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 26 June 2014

Summer Pudding, Broad Bean Hummus and Other Stories

Windmill is gorgeous at the moment. When you arrive, the scent of sweet peas greets you, and all the colours of the rainbow seem to be around in the flowers that are scattered liberally all over the place (not weeds - we want them there for the bees!). One of our visitors noticed that the scorzonera smelled of vanilla, so we all make sure we have a good smell of it as we pass, and the wild orchard smells of honey from the madder (white bedstraw). The place even sounds beautiful, with all the birds going full-tilt.

Some of the sounds weren't quite so relaxing. We had one odd moment over lunch, when we realised that in the middle of the birdsong, for the first time ever, we could hear 2 trains approaching each other on the railway which borders the gardens, just out of site behind the trees. You could see the thought processes going on in everyone's head - "That's 2 trains about to meet - never heard that before - hope it's a double line!" We are happy to report there were no large bangs, so we must assume it's a twin-track out there!

A gorgeous display of berries from the fruit cage.

Even the fruit looks amazing, with gorgeous colours from purple to gold. Once again, the white currant has prove its worth as the birds haven't noticed it, so we still have a good crop despite having left it rather late to put the netting lid on the fruit cage. We must thank Martin, who being the tallest, got the job of standing in the nettles to get the net into place. He did a great job, and helped us to make sure the net was securely fixed. Thanks also to Dean and Mark for making sure that we got all the edges as tight as possible and helped us check for holes. Hopefully the rest of the currants and the gooseberries will be safe now.

Dean and Mark also made sure that the polytunnel was kept in check, as the tomatoes are trying to go out of control, as usual. If you leave a little side shoot on Monday, it's grown into a bush of its own by Thursday, so we need to keep on top of them so we can grow lots of plants in not much space. Komala also joined us, and helped Joyce to add some plants that we've never grown in the polytunnel before - watermelons.  We're really interested to see how they do.

Dean coping well with the heat in the polytunnel.

Chris and Hassan picked the strawberries for us - about 2.5kg this time, so everyone got a good sized punnet to take away with them. Hassan also harvested our garlic crop, which did well despite getting rust late on. Tracey's son Ash has finished his exams, so he joined us too, and made a great job of mowing the lawn and the path in the wild orchard.

Hassan just about straightening up again after a mammoth
strawberry harvest.

We've even got a strawberry bog at Windmill.

Ash's post-mowing selfie!

Lunch had a Mediterranean feel, with Greek salad and broad bean hummus. And the summer pudding went down a treat - proof that simple ingredients can taste amazing. We were joined for lunch by Lynn from FCFCG and Claire from Flourish - a community allotment in Ilkeston who had come to see what we do here. Another lovely day in a lovely place.

Claire from Flourish, volunteer Mark and Lynn enjoying lunch

Joyce - Greek salad-making queen and all-round good egg.
If you'd like to know how to make the hummus or the pudding, scroll down for the recipes.

Tracey was relieved that we liked the Broad Bean hummus
because she's made rather a lot of it...

Broad Bean Hummus
This dish is great as a dip, as a pate for bread, or as an accompaniment to a greek salad.


Pint measuring jug of shelled broad beans
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
Soy sauce or salt
Paprika or sumac powder
  • Boil broad beans until tender (just a few minutes for small ones, up to 8 minutes for older large ones). For old beans, slit the skins and pop them out into a bowl.
  • Add the garlic, cumin and a pinch of salt or a slosh of soy sauce.
  • Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and then mash with a potato masher or fork, or mush with a stick blender until all mixed together. 
  • Add extra oil as needed to make a hummus-like texture and lemon juice to taste (we used about 1/2 a lemon's worth).
  • Place in a serving dish and top with a scattering of paprika or sumac powder.

Summer Pudding 
Proof that all you need for a great dessert is fresh fruit and bread.

Fresh summer fruit - about 500g / 1 heaped punnet
We used strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants.
Sugar or other sweetening to taste.
Small loaf of sliced wholemeal bread.
  • Wash fruit and drain, then place in a saucepan and stir in some sugar to start the juice flowing 
  • Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the fruit has made plenty of juice.
  • Taste to check sweetness (we used about 2 tablespoons as we had quite a lot of berries which are tart, and heating fruit also makes it taste more acid). 
  • Take a 1 pint pudding basin or similar size bowl. Place a slice of bread on top of the fruit to let it soak up some of the juice and place it in the bottom of the bowl. 
  • Repeat the process and place the next slice on the side of the bowl, overlapping the first slice by about 2 finger widths. It's best if the top of the slice comes above the edge of the bowl.
  • Repeat with more slices to line the whole bowl, placing each to overlap slightly with its neighbours and pressing it so all of the bread is flat against the side of the bowl.
  • Pour the fruit and remaining juice into the bowl to almost fill it, but leaving enough room to place a final slice of bread on the top.
  • Bend the tops of the side slices onto the last slice, filling any gaps with torn bread.
  • If there is a gap at the top, you can add more juice.
  • Place a plate on top of the bowl and press firmly to push the bread against the fruit to make sure it soaks up the juice.
  • Place in fridge for several hours. Once ready, the pudding can be loosened by running a knife around the edge and turned out onto a serving plate, though it's fine just to spoon it out.
  • Serve with greek yoghurt or a little organic cream.

