Saturday, 1 August 2020

Welcome, August!

The weather has been warm, so the watering rota is in full action. We practise social distancing and turn up in shifts - everyone brings their own gloves and sanitation aids. Here are some photos by Nicola.

On Wednesday, the Evergreen Elfons (woodcraft folk) visited the garden, here are some lovely photos of them enjoying the space.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Butterfly count in the Garden

Our volunteer Nicola participated in the Big Butterfly Count (17 July - 9 August) for the Empty Common Community Garden and sent us some lovely photos. We also got a report from Audrey. Thank you for doing this on behalf of the Garden.

Nicola's visit on 19 July
We did count butterflies this morning. we counted all the butterflies we saw in a 15 minute period and completed 3 counts in the time that I was there. I have uploaded the results to the website. Unfortunately it was mostly cloudy with short sunny periods and there were not many butterflies out but we did see a total of 10 butterflies.
1 peacock
1 meadow brown
1 red admiral
3 gate keepers
1 ringlet
2 small whites
1 large white

Audrey's visit on 19 July
2 butterflies,  large white and a gatekeeper.

Nicola's second visit on 22 July
Large white 19
small white 3
ringlet 2
brimstone 1
gate keeper 4
small blue 1
comma 1

Saturday, 27 June 2020

A restorative pause in the Garden

Rebecca creating soothing vibes with her drum by the river

Our resident artist, Rebecca, has recorded a session of healing and soothing music while sitting in the Empty Common Community Garden. You can enjoy a recording here: The birds start this mini concert and the drum continues...

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Growing resilience in our garden

What do we need in order to grow resilience? A healthy natural world, local self-sufficiency and a robust community that is diverse, happy and healthy so it can adjust to different circumstances. By Charlotte Synge.
Many things have become apparent from this pandemic but one of the most obvious, and heart-warming, is that most people are co-operators, not competitors, and they have felt empowered and fulfilled as they work together for the common good. This is one of the reasons why community groups, such as our garden, are an important part of our society, especially when things get rough. Our garden gives people a point of connection and a shared commitment to work together and help each other out. This creates a community ecosystem of people with varied skills and attributes that makes everyone more able and valuable as they work together. It is this community power that gives us the strength and stability required to adjust to new situations and to support each other. It is this community power that gives us a sense of worth, creates relationships and enables resilience.

Well-being in the time of Covid-19

Another encouraging thing about this pandemic has been people’s discovery of what’s really important to their well-being - food, people and nature. Our garden provides a space where people can garden, which research shows is good for both physical and mental well-being, but it is also a place where people have been able to meet and share a project, even when socially distanced during lockdown. With its wildlife areas and ethos of caring for nature and people it also provides a wonderful space where people come to relax and be in touch with nature. What’s more, it does this right in the city where so many have no garden of their own; so it is no wonder that more people have come to our garden to take solace, find community and look after their physical and mental health during this pandemic.
It has been a difficult time for everyone and as more information becomes available about the pandemic, we are reminded of just how much is outside our control. A global market has been created that has ousted out our traditional local system, we no longer buy mainly local goods, we don’t give enough support to our small local businesses and we spend our money outside our locality. This pandemic has highlighted exactly how dangerous this globalisation is when a crisis hits. Anything we can do to help strengthen our local system and make ourselves more self-sufficient has to help us be more prepared for future crises. Our community garden naturally does this. It produces lots of local food, enabling us to ease our dependence on imports, reduce food miles and share excess with those in need. This feels good but our most important crop is in fact resilience - which feels great.


People have expressed many thanks for and opinions on Empty Common Community Garden during these times. Here are a few.
“From my point of view, I like the fact that, although this time is so weird, nature and the garden keep a similar schedule to last year and last century and provides a constant and a marker of time passed when so much else is on hold.” Nicola
“I love the community garden because it improves my physical and mental health. Getting outside in the fresh air, working with the Earth, with others around me is healing. I don't have a garden myself - I live in a flat. Besides this I am learning important skills in how to grow vegetables. I will use these skills in the future. They are so important to have as we may need to grow in small local gardens more and more in the future, as climate change challenges larger farms that cannot adapt as quickly.” Giulietta
“I often go down there as an escape from the world, and I always feel a weight lifting as I walk down the path towards the garden. It’s an oasis of peace, and a generous community of all sorts of lovely and interesting people.” Sophie
During this extremely difficult time in my life Empty Common has very much kept me in touch for over five years with my local community, enabled me to work at my own pace, provided the help and support I've very much needed over these years and even earned me a reputation, in my better years, as 'a prime digger'. The recent development of a home delivery, by one of the gardening gang, of Empty Common's out-of-this world rhubarb has also been much appreciated.” Peter

Monday, 8 June 2020

June gardening jobs

Denitsa sent us this pic of our polytunnel in April
The unseasonally warm weather has cooled down. The volunteers are visiting on separate days to follow social distancing rules. Here is a selection of jobs for June.

