Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easter wishes & update from glorious garden... so sunny!

Rebecca took this dreamy pic

This morning an email brought a smile to volunteers' faces. Our coordinator gave a speech at our partner's meeting, Transition Cambridge, and it emerges we are a tad informal.... The garden is over three years old but we never had proper meetings, we do not have a committee and our coordinator is not a strict taskmaster... It all works as we never had an argument - we must be happy anarchists with green fingers.... 

Reading more of the feedback from the current volunteers, the only worry seems to be manpower. Cambridge is a transitory city so some helpers are here on a temporary basis... they leave us with a lovely legacy but we often need new hands to maintain it... so if you are interested in what we do, please read the first post here, with the map and contact details, and get in touch. Being allergic to committees is a bonus!

Tomas reported a mouse has taken up residence in the polytunnel. The little 'resident' ate all the corn seeds he sowed last week. "In every single pot there is hole dug and the seed is gone."

The weather is warm and it's very sunny, so there is a watering rota in place. We have plans to finish our compost toilet (with a green roof) and to build a pond. 

Things to eat aside lettuce includes the wild garlic... Unfortunately there is quite a bit of weeding to do as the horsetail is sporing now... It gets picked and drowned in a bucket of water. Rebecca has sent us some April photos so you can see for yourself.

The prodigal son returns!

Polytunnel is doing well...

A lovely log with beautiful bark

Preparing the beds...

March pictures from Carol & Mary

By the mighty oak flowers in a circle

A little chat by the beds

Volunteers' gardening tips

  • Mary suggests: "Nick the seed coat of each seed and place between paper towels that you keep very damp until the seeds germinate"
  • Rich writes: "This website a great reference to companion planting:
  • Carol recommends: "I use coffee grounds, paprika and citrus fruits to repel cats."


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Visit from a local group & recipe for Swedish tea bread

Our welcoming tea spread by the flag 

On Sunday we welcomed a group from Trumpington who want to develop a community garden. We decided it was a good idea to have tea and cake. WE LOVE CAKE!!! Any excuse to have a food feast, that's how we roll.... Scroll down to see one of the cakes and get the recipe.... Grateful thanks to the bakers and those who manned the giant kettle.

Volunteers were spurred to prepare the garden to look its best prior to the visit. There was a massive seed sowing session. The new beds were given a final weed, more manure was carted in... 

The garden, as you can see in the above picture, looked really lush considering it's not spring yet. Lovely lettuce heads are bobbing up in the polytunnel... pretty spring flowers surround the oak, it's just lovely even on a grey day.

Toilet base completed!

The garden is very child friendly - there are kid size tools for digging and weeding, a mighty oak to climb and a swing in our small but perfectly formed woodland area.

As the picture shows, our toilet compartment will hold at least four people - enough for a mini disco!

Back to the garden, we have been offered some pictorial meadow seed for the flower patch. They may do better than last year's standard meadow mix given our nutrient and weed rich soil. We are also trying out Jerusalem artichokes (from the sunflower family) and many people have come up with wonderful ideas.... As coordinator Charlotte explained in the garden tour, we are a happy bunch, there has been no quarrel nor dispute so far. Our green utopia is growing in harmony!

On a final sweet note, here is a photo of Mary's Swedish tea bread cakes. We also had yummy carrot and fruit cakes, if the bakers want to send recipes, we will post them.

Swedish Tea Bread Ring - recipe makes two! 

Main ingredients
3/4 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup warm water
2 packages dry yeast
1 egg
4 cups flour

Garnishes & glaze
Icing sugar
Iced cherries or almonds

Combine milk, sugar, salt and butter and stir till butter is melted. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk mixture. Add egg and half of flour and beat till smooth. Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover tightly and refrigerate 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Punch down the dough, divide in half and turn out one piece onto a lightly floured surface.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle approx. 12x24 inches. Spread with softened butter and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Roll the dough into a long roll and press the seam closed. With the seam turned downward, seal the two ends together to make a ring. Place the ring on a lightly greased cookie pan. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, make cuts every inch or so along the ring, cutting only three quarters of the way through. Twist each piece the same direction. Repeat with the second portion of dough. Raise in warm place for 45 minutes. Bake at 180 degrees for l5-20 minutes.

When finished baking, glaze with a mixture of icing sugar, a bit of milk and vanilla extract. Decorate with sliced almonds and/or cherries.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Spring is in the air... plus recipe for citrus cleaner

Thank you, John, for this harvesting pic!

