Monday, 8 August 2016

Empty Common - this morning - spot the squirrel!

A summer morning at the garden, quiet except for a pesky squirrel up the big oak... Enjoy.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Harvesting and watering time....

Summer is with us and it's raining quite a bit but of course volunteers still need to water in the polytunnel, where plants are growing at speed. These pictures were taken at the end of July just before the Transition Party.  

Beans, courgettes, salads, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers were harvested on a quiet Sunday morning. Below are some photos from May, when it was all about planting, watering and looking after tender plants....

Thursday, 14 July 2016

All united under the ECCG flag! Plus advice on pests

Sheltering in the polytunnel during a brief summer shower 

The flag was flying high while we shared food and friendship

On Sunday, about 20 of us met at the Garden - we enjoyed a shared lunch after a wonderful morning. A short burst of rain did not stop our enjoyment but suggested a rather fun photo opportunity. We are a multinational, multilingual community and in these troubled times, this is a big gift. So come and join us - commit the time you can, everybody is welcome, all ages and abilities. No gardening experience necessary but goodwill and generosity will be an advantage!

A giant kohlrabi

Our twig-powered kettle at work

Plenty of space to cartwheel

However even in paradise you have pests... our coordinator Charlotte gives us a lowdown:

'We are suffering from an explosion of slugs, woodlice and a newly learned habit of the squirrels. With all this wet weather the slugs and snails are very very happy. In an attempt to save our plants we have have been removing longish grass from the edges of the vegetable plots, cleaning out any weeds to keep the ground as clear and dry as possible. But what to do with a bucket of slugs and snails and no hens nearby?

There is research showing that caffeine deters and kills slugs. Researchers coated cabbage plants in caffeine solutions to see if slugs would be deterred from eating them. They discovered that at a concentration of just 0.01 per cent, caffeine reduced slugs’ feeding by one quarter. Given that a cup of instant coffee contains about 0.05 per cent caffeine that is pretty amazing.

They also discovered that 95 per cent of large slugs were killed by a spray containing two per cent caffeine. In fact the two-per-cent caffeine solution was found to be more effective than the standard 0.195 per cent metaldehyde treatment according to the research team.

So now we are off to get some more coffee grounds. The last lot were put out to protect squash plants planted into a mound of partially composted material. The plants were immediately eaten so we were disillusioned with the coffee ground theory. However we then discovered a mass of woodlice living in the mound and now believe they are the culprits. We planted the mound up with marigolds and they seem to be faring better, but its still early days. It is a lesson to let your compost heap or lasagne bed get well into the composted state before trying to grow squash and probably most young and delicate plants. I think we can say that coffee grounds don't seem to deter woodlice. Here is picture of woodlouse heaven....'

'Squirrels are eating our broad beans. Luckily the netting is saving some for us. We did get a lovely bucket-full on Sunday but only 100% netting cover is letting us get this crop. A couple of years ago allotment holders just up from us started having problems and we were exempt for our first two years. This year the squirrels have decided to come down to our end. Perhaps because so many allotment holders gave up on growing broad beans for squirrel parties? I wonder if other places have this problem, I couldn't find anything on it on the internet. Plenty of stuff written on bean stealing that goes on at the planting stage though.  Below is a picture of our harvest alongside squirrel's feast's debri.'

Due to interest when I posted this on Facebook within a Cambridge closed group, if you would like to find out more, you need to read the first blog post, here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Going wild, wild, wild! Two events at ECCG

We have a lot of exciting events happening at the Empty Common Community Garden. We are participating in the Cambridge Wild Weekend, a free event running from Friday 8 July at 8:00 pm to Sunday 10 July at 4:00 pm. Our specific event is below:

Sun 10 July - Morning - ‘A Garden for Life’ 
Empty Common Community Garden ECCG will be showing garden design and gardening for wildlife. We will have several posters and signs so people looking around can see the gardening styles and features, and how they have been designed to incorporate wildlife. There will be people to chat to about the project too. Everybody is welcome.

Plus, Transition Cambridge are having their party at Empty Common on 31 July. Info: 
Empty Common Community Garden, from14:00, FREE. Here's the info from their website: Join us for our annual summer party to celebrate another year of Transition fun, friendship and community action. Please bring simple food to share and your own plate/cup/cutlery to share for our picnic. If anyone has some suitable outdoor games - eg boules, twister mats etc. feel free to bring them too. A nearby pub, the Earl of Derby will be our rainy day back-up. Transitioners, friends and family of Transitioners - all welcome!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Summer is here but it's a mixed bag!

