The Gardener's Journal is a free monthly gardening guide delivered direct to your inbox.

Each month, receive tips on the top jobs needed in your garden as well as a wealth of information on a range of gardening topics. From sowing seeds to picking fruit, each month get access to information on the care and maintenance of your flowerbeds, vegetable plot and lawn. As with your own gardening diary, the journal is split into separate sections, each covering a different area of garden care.

Friday, 7 December 2012

This Month In Your Garden - DECEMBER

Light a fire, settle down with your own gardener’s journal, some new season catalogues and reflect on your gardening year. 

This is an ideal time to plan for the coming year but it’s also a good time to consider how last year’s planting went and how good the garden is looking even now, in the depths of winter. 

Does the garden have form and composition? Did you plant some trees and shrubs that flower in winter or provide interest with the colour of their bark or berries. 

The Lawn Care Guide - DECEMBER

Snow can damage your lawn as it shuts out light and causes the leaves to yellow. It also prevents air circulation and the drying effect of the wind. Result: there is a lot more moisture to be absorbed and the lawn is more susceptible to fungal disease. 

Spiking and aerating in earlier months will have had a beneficial effect and indeed, spiking can be done as the snow clears if the ground is not too frozen. Treatment with some high potassium (K) fertiliser will help. 

The Vegetable Plot - DECEMBER

As with the rest of the garden it’s a good time to plan for the growing season. You might consider mini-vegetables as a colourful addition to your vegetable crop. They look good on the plate and you’ll save a lot on buying them from the supermarket. 

Continue to force rhubarb and seakale and blanch chicory. If you like to have some mustard and cress you can make some successional sowings in a heated greenhouse or frame. 

The Big Glut Recipe - DECEMBER

December’s Braised Celery Vinaigrette

Around the festive season there will be plenty of cold cuts of poultry and game birds or vegetarian dishes that will be complemented by this braised celery, served hot or warm. 


  • A casserole with a lid 
  • 3 heads of celery 
  • 425ml (15fl oz) vegetable stock 
  • 150ml (5floz) dry white wine 
  • Zest of a ¼ of a lemon 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed 
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper 
For the vinaigrette:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1tbsp lemon juice 
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley 
  • ½ teaspoon mixed pepper berries, crushed 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Big Glut Recipe - NOVEMBER

Leek and Potato Soup

A doddle, so why buy cartons or cans of soup when this simple home-made recipe will put smiles on November faces?

You need:

  • 4 leeks, chopped
  • 4 large potatoes, cubed
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 800ml (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 300ml (1/2 pint) single cream
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Natural yoghurt
  • Croutons
  • Parsley, chopped

The Vegetable Plot - NOVEMBER

Chicory sown in June should be ready to dig up and force in pots, kept at about 13°C (55°F). 

Make a crop rotation plan as you dig over the ground. Divide the plot into sections and move the crops around in rotation. 

Endive in frames can be blanched now, using sacking thickly covering a frame to exclude light. 

There’s not a great deal to sow at this time but if you don’t have a green house you could make an outdoor sowing of broad beans in a sheltered place. Hardy peas may also be worth a try. 

In late November Jerusalem artichokes should have finished growing and can be lifted and stored in the same way as potatoes. 

This Month in Your Garden - NOVEMBER

Keep digging!

Any areas not dug over should be finished with soil still workable and areas such as the vegetable plot freed up. Ground turned over will benefit from the action of the weather with frosts through winter. Work in manure and fertiliser as required. 

Finish tidying herbaceous borders and pruning bush and standard roses. 

Carry on planting trees and shrubs. You can plant tulip bulbs, preferably after the other spring bulbs have gone in. 

The Lawn Care Guide - NOVEMBER

It’s easy to forget the lawn this month as mowing is pretty well finished (some late summers have seen mowing into late November depending on your location). 

If there’s frost on the lawn it’s best to keep off the grass to save any damage but if it warms up finish clearing up leaves and get control over any moss and worm casts. 

If you have finished mowing why not get the lawn mower or garden tractor in for a service – leave it too late and you could get caught out next year. 

Edges can be trimmed up and any overhanging shrubs pruned back. An application of autumn and winter fertiliser will benefit the lawn and bare areas can still be seeded. It’s still a good time to lay turf for a new lawn unless the ground is frozen or too wet to walk on. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

This Month In Your Garden – OCTOBER

All the colours of autumn abound but fallen leaves need clearing up as frequently as you can. A thick layer covering plants could cause them to die. Bag them up in bin liners and pop them in an out of the way corner where they will rot down to leaf mould for composting; or put them on the compost heap. Exclude any from diseased plants, they are best burned. 

