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 May 2014

Attack of the Green Meanies...

In Nature, it's true that there is a balance as most things act as food for something else, and most pests eventually turn into dinner for predators. Of course the balance tends to run in ups and downs,  rather than staying on the level, and at Windmill we're clearly on an aphid high - the polytunnel has suddenly become "greenfly-a-gogo".

Things are rarely simple, and that's how it is with aphids. It helps to think of them as little green sap collectors for ants. Ants, you may remember, had decided that the polytunnel was the party tent for the allotment, so we have already removed 3 nests, but they still seem to be getting in from somewhere. The result is that you remove the aphids from the plants (literally rubbing them all off by hand), spray the plant with a washing up liquid and oil solution to at least annoy any remaining aphids, and then return the next morning to find that the ants have replaced them, because surely not even aphids can breed as fast as that... 

We've tried putting some ladybirds into the polytunnel, but their numbers aren't high enough yet, and our experience is that it's the babies that really get to grips with the aphids, so they probably aren't going to do the job quickly enough. 

Guy checks the tomatoes for aphids
So what to do now? Well, we have already decided to use our unplanted peppers and chillis as lure-plants, because we know they seem to get covered in aphids when other plants aren't affected, and they have already become sad little specimens. These have been put in the empty area which is awaiting the later planting of tomatoes to lengthen the season. Another trick is to put something reflective under the plants. This apparently upsets the aphids, as they normally prefer to be under the leaf on the shaded side, and the reflected light confuses them. In trials, plants with reflective mulches under them apparently had only 15% of the aphids found on un-mulched plants. Not sure if it will help in our trial, but we can tell you that after 1 day, we had some plants with aphids on the top side of some leaves, rather than on the bottom. Finally, we've introduced french marigolds into some parts of the tunnel. Our experience of these is that the aphids rush onto them, though some friends swear that they repel aphids. We'll see which of these is true this time, but we just hope they work!

Our pie-tin reflector system

We'll see if it works...
We'll keep you posted as to whether this works. Our next stop will be introducing predatory wasps...

Thursday 22 May 2014

Not so wet after all.

We got lucky today, as the forecast rain held off until mid-afternoon. It meant we could do all kinds of fun stuff that wouldn't have worked if it had been pouring.  It also meant that several visitors turned up without getting wet - always a bonus. Martin and Brian came to have a look round, and Komala returned to bring the Nepali saag seeds she promised us. And the Nottingham Post managed to fit in taking photos of us for their Cash for Community scheme just before the heavens opened! If you take the paper, please clip the coupons for us when they start to appear - we would be vastly grateful.

Komala with her seeds. Joyce already thinking
about what to cook them with...

New volunteer Brian

Hassan and Martin got to work to weed through the hugelkultur bed, and the area by the strawberry arc, then Hassan planted them up with squash and pumpkin. Joyce, Dean and Mark planted a living mulch of lettuce on the high pumpkin bed. Tracey brought plants for the pond and at the end of the session, managed to get them in without getting wet from the pond, though the heavens opened, so she got wet from the rain instead!

Joyce and Komala prepare the seed bed for the saag

Lunch in the polytunnel.

Hassan tried an experiment with mycelium powder. This is normally sold as "root grow". We've used it before in the fruit cage, when we planted our bushes, but now we're trying it with annual plants. The powder contains fungal spores to help plants develop a fungal root system that links with their own one, and gives them a much greater area to gather moisture and food.

Remove plant from pot and moisten roots.

Dip plant in root-grow medium

Some of the granules will stick to the plant,
and will inoculate the roots with fungal spores.

Hassan taking a break after planting squash

Sunday 18 May 2014

Aye Up Me Duck, it's a Sunny Sunday!

Great morning's work by a happy band of sun-worshippers! Looks like the pond has been given a major seal - or should that duck of approval. We'll see if that causes problems in the long term, but in the meantime, they do brighten up the place.

Mr and Mrs Mallard are in the house.

Thanks to our fairy-fed mother, Lynn (the local rep for the Federation of City Farms and Community Growers), who arrived with some beans from Poland (no Pole-bean jokes please!). These heritage beans apparently should be grown up something recycled for a project, so what could be more "recycled" than our lovely bicycle-wheel trellis?

Trellis ready for beans.

One of the beans goes in. We'll keep you posted as to how
well they grow.

The volunteers for today - Ash, Rowan, Chris and Tracey were delighted to welcome back old friend of the project, Matt Hilton, who cycled in, got his gloves on and got going.

Matt did a particularly good job of removing ant's nests from the polytunnel. We often just let ants get on with it, but as 3 groups had taken up residence, and were happily farming aphids on all our crops, we couldn't let them stay. If you didn't know, ants use aphids as a source of "honey dew", a nice phrase for what is essentially aphid wee. This sticky stuff is full of sugars, which the ants collect and take back to the nest for food. Getting rid of ants should help reduce aphids, as ants literally farm them - moving them around plants. We dug out the breeding chambers, and placed the eggs and ants in a part of the garden where they won't be a problem.

Matt gets to grips with the ants.

The rest of the group did lots of needed jobs outside - mowing the lawn, watering newly planted crops and finishing tidying up the last of the wood we cut this year. 

Ash watering with perfect colour-coordination!

 We also planted some more squash, the last of the baby corn (i.e. the ones that grow into little stir-fry corn cobs), and Chris, Matt and Tracey managed to do the first lot of planting in the polytunnel. We've now got a nice selection of tomatoes, some cucumbers, mouse melons (also known as thimble cucumbers, melothrie and cucamelons), galia melons and basil.  The place is looking good!

Chris experiences Gardener's Delight...

Cucumbers, melons and tomatoes. No ants...

