Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Spring is nearly here!

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 (pictured on the left) 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). 

Another volunteer, Agnes, did a bird count and sent it to the RSPB. She spotted 1 robin, 2 coal tits and 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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A year in review and Seasonal Greetings

In the last blog post of 2017 we are looking back at a wonderful year of gardening and friendship. Here is a review of the four seasons of the Empty Common Community Garden. This was presented at the Transition Cambridge's AGM.

In winter 2016, the old Burwell wheat was sown and protected with nets. Postgraduate students from the University of Cambridge helped to set up our seating by the pond. In October, Empty Common participated in Cambridge Sustainable Food's Pumpkin Festival. Volunteers started to build the compost toilet.

Spring 2017 was a hive of activity, with a lot of planting and tending of young shoots including the old Burwell wheat. A shady corner became a wildlife patch and public relaxation space. The Community Gardening Nomads visited us and helped to finish our wildlife corner.

Summer 2017 was particularly busy as we hosted Hobson's Conduit Bioblitz's scientific survey and family weekend. We had a Transition Cambridge stall, gave tours, made flowers from plastic bottles and ran a leaf identification activity. Other highlights included a stunning wildflower patch and a storytelling session in our hazel copse.

In Autumn 2017 the old Burwell wheat was harvested with Cropshare on their pedal-powered thresher. Our compost toilet was christened and celebrated. Last but not least, our pumpkin harvest was the best ever!

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Winter

It's December and it's very frosty at night. We had snow on Sunday, but it's nearly all gone as we publish this blog. We wish you all a Serene Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Nasturtiums, salvaged materials & pumpkins!

A Happy Halloween from the Empty Common Community Garden!
The days might be getting shorter but it's busier than ever at the Garden. We have harvested some lovely pumpkins and squashes, great for soups and pies! 

We do work hard, but there is also a lot of chatting going on, we take great pleasure in talking to new and regular volunteers. You might be surprised to read we do not have 'officious' meetings as such, we communicate via a Google group and the highlights are published on this blog. 

Charlotte rescued an old trampoline frame from being dumped and we think it could make a good rail to lean our bikes against. One photo shows it being held up a bit higher than it would be once the legs were in the ground. The other photo shows its curves. One curve would go around the apple tree that we planted last year. However, the framework could also be made into a circle (4m diameter) and used as an arch or frame for growing stuff up... we are still debating this among ourselves. Salvaged materials are everywhere in the Garden.

We picked lots of nasturtium (Tropaeolum) seeds, last year we had very few and this year was a bumper crop. Thank you Mary for planting them, they have been and still are wonderful. Nasturtium is Latin for twisted nose, but ours aren't from the genus Nasturtium. The annual garden nasturtiums are from the genus Tropaeolum (Tropaeolum majus). Here is a website with recipes for pickling them. It has a recipe for nasturtium butter too, which sounds yummy. A friend also makes nasturtium pesto; she uses ground almonds, which are cheaper than pine nuts. The nasturtiums will disappear with the first reasonable frost, so it's now or never! 

We also harvested chard, celery, peppers and cabbage. We picked a 'rude' veg, which was entered in a special competition. It is a cheeky turnip indeed!

Last but not least, someone in the US is 'hearting' us with a juicy tomato. Thank you, John. We miss you and Mary.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hello autumn, plus some exciting news!

Nigel from the RHS' initiative It's Your Neighbourhood visited Empty Common in August. Charlotte welcomed him with a special tour and Rebecca took the photos above. Nigel seemed impressed by our efforts. Fingers crossed we passed!

Below are some photos from Silvia, showing Empty Common's bounty. The pond is well established and the garden is thriving. There was even a party to celebrate our new compost toilet... any excuse to get together and celebrate our wonderful space.