The design of the garden has evolved over the past few years.
Most recent plan of the garden (11 November 2019 - version 29)
We have funding for a new green-roofed veranda to the front of the club hut (hopefully by March 2020) and a polytunnel (around February 2020).
Our design has been influenced by:
Funding - and offers of free plants and resources from local gardens and park users;
Ideas from all the garden volunteers, park users, Guy Belcher and colleagues at Streets and Open Spaces;
The results of our experiments: especially what is feasible with a limited resource of volunteer time, changing climate, and also stands up to use (and sometimes abuse!) by park users.
Working from the soil upwards...
Much of our potential planting area is a former bowling green, so our substrate is quite unusual.
From several test digs and lots of working with it, it is heavy clay, with a layer of 'clinker' of varying thickness and sometimes some hardcore and then a spade-depth of introduced homogenous, compacted, sand-rich top soil, full of grass roots. This top layer is easy to cultivate with hand tools but dries out very quickly. It is difficult to wet once dry. It improves with the addition of soil conditioner and garden compost.
When we have time and resources, we dig out the clinker and hardcore and replace it with garden compost and/or soil conditioner. Plants do much better in these areas.
Around the green area, we have soil typical to this area of Cambridge - lots of clay, chalk with rough turf. This can become waterlogged in the winter but, generally, dries out quickly. It responds to garden compost.
We don’t use peat. It is really bad news for biodiversity and the climate and unnecessary in gardens like Nightingale.
We have paid for one large delivery of soil conditioner, from post-green waste recycling (Amey Cespa at Waterbeach). This has been very useful and plants grow well in it as long as it is matured first - it can arrive too hot for seed germination.
We aim to feed our soil and, in established planting, use no-dig cultivation.
We collect as much water as possible from our club hut and some from our toolshed - but we also don’t want to deprive the mature trees too much.
We have a mains water supply, which we can use with a hose to top up the pond and for essential plants when the butts are empty 'water page'.
Herbicides and pesticides use in the garden
The bowling green will have been intensively treated from the 1960s to 2013.
Glyphosate: From 2014 to 2018, Streets and Open Spaces staff used short-acting glyphosate once a year to prepare the annual meadow beds when we weren’t able to do it manually The last application was in Spring 2018 and only on two beds. We have no plans to use it again, unless we have a persistent plant growing in the wrong place that isn’t responding to digging (we have one badly behaved pyracanthus by the club hut).
Liquid pesticides: we haven’t used them and have no plans to. If we get a crop of aphids, we wait for the ladybirds to find them.
Slug/snail control: we hope that our wildlife will eat slugs and snails in the garden. We use a few organic slug pellets for a few days when we have put some susceptible baby plants in the ground.
See Working with nature page.
For this project, we had an overall collection of aspirations for the garden (see 'quote') and lots of ideas from existing and potential park users about what they would like to see and do in the space:
Some of these were feasible.
Some of them could be done without extra funding, using donations and ingenuity.
Some could probably be done but not yet.
Some, like turning it into an outdoor swimming pool or skate park, we haven't considered because we think more people would not like this to happen and it would be very expensive.
Some people just wanted it to be a bowling green again, but we were advised that this wouldn't be technically possible and there are other clubs with much better (all-year-round) facilities nearby, including at Abbey, 'Brooklands Avenue', Cambridge University Press (about to cease), Coleridge Park and Trumpington (Bowls Cambridgeshire).
Last updated: 11 November 2019