Getting a bed ready!
We are having a stop and go summer, the sun is warm but it's raining now and then. Still it's not as bad as in other counties, which have been flooded! Here is a pictorial update about the garden. I have a big backlog of photos, so watch this space! Thanks to all volunteers for sending these pics.

Strawberry beds - late April 2016
Grassy square - late April 2016
Outdoor beds - late April 2016

Central Circle - late April 2016

Enjoying the garden - late April 2016
Hazel copse and hugelkultur - late April 2016

Two poems/riddles by Michela, 9, who was inspired by the Garden... Leave your answer in the comments - solutions will be posted next time!

What am I?
I begin with w
I end with d
I am a flower with no pollen
I get no love from thee
I get no visits from bees
I come from all of the continents around the sea
What am I?

What am I?
I come to visit the flowers

That belong to thee
I don't come from the desert, nor the sea
I come from different varieties
I am more beautiful than faries
I don't end with an e
What am I?
Add caption
Add caption

Polytunnel - late April 2016

A new bed - May 2016

Glorious May blooms

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Busy bees in the garden...

Insects are getting busy in the garden - and volunteers too! I am posting last month's updates and some information on the Soil Health Talk that was delivered at the Garden on 8 May by Charlotte. The blog itself is thriving as we get readers from all over the world and have started to get spam comments, which I am removing. We are not here to advertise business ventures. This shows that we are faring well with SEO or spammers would not bother us. If you want to leave a genuine comment to advertise a similar, non-profit group, feel free... or to share your knowledge and experiences... or your gardening blog (provided it is not commercial in nature).

Comfrey was cut in May to make liquid fertiliser. On the right you can see a green manure crop called  Phacelia that should have been dug in but is just too pretty and too loved by the bees for anyone to bring themselves to do it. This green manure is growing on the community garden's Hugelkultur bed, which has plenty of rotting logs and organic matter at its heart.

Composting in May
Importing organic matter, May 2016

Soil Health talk - 8 May 2016
On Sunday 8th May, Charlotte gave a talk on Soil Health as a part of Transition Cambridge: "Eleven people turned up and we shared lunch before the talk and tour of the garden. The talk covered a brief overview of the desperate problems we have with our soil worldwide and also how we came to destroy them to such an extent. Examples of agricultural soil, a neighbouring orchard and new woodland all planted on the same land and within 30 yards of each other really highlighted the extent to which even 'good' agricultural land had removed the organic matter from our soils and destroyed its life and structure. The talk then covered soil structure, soil life and how plants and soil life interact. Lots of interdependence and symbiotic relationships were revealed, which really emphasised how compromised our agricultural soil had become. We then discussed how to improve our soil and look after our own plots of land with a tour showing what we are doing at Empty Common. It was a lovely day, with lots of input from everyone there and  people seemed to really enjoy it."

Here is feedback sent by one of the attendees: "I thought your talk was fantastic - full of interesting facts & insights - you've really inspired me to start gardening more."

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

It's nearly summer

June has arrived with a mix of weather but right now it's very warm and the watering rota has been re-established after a rainy period. Here is a collection of photos sent by our volunteers. We have a big backlog of pictures, thank you all for contributing.

Our wildlife habitats - Feb 2016
Mary wrote: "We planted the Wildflower seeds received from the UK's GROW WILD project today with sand and ribbons and lots of helping hands. The children put the bee houses together and we hung them in the garden. The packets included common knapweed, cornflower, corn chamomile, corn cockle, corn marigold, corn poppy, hedge bedstraw, meadow buttercup, oxeye daisy, red champion, ribwort plantains and viper's bugloss and yarrow.  Additional mixed seeds of foxglove, nigella, poppy, columbine and other flower seeds donated by members were added for good measure! Let there be flowers and bees!"

April 2016: Planting the Grow Wild seeds
We received seeds and bee house kits from Kew

Gardening for all ages and abilities - you are welcome to join us!

Picnic at Empty Common Garden (April 16)
Our child-friendly tree
Having a chat by the wheelbarrow (April 16)
Who said you cannot garden in style?

The beds are on standby for planting (April 16)

Charlotte wrote: "On Sunday May 8th we hosted a Transition Cambridge event, with me giving a talk on healthy soils. We finished returning the vegetable beds to their original size. The grass was definitely taking over, some are at least a third bigger now - so more room for all our polytunnel seedlings."