Friday, 8 June 2018

Summer is coming! BBQ, bees and a visit from old friends

Lovely to see you again, John & Mary!

After a very cold spring we are seeing a bit of sunshine. Late in May we had a party, where former volunteers John and Mary paid a visit. John and Mary contributed a lot to the garden and we have missed them. They are now back to the US but we do hope to see them again... These photos were taken on Sunday 20 May. 

These lovely radishes went down a treat at our BBQ. Before the party started, we planted beans around the frame built with the discarded trampoline base. 

We have bees in our bug hotel! It is nearly fully booked. Spot the yellow ball, where a baby bee is nestled, awaiting its birth!

 The green roof on our black shed is doing very well. 

The BBQ awaits... We were too busy eating and chatting we forgot to take pics of the party!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

May: a belated spring at Empty Common

The spring has finally arrived at the Empty Common so we have resumed a watering rota for the polytunnel. It has not been a very warm spring - the temperature goes up and down - and because of the protracted winter, some flowers and veggies are late. We certainly had a long season for daffodils and other bulbs. So compare and contrast the below picture from the end of April with a 'bleaker' photo taken in January...

Empty Common in late April

Empty Common in mid January

As you can see in the April photo, we have a new rainbow flag. Sadly our ECCG logo flag disintegrated during the winter. A lot of weeding has gone on. The cog garden between the woodland area and the mound was sorted out and seed potatoes were planted there. 

The keyhole bed in the photo abvoe was made from a trampoline frame saved from the dump. We will soon sow beans to grow up it. It is finally feeling like spring in the garden.

Last but not least, we have a link for the podcast about the Garden, courtesy of Cambridge 105. You can find it here. This is what the page looks like...

You can download the podcast. The whole programme is about an hour long and the Empty Common's slot is after 17 minutes, if you want to skip the other news items.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

We are the talk of the town!

Empty Common talk at the University Centre
The weather has been unseasonably cold and we still have daffodils so late in the season! The Garden is going from strength to strength. The University's Architecture department will help with our project of building a meeting hut. Our coordinator is applying for funding and we are keeping our green fingers crossed! 

Gates Scholars came to work in the Garden in February and they might come back again. We had groups of students and garden enthusiasts visiting before, so if you are keen on giving us a hand, just get in touch or turn up on a Sunday from 10.30am.

A talk about the Empty Common Garden was held at the University Centre at a meeting of the group Newcomers and Visiting Scholars. These researchers often come with their families and they were interested to hear they can drop in on a Sunday and even join us during the time they are in Cambridge. 

Last but not least, a radio presenter from Cambridge 105 has visited the garden twice. A programme about the Garden will be broadcast soon and might be available online. Visit to find out more.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Last weekend's snow is melting and the garden is coming back to life. Rebecca, one of our volunteers, is a talented local artist. She has run a few workshops in the garden, painted our plain black shed, created signs and is now busy with pyrography work on wooden signs. 

During her last visit to the garden, she reported that wildlife was thriving. Lots of birds were out, including a charming egret by Vicar's Brook (pictured on the right). 

Agnes, another volunteer, did a bird count and sent it to the RSPB. She spotted:

- 1 robin
- 2 coal tit birds
- 1 song thrush.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Planning a meeting hut and another rude veg!

Members of the Empty Common Garden met with representatives of the University of Cambridge's Architecture Department to set up a competition to design a meeting hut. Thirty-seven first-year students took part. 

We discussed the right location for solar panels - possibly best on our black shed as it's vandal proof - and generally agreed that we need to keep costs down as much as possible. Among the things we considered is if we need a proper floor or if we can just put a layer of weed-suppressing mat; disabled access; a green roof; a service hatch for when we have events running in the garden; a porch or covered seating area and - last but not least - how easy it would be to build the hut. We also talked about having a small wood burner and low-power led lighting.

The students were given three weeks and last week we chose our six favourite designs.The meeting hut will allow us to gather, share skills and hold informal learning sessions. As we have run arts projects in the past, it would also be good to have some exhibition space on the walls, as well as a whiteboard and a small screen for projections. We would like to be able to accommodate seating for 20 people. Building materials should be sustainable, including timber, rammed earth, hempcrete, wattle and daub, straw bale, cob, glass bottles, cordwood.... We'll keep you updated on the project, so watch this space. 

On the growing front, we have been mulching the garden and done some serious weeding. Our main problem is no longer horsetail but comfrey - any little bits of root are making new plants and they are really difficult to shift. 

We are also going to manure the beds outside and inside the polytunnel. The days are getting longer and we have been harvesting cabbages and parsnips. We also planted a dwarf crab apple tree. Here is a photo of another rude veg... we are building a collection of these.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Winter blooms by Carol

We had a very mixed December. There was snow (fleetingly) after many years of no show while temperatures went up and down. One day it was 5 degrees and two days later 10. No wonder there are still a few flowers in the garden. The picture above was taken just before Christmas, which turned up to be a sunnier and warmer day than expected. Crops doing well in December included cabbage and sprouts.

Ice corals by Charlotte

A giant radish
There are some exciting plans afoot, we are discussing building a meeting hut and we are going to get help from students at the University of Cambridge. Students, postdocs and even lecturers at the University have been helping before - some have moved away but are still in touch. 

We get emails from ex members now and then - you might be gone but we have not forgotten you, the photos in this blog show your hard work and your sense of fun. In this nostalgia vein, here are a few photos from our archives that have not been posted before.

Just over a year ago... December 2016

Rebecca sent us these photos to show volunteers removing the strawberry netting. There was an abundance of plants and two boxes were filled to share at the Seedy Sunday event. The oak tree was decorated with festive tinsel by some enthusiastic young visitors. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Happy Xmas from Empty Common

We had snow for a weekend only... Lisa took these photos of the garden in early December. We wish you all a Happy Xmas and Prosperous New Year.