  • Meadow - every three weeks, cut with a bill hook to remove tallest flowers and grass stalks at about 15cm.
  • Red veined sorrel in the small forest garden - remove all flower stems and heads to stop self-seeding. It becomes invasive otherwise. 
  • Marigolds - dead head and trim to keep bushy.
  • Globe artichokes - harvest, generally remove king globe at top of central stems first. 
  • Strawberries - prune out runners except for the healthiest ones on each of the healthiest plants.
  • Blackcurrants, gooseberries and red/white currants - water, mulch and cover with netting.
  • Potatoes - earth up with mulch e.g. woodchips, mature compost, dried grass clippings, etc. Feed fortnightly (with comfrey tea diluted to a very weak tea colour).
  • Brussels sprouts - transplant
  • Courgettes - plant out under bottle cloches to stop slugs eating them. Remove cloche after a week or two or when plants get too big.
  • French Beans - plant out seedlings sown in pots indoors and cover with a bottle cloche. Deer and slugs like them. 
  • Parsnip - thin seedlings to 15cm apart.
  • Peas/mangetout - harvest early types started off under cloches.
  • Runner beans - sow seed outside. Plant out seedlings sown in pots indoors and put under bottle cloches until too large for them. 
  • Squash/pumpkins - plant out making sure they are covered with bottle cloches or similar that are well dug into the soil as slugs love them.#
  • Swede - thin seedlings in stages to 25cm apart
  • Tomatoes - plant out staking securely and tying up carefully and not too tight to allow for growth. 
  • Cucumber (ridge) - plant out  making sure they are covered with bottle cloches or similar that are well dug into the soil as slugs love them.
  • Leek - transplant spring sown seedlings to final position, look up how to do this.
  • Sweet Pepper - plant out in polytunnel only, they won’t ripen outside.
  • Carrot (early) - harvest/thin out by removing the largest carrots carefully to leave good spacing for the smaller ones.
  • Basil - plant out in polytunnel and outside in sunny site.
  • Peas/mangetout - harvest early types sown outdoors.
  • Lettuce - begin to harvest.
  • Radish - sow single seeds 2-3cm apart in 1-2cm deep trough and cover. Leave 10-15cm between rows. The larger varieties, follow what is on the pack but sow singly rather than sprinkling. Sow one row and repeat regularly.
  • Kale (curly) - transplant to final position and stake securely.
  • Turnips - begin to harvest.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Bees looking for a home?

We have a solitary bee house still in function, but Sophie's beehive had to be temporarily removed to be cleaned as it was empty.

Sophie sent us a photo of the beehive on top of her shed to entice a swarm of bees. It's a bit like putting an ad in a newsagent's windows for a house or room to let.

Here is an interesting article on bees and an extract, slightly altered by Charlotte, from Kahlil Gibran’s "The Prophet" 

And now you ask in your heart,

"How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?"
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
People of our garden, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The ECCG gardening calendar: May

Our coordinator shared the gardening calendar of Empty Common via the mailing list - here are some growing tips for May... bear in mind that the last frost date in the UK is 15 May.

May        Potatoes - Earth up when plants when about 10cm high, carefully taking soil from a 15 cm space either side of the plant by hand or hoe. One month later earth up again but with mulch eg. woodchips (after composting 6months minimum), mature compost, dried grass clippings etc. If frost is going to happen cover in fleece or earth up right over all leaves

May Marigolds - Remove all seedlings and young plants from beds except for the outer edges of the annual veg plot. Here allow 4-6 plants to grow across the end of the beds to make a low hedge around the area This plant seeds everywhere given half a chance sow don’t distribute around the garden

May - Aug Stone fruit trees - Prune, (only if you really know what you are doing), never prune in the colder, damper months

May - Sept Comfrey - cut for hot compost heap activating, tea making and mulch. Can cut 2-5 times a year depending on speed of growth. Cut before it sets seed if possible an watch out for bees on the plant. Wear gloves. Comfrey tea is high K good for plants which are flowering/fruiting and potatoes.

