
  • Chop onion and carrot and mince garlic.
  • Saute all in a little coconut oil for around 10 minutes. 
  • Add vegetable stock, and around 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander and celery "salt" or more to taste.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrot is soft, then blitz with a hand-blender or liquidiser.
  • At this stage, if vegan you can stir in one or 2 tablespoons of your favourite nut butter, or if veggie, the same of cream cheese. It is still good without these additions, but they make it more of a meal in itself.
  • Add more water if needed to give a cream soup consistency and add salt if needed.
Enjoy with fresh crusty bread (we like sourdough).

Thursday 13 November 2014

Getting ready for Winter, or not.

Winter may or may not be around the corner. There are lots of confused plants all around us at Windmill. The hazel saplings that we have in pots have put out next year's leaves already, and we have poppies and marigolds in April and May mode springing up all over the place. We aren't seeing many flying insects (apart from the whitefly!), so some things may be getting the idea, but there are healthy populations of aphids appearing in some of our Winter brassicas.

Hassan and friend discuss the unseasonably mild weather

Squirrels seem to be making preparations - we keep finding big juicy hazelnuts when we are digging, and we find various frogs have staked out nice cosy hollows around the grounds. We're hoping the birds don't get confused - a few years ago a pair of robins nested really early and there was a freeze, so we know it can happen. Hopefully the reducing day length will be a sufficient hint to them.

Guy, Mark and Michael take the lid off the fruit cage
We decided we would start to make Winter changes anyway, and took off the net from the fruit cage. It's a fiddly job, but fortunately we had enough help to make it easy, and the net is now safely stashed away for next year. With any luck, as we dig over and mulch the area, we'll be helped to get rid of pests by the birds that can now get into the fruit bushes. We also took the time to cut off the old growth on the blackberry / raspberry cross and thornless blackberry plants that we have planted around the edge of the fruit cage. We then tied in the new growth so it won't be damaged by winter storms and we will hopefully get a good crop next year. We also layered some of the stems - pegging their ends down into the ground. This should hopefully create a rooted plant that we can pot up next year.

Ellie tying in new stems on one of the blackberries

Lunch was a just reward for hard work - savoury gram-flour pancakes with a lentil dahl - filling in just small portions, though the crispy and yummy pancakes meant that everyone had seconds of those.

Chickpea pancake in preparation

New volunteers Dan and Danny lifted some of the vine cuttings taken from Hassan's black grapes on Monday, and Ellie helped to pot up the ones from the bottle bed. They have rooted mightily! The roots are so deep that we had to abandon digging some of them out. We'll have another go next week, as we know some people would love to have them, and we have some ideas about where we want to plant them ourselves.

The few vines we managed to pot up.

Chris showing an idea for a gardener's coat of arms...?!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Things that go bump In the night, and volunteers who put them right.

That was a week we'd rather not repeat, though it ended well.

Some part of Tracey's brain must have noticed the big hole in the fence as she arrived at Windmill on Monday morning, because she reports thinking, "Sod it, we've been broken into," but doesn't remember noticing the gap  until she had opened the gate and discovered that the shed had been ransacked. We don't think she's got paranormal powers!

Fortunately for us, the delightful night visitors hadn't left any calling cards or broken much, but they did steal some stuff that we really need on site. They also cut the fence into little bits. Andrea and Hassan did a great job fixing this and adding some useful spiky cuttings behind it which we hope may be enough of a deterrent for the time being. 

Tracey meanwhile was ringing round to do the necessary, and was soon giving a guided tour to a police officer. Then we were delighted to get a visit from a CSI, who dusted for prints and blood (our "visitors" had taken all the plasters and wipes from the first aid kit), and also used his height to help us re-connect the door defences. On tidying up, we found some things missing, but lots of stuff just chucked about - partly because the thief seems to have a liking for clip-top boxes and emptied the contents on the floor to just take the container. Annoyingly, it's not that long since we sorted our extensive collection of cutlery into separate labelled boxes!

The scene we met in the shed on Monday

By Thursday, we had our fingers crossed as we arrived, but all was ok. Tracey, Chris, Hassan and Mark spent the morning taking out the tomatoes from the polytunnel, and potting up the peppers and aubergine to see if we can get them to overwinter. Then we were joined by Joyce, Brian and new volunteer Ellie, for another pumpkin risotto (nobody complained!) and a spot of potato harvesting.

Hassan removes the last of the tomato plants.
Mark pots up a pepper to over-winter

That last bit may sound wrong, given the time of year, but these were the Autumn potatoes we planted in August - Charlotte and Maris Peer - to give us new potatoes for Christmas. We planted some in cut-down plastic dustbins we'd been given, to make them easier to harvest. The plants grew very quickly, but they didn't last too long, as they got blight, so we cut down the tops and removed them. Doing this, and then leaving the potatoes in the soil for some weeks protects the harvest from spoiling, as the blight spores don't get to them. 

Harvesting the spuds - the bin-tops mean it's less far to bend.

New volunteer Ellie helping with the harvest
Given their very short growing season, we were not expecting much when we harvested the crop, but very quickly, we were digging up buried treasure! The dustbin tops could just be removed by pulling them off, leaving a nice loose pile of soil to sort through, so that worked well, and in fact, the potatoes in the dustbins seemed to do better than the others. Comparing the 2 varieties, the Charlottes didn't do much (having got blight really quickly), but the Maris Peer (which had resisted blight for much longer) did really well. We now have a lovely bucket-full of "new" potatoes for our Festive Fuddle. It's on Thursday, December 18th from 12 noon - bring some food to share - hope to see you!

A lovely crop - including some Apache potatoes
that got into the mix by accident...