Yesterday Empty Common had a stall at Seedy Sunday. We had photos of our garden, a map (it's rather large and photos do not capture everything) and free strawberry plants to give away. A number of us was manning the stall and it was fun to speak to so many like-minded people. We took turn to see the other stalls, get seeds and buy good food (thanks WI women!) and despite being a smaller event than the previous years, it was pretty good....

As you can see from the picture above, we are still harvesting - parsnips and Brussels sprouts. The tray you can see has some of the pots that were taken to Seedy Sunday, the strawberries have invaded a large area and it was time to thin them and share with others!

Weeding continues, just because it's cold, weeds are still coming up. There is a smell of spring in the air though, the sun is warming up and the lettuces are growing well in the polytunnel, which needs a spring clean... The beds have been tidies up and manured. The crop rotation has been planned...

A bird count was done, too, which is great for kids. Going back to cleaning the polytunnel, Charlotte is sharing her recipe. No need to buy one from the garden centre...

Recipe for cleaner
Do not use on granite, limestone etc. kitchen surfaces and floors...
Fill a jar with citrus peel. Cover it with white vinegar and put a lid on. This can be done over time so you can gather the peel you discard when cooking. Leave to stand for a couple of weeks. Filter it with a fine filter into a clean jar. Use this diluted 1:1 in a spray bottle. Spray the dirty surface and wipe clean. Wash off with water if the surface has a lot of dirt on it. Wash with fresh water afterwards as it is quite strong. You can use malt vinegar if you want to save some money.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Happy New Year from Empty Common Community Garden

It is a cold January but the Garden still looks green and lush. A few crops are still growing outdoors (Brussels sprouts, turnips, parsnips) and in the polytunnel (winter salads). Here are a few photos... We also grow horseradish and it's such a powerful root... even if you use a blender the fumes are worse than those of an onion... We recommend mixing grated horseradish to mayo, cream cheese or other soft cheese to make a delicious dip.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Happy Xmas from Empty Common

Pic: Pixabay

Xmas is next week! Season's Greetings to all our readers across the world... we sometimes look at the analytics and noticed we have followers from far and wide...

In mid November, Empty Common Garden had a spot on the Transition stall at the Circular Cambridge Festival. Here are Simone and Michela presenting the garden in the Speakers' Corner. Simone talked about what the four seasons are like at Empty Common while showing the pictures prepared by Charlotte. Michela talked about what Empty Common offers to children and she shared her experience of building bug houses. Thank you Jacky Sutton-Adam for the support pre talk and to Elena Moses for the photo.

Here comes December...

December has been a mixed bag. We had some freezing spells then the weather got mild again and now we are experiencing fog... Despite the cold and fog, volunteers are still working hard in the garden. Outside it's bed clearing time, weeding and covering all exposed soil with compost and manure. We are getting some fresh one...

The polytunnel has been cleared and cleaned. We were surprised that the lettuce survived the frosts as it was not a winter variety. Unfortunately most of the chilli peppers sulked and perhaps we should take them into a warm house next year.

The Old Burwell wheat that was planted in November has been netted. Meanwhile in a home in Cambridge beans are drying, getting ready for next year...

I have still lots of pictures to share, so watch this space for some archive images... Happy Xmas everyone!

Empty Common's festive tree...

This message was sent yesterday... "Our beautiful Christmas tree was decorated with snail shells, Brussels sprouts and baubles from our garden. Volunteers worked together to clean up and turn over the three sisters' patch... we were a small but mighty group and it was, as always, a beautiful day in ECCG." 

Thank you all for sending lovely photos and information... this is appreciated by members who cannot come every week and readers from all over the world. Here is the list of our readers... we are big in Russia!

Readers from the start until now....

United Kingdom
United States
Czech Republic

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Pumpkins, courgettes, squashes.... what is the difference?

Pic: Good Heart Farm

Click on text boxes and infographic to enlarge... 

Please click on the graph below to enlarge it if you cannot read it!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween from Empty Common Community Garden

Yesterday about 50 people, including families shared our seasonal celebrations. Prior to the party, a lot of weeding and wheat planting went on. The garden was given rare Old Burwell wheat, so we can do our bit, alongside other public spaces, to increase seed stock. Enjoy our pictures...

Pumpkins with tealights

Apple bobbing from a tree...

Fish was on BBQ, veggies and sausages too!

Our new stick swing

A view from the BBQ

Two volunteers having a snack

Swinging away

A party for people of all ages

Nasturtium seeds pickled, a kind of caper!
More pictures from Rebecca....