Sunday, 26 October 2014

Marvellous mushrooms

Mushrooms at Empty Common Garden

Charlotte sent me this picture because she thinks these mushroooms look really sweet. I agree. I don't know British mushrooms, the only mushroom I can identify is the Italian porcino mushroom as I used to look for it in Italy with my aunt. 

I have been reading horror stories in the paper recently about foraging enthusiasts being poisoned and even dying! I would really like the BBC to have a programme on mushroom identification. When I was working in the media industry they told me that in this country they don't want to do this kind of programme, nor write articles in mainstream publications because they are afraid people would go off and poison themselves. 

Personally - and I am not talking on behalf of any member of Empty Community Garden - I find this approach typical of a nanny state, I'd rather somebody told me which mushroom is edible and which mushroom is not. More education on mushrooms is needed, not less. 

But let's not rant, here. If you are interested in mushrooms or anything garden related, please leave a comment and air your views. Or submit an article, we welcome guest bloggers.

Next week I will be posting more about the origins of this community garden. If you would like to join us, read the first post, which shows where we are located.

Have a good weekend.

Signed frustrated mushroom fan

P.S. Can I humbly ask any mushroom expert to cast an eye on these mushrooms growing in my garden in Cambridge? Click here to view.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

How the Prince's Trust helped to create the garden

The Empty Common Garden is proud to be wheelchair-friendly - this is how volunteers from the Prince's Trust helped us to transform a wilderness into the beautiful space you can enjoy today.

Assistant team leader Anthony Grief recalls: “Team 33’s week six community project was based at the Empty Common allotments, in Cambridge. Their task was to assist in building a community garden for members of the local community to enjoy; providing a space for relaxation, learning and meeting other like-minded individuals. An important factor to consider during the project was that it had to be wheelchair- and environmentally-friendly.

A major task

"The aims for the week were to construct compost heaps using reclaimed wooden pallets; construct raised beds using reclaimed scaffolding boards and wood from a disused playground swing; clear shrubbery, brambles and grass from the site; lay down wood chip and plant trees. This was a large task but everyone was happy with the project and felt confident they could achieve their goals within the time limit. On the first day the team was divided into three groups. Group One started to clear the site of unwanted scrub and brambles, Group Two took measurements of the raised beds and cut the scaffolding boards to size and Group Three stained the wood. Staining was a very messy job but the team got stuck into their role and made short work of it. Shame about the rain later on in the day which washed most of the stain off!

"Day two started much the same as the previous day: cutting wood, chopping and staining. This time we had come prepared for the weather and bought a gazebo to store the treated wood. As luck would have it, there was no rain but the weather continued to thwart us, sending gusts of wind our way, which threatened to break the gazebo.

Building the raised beds

"The team was relieved to return to the site on the third day with the gazebo still intact and the wood dry! One group concentrated on starting to erect the raised beds while another group continued clearing brambles from the site. It took us some time to figure out how to build the beds so only managed to erect one out of six on the day. The other team did a great job in clearing the rest of the grounds, making the compost heaps, laying down wood chip and disturbing the resident mouse.

It was all hands on deck for day four as we still needed to build the remaining five beds and the weather wasn’t much help, delivering the odd hail storm or two. The river bank was also cleared and wood chip laid down. Various fruit and evergreen trees were planted and a lot of weeding was done!

"Day five saw the team add the final touches to the raised beds, fitting the lining and enjoying well-earned pizza and muffins from the community garden members. Overall the team thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the community was very pleased with the professional quality of the work we had done. At times it was touch and go whether everything would be completed on time due to the weather conditions, but everyone persevered and remained motivated and confident about achieving their goals.”

This article was adapted from an original article at It was published here with permission of the Prince's Trust. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A growing space... come and join us!

Where we are, courtesy of Google Maps - click to magnify map

The Empty Common Community Garden is a real “growing space” – growing physically, growing in the number of gardeners who are getting involved and, last but not least, growing in funding.

We had support from the City Council team in establishing drainage and tackling other big jobs. The perennial planting areas have had rubbish, horsetail and brambles removed and is now ready for our crops. The play area has been cleared of rubbish, brambles and old tree stumps and has hazels planted along the fence to create a den-like feel and to demonstrate coppicing techniques in the future. Raised beds have been built to allow gardeners with disabilities or those who have difficulty bending to participate. They also look wonderful now they are planted with vegetables and flowers. A big thank-you to all the volunteers from charities and organisations who helped us so far.

We have also raised monetary donations and we welcome any support, financial and in goods (equipment, soil improver, etc). Thank you to all those who supported us.

There is a table and chairs to enjoy it all under the shade of a big tree and we do have bike parking too! In the next few months, we will be setting up a polytunnel to foster early germination of seeds and install a new shed. We hope to have a composting toilet soon, too!

Do come and join us at the garden on Sunday mornings from 10.30amYou can reach us through the black gate on the corner of Brooklands Avenue and Trumpington Road in Cambridge (see map above). We’re at the south end of the allotments. 

Contact Charlotte. Email: - tel. 07752 143683.