Wednesday 29 October 2014

More Pumpkin Recipes!

So if you have followed this blog for a while, you probably realised that there are pumpkin recipes around in October, and at other times, as we really enjoy cooking with this lovely fruit. It tastes great and it's good for you!

Here are some new recipes for you to try. We think you'll like them a lot.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

20oz freshly-baked pumpkin diced
1 large leek, cleaned, white parts chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

½ celeriac, peeled and chopped

2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and chopped

3 ½  good-quality vegetable stock

1 teaspoon crumbled fresh sage (or ½ teaspoon dried sage)
1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Dash of nutmeg

1 cup apple cider

½  cup plain greek yogurt

Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (optional)

1. Gently steam the leeks, onion, celery root, and apples in a large soup pot with ¼ pint of the stock until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add remaining stock and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add sage, thyme, salt, turmeric, nutmeg, and a few grinds of pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
4. Process about half the soup in a blender or with a hand-held blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the cider and yogurt. Soup should be slightly chunky. Gently heat, but do not boil. Sprinkle each bowl of hot soup with a little Cheddar, if using.
Serves 8.

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
8oz flour
6oz sugar

3oz unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½  teaspoons baking powder

1 ½  teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon mixed spice

½ pint buttermilk
/ skimmed milk
1 ½ pints of pumpkin puree
5oz dark brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature

1 large egg white at room temperature

2oz vegetable oil

2oz golden syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 150C / Gas 4 / 350F. Lightly grease a cake ring-pan (sometimes called a Bundt pan).
2. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, mixed spice and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Blend milk, pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Beat in whole egg and egg white. Stir in oil, corn syrup and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
4. Bake the cake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 1 to 1 ¼ hours. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on the rack, about 2 hours.
Makes 16 servings.

Pumpkin Fudge
Unhealthy but delicious!

      1lb 6 oz white sugar
      large can evaporated milk
      2oz golden syrup
      4oz pumpkin puree
      pinch salt
      1 teaspoon mixed spice
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      4oz butter
      3 oz chopped walnuts (optional)

      Butter or grease one 8x8 inch pan.
      In a large, heavy-based saucepan, mix together sugar, milk, syrup, pumpkin and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling. Do not stir.
      When mixture registers 232 degrees F (110 degrees C) on candy thermometer, or forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, remove pan from heat. Stir in mixed spice, vanilla, butter and nuts. Cool to lukewarm (110 degrees F or 43 degrees C on candy thermometer).
Beat mixture until it is very thick and loses some of its gloss. Quickly pour into a greased eight-inch pan. When firm cut into 36 squares.

Pumpkin Pie

175g granulated sugar
½ tsp salt 

1 tsp ground cinnamon 

½ tsp ground ginger 

¼ tsp ground cloves 

2 eggs 

300g pumpkin purée (tinned or fresh) 

350g evaporated milk 

1 unbaked 23cm/9in deep-dish pastry case
(or line a deep 23cm/9in tart tin with shortcrust pastry)


1. Preheat oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl.
3. Beat the eggs lightly in large bowl.
4. Stir the pumpkin purée and sugar-spice mixture into eggs.
5. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk.
6. Pour into the pastry case.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
8. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
9. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.
10. Serve immediately or chill.

Do not freeze (although uncooked pumpkin mixture can be frozen).

Saturday 25 October 2014

Perfect Pumpkin Celebration!

Gorgeous pumpkins from Deborah Garlick and her daughter
We are still on a high after today's fabulous Pumpkin Celebration. We had a ball, and judging by the comments, so did those who attended. We had so much fun, with over 40 carved pumpkins to see, lots of delicious pumpkin foods to taste, even pumpkin spa products! Apart from that, there was apple pressing, 20 different apples to taste, apple bobbing, pin a face on the pumpkin, crafts, a feely box and a well dressing, amongst many other things (including some fairly dreadful pumpkin-themed jokes!). Prizes went to Lynn Taylor, for the largest pumpkin, and to Arpit from NTU, for his Minion 3D pumpkin.

Pumpkins ready for carving

The morning carving workshop gets going

Sharon's masterpiece - a fire-breathing dragon.

Ash gets his teeth into pumpkin carving...

A "Kathy Holmes Special" peeled pumpkin with Autumn leaves

Pumpkins in all directions!

The volunteers were brilliant, mucking in (and out!) to ensure that the event went well. Special thanks to Andrea who brought along her friend Vanessa, and did a grand job cleaning out the polytunnel, despite being full of cold. She also supplied a splendid banner for the day and helped arrange pumpkins in the orchard in a lovely display. Joyce (mistress of all crafts), Hassan (expert pumpkin display maker), Kathy (pumpkin spa and apple tasting expert), Mark (able to carve pumpkins and child wrangle), Jeremy (pancake maker extraordinaire), Ash & Rowan (master apple pressers), Rosy (maid of all works), Dianne (mucking in 1), Derek (mucking in 2) and Brian (good ideas bod) all made a great contribution, and their efforts are also hugely appreciated. Ni Claydon also deserves a mention for providing her famous pumpkin pie filling, which was much enjoyed. Tracey also had a great time carving pumpkins and pretending this was work rather than fun.

We'd like to thank all those who contributed the carved pumpkins to this event - those from Gateway to Nature, Nottingham Trent University, Edwalton School and our own Carving Workshop, who contributed carved pumpkins. We are also delighted by the support our local Coops have provided. Strelley Coop supplied pumpkins for the carving workshop, and Aspley Coop helped us with ingredients for the food - we've thanked them both by providing carved pumpkins to display (they seemed thrilled!).

We'll be adding some extra recipes in another post shortly, so keep an eye out for those.