Monday 23 June 2014

There's a Moral to this Story

Windmill was looking lovely

Had a great morning at Windmill, which was looking beautiful, but it was a lesson in looking at the weather radar. Spent about 2 hours solid watering, then it POURED!

Well done to Hassan, Joyce and Alex for all their hard work, and hopefully they'll enjoy the fruit of their labours - everyone took home a punnet of strawberries, and Tracey has used the extra to make strawberry and elderflower cordial and strawberry jam for us to enjoy on Thursday!

Hassan did great work watering.
  1. Alex made time to pick the flowers too

    And the heavens opened!

    Recipe - Elderflower and Strawberry Cordial

    you will need:

    20 large elder flowerheads, 
    5 unwaxed lemons, 
    2 pints / 1 litre of water
    2lbs /1kg of sugar
    500g strawberries

    1. Use a potato peeler to take the lemon zest off the lemons and set aside.
    2. Stir sugar into the water, and bring to the boil. 
    3. Add the zest to the syrup and boil for a few minutes longer, then remove from the heat.
    4. Juice the lemons, then chop them into chunks and add both to the syrup, along with the flowers. Stir thoroughly and cover with a scalded and rung-out tea towel. 
    5. Leave to infuse for 24 hours.
    6. Put the strawberries in a pan with a cup of the liquid and heat gently until the fruit is soft. 
    7. Pass the strawberries through a sieve into the elderflower liquid.
    8. Fill some jars or bottles with boiling water to sterilise them, then empty.
    9. Strain the juice into a jug and use to fill the bottles. 
    10. Fish out a few of the larger slices of lemon zest to add to the bottles then seal them.
    11. Alternatively, add the juice to ice-cube trays and freeze.
    12. Juice will keep for about 1 month in the fridge, or 6 months or more in the freezer. Dilute with water to taste or use as an ice-cream syrup or to flavour jellies.
    13. An added touch is to make this when you make strawberry jam, and use the strained liquid to wash the remaining jam from the sides of the pan to push in even more strawberry flavour and colour.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Bouncing Baby Robins (and lots of other work, honest!)

Today we discovered that it's hard to work whilst being watched by baby robins. There are a few issues. The first is that they are so cute, it's difficult to concentrate on the job in hand, and not just watch them. The second is that they tend to get pretty close, so you have to keep an eye on where they are to avoid the possibility of hurting them with a tool you are using (they probably would get out of the way in time, but we sometimes use scythes - yikes!). Then there's also the temptation to provide them with snacks when you find tasty mini beasts of appropriate size (which is what they are waiting for - don't kid yourself that they are there because they want to make friends!).

We've also got some wonderful flowers growing, which make us want to keep stopping and looking. This poppy is especially amazing, so we'll collect seeds and see if they provide the same result.

Amazing bi-coloured fringed double poppy

Despite the distractions, Hassan, Martin and Mark managed to tidy up the weeds and revamp the fancy flowers by the front gate, so the entrance is now looking welcoming again, instead of being a display of weeds that grow well in gravel...

Mark and Hassan smarten up the entrance. Baby robin declined
to sit still long enough for a focussed photo!

Whilst the guys were doing that, Chris got the tidying bug as well, and took the opportunity to give the container garden area a good haircut.

Chris giving the container area a short back and sides

Now you can see the containers again!

Chris takes a well-earned rest

We are delighted with some of the crops this year. It feels as if the improvements we made to the soil have made a big difference. The bed looking the most happy is the 3 Sisters bed, with corn, beans and squashes growing together to support each other. Everything in the bed is looking lush and growing well. This probably means something's about to go wrong, but we might as well be positive whilst we can! 

The Three Sisters Bed is rocketing away

One crop we have that's incredibly easy is callaloo. It grows so easily and it's seed is always scattered at the end of the season, so you know you'll get easily weeded seedlings as soon as the weather warms up a bit. They can be transplanted to the new bed when you do a rotation, and the rest composted. It's probably a good candidate for a late green manure or mulch crop.

Komal planted up the callaloo in the Jamaican bed
 If any readers are good on bug identification, you might be able to help, as we can't id this bug - it's about the size of a ladybird, but isn't in the main books.

Mystery bug

 Lunch was pea and bean risotto -  even better than last time we did this, as we had more peas and beans to add to it. Guy is becoming a dab-hand at acting as Sous-Chef, and did a great job helping Tracey with preparation.

Guy podding peas for the risotto

Risotto in progress - a real treat!

Sitting down to lunch. Even the folk who weren't sure about
risotto changed their minds - result!