Tomato ring-culture section
 Some of the tomatoes were planted in ring-culture - ie. in bottomless pots that will be filled up with compost as the plants grow to allow them to make even more roots. You then water into the pot, and direct the water straight into the roots without wasting any. It's always worked pretty well for us.

Here's another little trick that's worth trying. With cut and come again lettuce, we are told to cut the outside leaves off the plant, and leave the middle. The only problem with that is that the stem gets long and leggy after a bit. We have a slightly different take on cut and come again.

Lettuce harvested last week has already started to regrow.

We know the outer leaves of lettuce are often a bit tough and get discarded, so we cut off the lettuce just above these. This leaves the middle of the lettuce looking rather bald, but it has lots of roots in the ground, so it soon sprouts new leaves from the sides. These grow quickly, so you can keep harvesting for quite a while from the same plant.

2 weeks of growth.

Friday 16 May 2014

All Change at Windmill.

It's all change at Windmill. We are soon to be born again as an independent organisation, which will hopefully mean longer opening hours and lots of fun activities. If you are interested in getting involved, let us know.

If you fancy sponsoring us to do some activities, have some ideas for where we can get funding, or want to help with sourcing funding or some freebies, we'd be delighted to hear from you too.

If you need some fresh fruit and veg, some plants or some seeds, pay us a visit and see what we have. At the moment, we're rich in strawberry plants, lettuce and rhubarb, and we've got a good range of fruit bushes and saplings available.

And, as always, if you fancy doing a little light gardening or just want to turn up for a chat, we are open  every Thursday from 10am until 2pm (though opening hours are likely to increase shortly.) We love visitors, and we are happy to feed you at lunchtime for a small donation.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Get planting, get fed!

The amazing regulars, who worked through last Thursday's rain finally got their just rewards today. Wonderful weather, and we got loads done, though the pictures make it look as if we were just goofing around! The sweetcorn is now all in, as are most of the pumpkins and squashes. Well done all, but especially Joyce who stayed until 7pm. Moral of the story - if Tracey says she'll stay on a bit to miss the worst of the traffic, you might be here a while if you keep her company!

Chris enjoying his tea-break

Mark getting used to the UK climate again
after his European travels (like the hat!)
Newly planted celebration squash.

Hassan was still feeling strong after planting all the pumpkins

Not sure if Joyce is posing or dancing, but she
worked like a trojan, so I'm not arguing!

Great food as always - this time we had a delicious risotto using the first peas and broad beans of the season, alongside stored onions, freshly gathered sage, asparagus and red-orach tops. If you think you don't like broad beans, try them when they are still small, and we're sure you'll love them. Everyone agreed that the food looked great and tasted better. Another great low-energy recipe from the Windmilll Outdoor Kitchen!

Spring-Fresh Risotto - Recipe to serve 6

2 mugs of basmati or risotto rice
4 mugs boiling water
1 large onion finely chopped
Knob of organic butter or coconut oil
3 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 mug of freshly podded beans and peas
6 asparagus spears washed and chopped into 1cm sections.
6 sage leaves chopped finely
Red orach tops to taste (we used about 12 leaves) chopped finely
Grated strong cheddar to taste ( we used about 125 grams or 5 oz)

Brown the onion in the fat until it starts to look transparent. Add the rice and the stock powder and stir in, then add the water and bring to the boil. Cook for 2 minutes whilst stirring, then add the vegetables. Boil for another 2 minutes whilst stirring, add herbs and stir in, then put the lid on the pot, remove from the heat and place in a hay box or wrap in towels to keep it warm. After 10 minutes, check the rice is cooked, then add a splash of boiling water to loosen the rice, and the grated cheese. Stir in and serve.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

The Future Factory brighten up the place

Thank you to the wonderful folk from Nottingham Trent University Future Factory, who worked so hard on repainting one of our beds on a blustery Wednesday. They also remained cheerful when the swirling wind kept blowing out the kelly kettle so warm drinks were delayed (we still think the kelly kettle is a wonderful device - next job - design a shelter!).

Ready to get started!

Being at Windmill,  the NTU team had to use elbow-grease to
take the paint off the beds, but they set to with gusto.

Base coat - non-toxic, low VOC paint, of course!

The start of the art work - going well.

Adding extra touches.

Andy and Lizzy get on with weeding the fire circle

Finished! Thanks to Angela, Hanna, Paul, Suborna, Siobhan
and Andy - well done all!

It was great to meet everyone, and we're delighted with the results of their efforts. Thanks to them also for giving the fire-circle and herb area a much-needed tidy up. And thanks to regular volunteer Lizzy for helping out as well, despite lack of sleep.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Spring Cleaning for May Day

Today - May Day is a great time for new beginnings, and it was interesting to notice how pretty much everyone that turned up was in the mood to do some Spring cleaning!

Admittedly, the shed (or "the House of Mouse" as we'll need to call it after a whole family of them moved in) is in dire need of another clear out, and probably a complete revamp, but the forecast showed the potential for heavy showers, so we concentrated on the outside instead. Everyone worked really hard, and it shows. 

The site looking all spruce up and tidy.

Lizzie, Scott and Dean did a great job of scything and mowing the grass in the orchard. 

Hassan and Chris moved the tyres from the polytunnels and used them to create potato towers.  

Filling up the potato-tower tyres.
We had a visit from a local resident who found out about us and wanted to see what we do. Komala is from Nepal, so we were delighted when she promised us some seeds from a native Saag plant that she likes to cook with.

Komala visited us to find out about Windmill. Tracey showed
her around.

Lunch was a Moroccan inspired dish with chickpeas, that used the last of our Acorn squash from last year, along with our onions and Rainbow chard.

Rainbow chard - living up to its name!

All hands on deck to get lunch underway.

Moroccan-inspired chickpeas