May - Oct Tomatoes - regularly take out side shoots and suckers from cordon type plants.(See week 2 as well)
Week 1 Cabbage Spring - harvest
Week 1 Kohlrabi - plant out in final position
Week 1 Basil - thin out seedlings to 1 cm apart if closer.
Week 1 Leek - harden off container of grown seedlings on glass hardening off table
Week 1 Turnip - thin seedlings 15cm earlies, 25cm maincrops

 Week 2 Spinach - Thin out previously sown seedlings
Week 2 Spinach - plant out seed sown indoors
Week 2 Parsley - plant out.
Week 2 Beetroot - sow seed outside, sow singly at 5-10 cm apart in, 2cm deep and cover.
Week 2 French Beans - sow seeds under bottle cloches outside
Week 2 French Beans - sow seeds in pots indoors
Week 2 Kale (curly) - sow in pots or seed bed; choose red/purple variety as it isn’t attacked by pigeons.
Week 2 Tomatoes - begin to harden off those for outdoors on glass hardening off table. Plant others in poly tunnel. And stake well, tie up carefully and dig in upside-down 5l bottle cloche using canes to hold it in place , this is to water in to so place to the side of plants so the bottle can be reached when plants have grown
Week 2 Cucumber (ridge) - sow seed under bottle cloches outside
Week 2 Runner Beans - sow seed in pots indoors
Week 2 Runner Beans - sow seed under cloches outside
Week 2 Leek - transplant grown seedlings to final positions, Plant leeks in rows 40cm apart with the spacing between each plant 15cm If you want very large individual leeks increase the spacing between plants. For each plant make a hole in the soil to a depth of 15cm using a dibber (rounded piece of wood about 3cm / 1¼in wide). Drop the leek into the hole (roots downwards) and gently settle it into the base of the hole. Fill the hole with water, this will cause just enough soil to cover the roots and at the same time ensure the soil is fully watered. Don't fill in with soil, the plants will be fine as they are.
Week 2 Swede - sow seed outdoors
Week 2 - 3 Strawberries - water well and feed (comfrey tea) and mulch around plants, cover with netting.

May - Aug Strawberries (newly planted ones)- Pinch out flowers of all first year plants from runners planted our in the Autumn.
Week 2 - 3 Carrot - sow main-crop seed
Week 2 - 3 Sweetcorn - harden off
Week 2 - 3 Sweet peas - plant out, providing frost not expected. Plant 10-15 cm apart in deep holes so roots don’t curl up and water well. Pinch out top bud when 10 cm tall. Provide climbing frame up to 2m tall.

May - Aug Sweet peas - Tie peas to frame when needed and pick flowers regularly.
Weeks 2 - 4 Pak choi - plant out in poly tunnel along edges of the beds sow not in the way for planting out tomatoes etc. plant 15cm apart
Weeks 2 - 4 Pak choi - harden off plants to go outside then plant under cloches of fleece 15 cm apart and 30cm between rows. Water well.
Weeks 2 - 4 Dill - Sow in situ in sunny spot, it doesn’t like being transplanted. Our raised beds should be ideal. Make seed bed smooth, sow seeds at 1cm depth and very thinly, greater than 2 cm apart in rows 25cm apart. Gradually thin seedlings to 10-15 cm apart when they are about 10 cm tall or still have plenty of space so the thinnings are useable.
Week 3 Radish - sow single seeds 2-3cm apart in 1-2cm deep trough and cover leave 10-15 cm between row. The larger varieties, follow what is on the pack but sow singly rather than sprinkling. Sow one row and repeat regularly every two weeks.
Week 4 Beetroot - plant out seedlings sown in pots indoors
Week 4 Squash / pumpkins - harden off under bottle cloches or the circular ones outside on glass hardening off table.
Week 4 Potatoes - nitrogen feed fortnightly (Nettle tea diluted to a very weak tea colour)
Week 4 Rhubarb - apply mulch
Week 4 French Beans - sow seed outside
Week 4 French Beans - harden off seedlings
Week 4 Swiss Chard - thin out seedlings
Week 4 Sweetcorn - plant out seedlings in a block pattern rather than rows. Can plant with beans for drying and squash around the ground.
Week 4 Courgette - Harden off indoor grown plants under bottle cloches to stop slugs eating.
Week 4 Swiss Chard - thin out seedlings
Week 4 Runner Beans - harden off seedlings on glass hardening off table.
Week 4 Basil - if planting outside, harden off on glass hardening off table.