Thursday 12 June 2014

Hotting up and beetling about

Windmill was boiling today. It was the kind of weather where people venture into the polytunnel and quickly back out again, even with all the vents open. Fortunately there were lots of jobs we could do outside, which included creating one of the most "local" meals we've had this year. We gathered a boiling of the first potatoes of the year, and made them into a warm salad with onions also gathered fresh from the ground, and thyme from our herb patch. We teamed that with a salad from the lettuce mulch we've got growing around our brassicas, to which we added leaves from our red orache, beetroot, nasturtium, marjoram, coriander and chives, as well as petals from the marigolds and chives. We dressed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and added a little cheese or cashew nuts to the mix - delicious, and incredibly fresh!

Enjoying lunch outside in the sun

Fresh and tasty - what more could you want?

Of course, there were still lots of jobs to get on with, and the volunteers are a hardy bunch, so they got on with things, despite the heat. First job was to mend all the holes in the fruit cage net - Guy and Tracey were the only ones with the patience for this fiddly job, but it's done now and the net is ready to go onto the cage shortly. Until then we've stored the net by twisting it until it lies in coils, so that it doesn't get tangled up. Thanks go to Lynn, our allotment fairy Godmother, for timely advice on this.

Net twisting in progress.
Lynn - purveyor of useful allotment advice!
 Lynn also let us know that asparagus beetle had appeared on her plot, so we had a look and discovered that ours was also home to several of the little bug***s. Dear reader, I'm afraid we squashed them - seems like the only way to make a difference. Now we need to keep a lookout for the caterpillars to emerge, as it's almost impossible to remove all the eggs from the plant, though we did have a go.

An asparagus beetle caught in the act.
Another job was to transplant some of Komala's Nepalese Saag, which we are looking forward to trying soon. Looks as if the pigeons like it too, so we had to net it. And we started harvesting some of our garlic. The bulbs look pretty good, and smell amazing - Carrie was certainly delighted to take one as part of her reward for an afternoon's hard work.

Nepalese sage ready to be covered by a net

Carrie with the fruits of her labour
(or should that be veg?!)

Thursday 5 June 2014


Chris made sure that we're ready for
the world cup!

One thing that Windmill is VERY good at growing is bindweed. It's a beautiful plant really, with white or pinkish trumpet flowers that appear as a twisted point which unfurls in the morning when the flower is ready. The problem is that it's too successful, and very difficult to eradicate. We knew this when we installed the fruit cage. We dug over the ground time after time to remove all traces of roots, but it quickly re-established, too late for us to dig up the bushes and remove it. The problem is that bindweed can regrow from a tiny fragment of root, so even a small piece missed will mean that you get a new plant. It can also be very deep rooted, so when you pull it out, the base of the root will just snap off and lie in wait.

Each year, we promise ourselves that we'll get on top of the problem, and each year, we discover lots of other more urgent jobs until we realise that the fruit bushes in the cage have so much bindweed on them that they are starting to get weighed down. We find that the best option seems to be pulling the bindweed out at the root then leaving it to dry on the bush. That way, you don't risk snapping branches or stripping off the fruit. The problem now will be trying to keep on top of it, because we know it will grow back. Hats off to Brian, Mark and Lizzy for battling through the bindweed and numerous other weeds to make the fruit cage look a bit more like we know what we're doing!

Brian, Mark and Lizzy venture into the jungle...

It was actually a really productive day at Windmill, not just about weeding. Chris, Hassan and Martin did a great job planting up the last of the brassicas in the high-bed, and sowed some kohlrabi as well, which we hope will get going quickly now the soil has warmed up.

The brassica 'dream team' get ready for action.

Komal, Guy and Carrie also worked like trojans, so everything that needed it got watered, and the polytunnel was proved to be nearly aphid free (thanks Guy and Dean).

Lunch in the polytunnel.

Lunchtime came with the added excitement of being able to taste the first elderflower cordial of the year - pronounced delicious by all present, and a nice reward for a job well done. The recipe is below, if you want to try it yourself.

For elderflower cordial, you will need:

20 large elder flowerheads, 
5 unwaxed lemons, 
2 pints / 1 litre of water
2lbs /1kg of sugar

  1. Use a potato peeler to take several slices of lemon zest then grate the rest of the rind from the lemons and set aside.
  2. Stir sugar into the water, and bring to the boil. 
  3. Add the zest to the syrup and boil for a few minutes longer, then remove from the heat.
  4. Juice the lemons, then chop them into chunks and add both to the syrup, along with the flowers. Stir thoroughly and cover with a scalded and rung-out tea towel. 
  5. Leave to infuse for 24 hours.
  6. Fill some jars or bottles with boiling water to sterilise them, then empty.
  7. Strain the juice into a jug and use to fill the bottles. 
  8. Fish out the larger slices of lemon zest to add to the bottles then seal them.
  9. Alternatively, add the juice to ice-cube trays and freeze.
  10. Juice will keep for about 1 month in the fridge, or 6 months or more in the freezer. Dilute with water to taste or use as an ice-cream syrup or to flavour jellies.