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.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A cooler August at Empty Common and a big thank-you!

Dunkirk Little Ship and Empty Common Community Garden's sweet peas

The garden has been thriving, produce is being picked, wild flowers are creating lovely patches of colour and the community is coming together on Sundays and at special events. A butterfly count was also attempted. 

I have received a lovely photo from Charlotte featuring our colourful sweet peas. Elena Moses from Transition Cambridge sent us some beautiful summer pics of the Garden, you can see her album here.

Cambridge is a transient city, so it's with heavy hearts that we say good-bye to two top volunteers, Mary and John. They have contributed so much of their time and have sent great material for this blog. Here's a photo of Mary with two other regulars... We wish them well and hope they stay in touch to see the garden grow.

And here's a photo of John, busy on the pond...

You will be missed, no doubt you will come back and see us if you visit Cambridge again. Thanks again for all your dedication and great party food!

Last but not least, a picture from our archive.... May 2017!

We had around 15 workers at ECCG and were visited by a wonderful team of community gardeners from Peterborough who helped us complete the installation of our pond and then helped ECCG members form a bucket brigade to fill the pond with water from the creek on the west side of the garden. Many helping hands made the work social and fun!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

A variable summer at Empty Common

It is hot, it rains, it gets cooler, it warms up, the sun scorches... It's a British summer but on balance not a bad one... John has sent us some lovely pics of the garden.

The 'old' wheat is doing well

The pond is teaming with wildlife

Veggies are being harvested

Everything is great, except some beasties are eating beetroots and courgettes, a net has been deployed to discourage further munching.

Mary sent us the evidence
The bioblitz event put us on a map and we are getting requests from groups to use the garden for their events. If you would like to host an event or collaborate with us, do get in touch. The email is on the first post, where the map is.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Next Saturday's BioBlitz link and some updates....

All is well and growing at speed at Empty Common. Summer is coming soon. The pond has now some tadpoles and it's a nice place to sit and relax with lovely furniture. The raised beds got a makeover. Everything is looking at its best for next Saturday.... Come and see us at 12pm, bring some food and enjoy the garden. We are taking part in the BioBlitz, info and free tickets here.

Mary sent us this 'cosmic' picture of a kohl rabi... Last year we got some massive ones... On the previous Sunday the volunteers got lots done. Charlotte wrote: "We had fun putting the sedum green roof on the front half of the black shed using many hands and some engineering - no one went though the roof. The garden looks great from the roof."

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A chilly, variable spring, but we do have a pond now!

Charlotte writes that the frosts have been damaging and our beans were affected. It is unusual to have frosts in late April and early May and we have heard of many allotment people being hit, with growing veggies being killed by the freezing temperatures overnight.

The biggest event last Sunday was the digging of the hole to accommodate the preformed fiberglass pond. John, Hugo and Toby worked really hard. Here are a few pictures so you can appreciate how deep the hole is...

Other volunteers sowed the pictorial meadow seed and planted more brassicas and a bag of potatoes. Lots of weeding was done so the garden is looking great. Volunteers are required to maintain a watering rota, it is quite warm in the polytunnel and it has not rained that much.

The compost toilet is coming together.... Charlotte sent us these photos of the progress.

The fancy rhubarb is flowering, we will have to the tip off to help it put energy into growth. The raspberry path and the new cabbage patch got weeded.

Our wheat is growing well but it looks a little pale to Charlotte, perhaps a cup of compost tea will sort things out.

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."