This is a good month to apply some bonemeal in herbaceous borders and bulb beds. It’s also a good time for digging. Existing borders won’t need digging too deeply but new ones and vegetable plots will benefit from a good dig with a spade or a fork. 

Half hardy flowering plants such as begonias and dahlias will need lifting to a frost-proof store after the first frost blackens them. It’s the time for planting shrubs, trees and climbers, when they will be the least stressed, between now and spring. Evergreens are best planted this month. Hardwood cuttings will root easily at this time, while the soil is still warm enough, so you can propagate shrubs and trees. 

The Lawn Care Guide – OCTOBER

Depending on the weather, mowing the lawn will be dwindling, although some weather systems may create a late ‘Indian summer’ when the grass just refuses to stop growing. Don’t cut too low if you do need to cut. Raise the height of the cutting deck. 

Of course leaves will be coming down and need clearing off the lawn. A power blower or vacuum is just the job, or collecting with the grass box and sweeper on a garden tractor will deal swiftly with each fall. 

Scarify the lawn if not already done in the previous month.

The Vegetable Plot – OCTOBER

Early October should be good for planting spring cabbages from sowings in August and earthing up of celery and leeks is best done now. It’s the ideal time to take cuttings of bush fruit to cultivate.

Cauliflowers may need some protection by bending outer leaves over any hearts forming. Continue to blanch endive if you started in August and September. Fruit growth on peaches, nectarines and apricots under glass can still ripen given the right conditions.

Cut back asparagus and globe artichokes. Transfer cauliflowers grown in the open in September to a frame and only close the when there is danger of frost. You can guard your apples and pears against winter moth by putting grease bands around the tree trunks to trap grubs. This will help protect next year’s crop.

The Big Glut Recipe - OCTOBER

October’s pumpkin and pasta bake

A bit of a cheat’s cuisine if you take the short cut and buy a favourite brand of tomato pasta sauce, or you can make your own. Use any pasta shapes that take your fancy.


  • 400g (14oz) of pasta shapes
  • 1 500g jar of ready-made tomato pasta sauce with onions and garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g (18oz) pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced into 2cm chunks
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, sliced
  • 400g (14oz) can cannellini beans, drained
  • A small handful of fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Juice of the whole lemon
  • 3tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • 80g (3oz) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 150g (5oz) low fat buffalo mozzarella, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Monday, 3 September 2012

This Month in Your Garden - SEPTEMBER

Bulbs and corms can go in now, in fact many will benefit from planting before the end of September and reward with a bright, early show as spring approaches.

Daffodils, crocuses, Anemone blanda, Fritillaria imperialis, irises, muscari, scillas and lilies should be planted on fairly rich, well worked soil but avoid dressing with manure. 

The bulbs will appreciate a dusting of bonemeal at about 4oz per square yard. Hold back planting tulips though until late October, early November, to help protect them from slug damage and ‘tulip fire’, the damaging fungus. 

The Lawn Care Guide - SEPTEMBER

Early autumn care for the lawn is helped by an understanding of what’s been happening beneath the surface.

A summer of walking, playing and generally using the lawn has caused the soil to compact which prevents air reaching the roots. 

Some of the grass has gone through the natural life-cycle and has died. Fresh grass is germinating from seed in the soil or windblown seed. 

Use of fertilizer and the presence of moss join these other factors in the build-up of thatch, the dead growth at soil level. It needs to be removed if you are to have a healthy lawn next year. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Big Glut Recipe - SEPTEMBER

Gratin of courgette, tomato and Gruyère

This makes great use of a glut of courgettes and tomatoes, as a lunch or light supper dish for two, with a salad perhaps and crusty bread. Or you could serve it as a side dish when feeding more people.


  • 3 tomatoes, sliced 
  • 2 courgettes, sliced 
  • 100g Gruyère, grated 
  • Drizzle of olive oil 
For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes 

The Vegetable Plot - SEPTEMBER

Before storing marrows, pumpkins and squashes indoors they will need cutting and laying out in the sunshine for a couple of weeks, or keep them in the greenhouse. 

Leave some courgettes growing to the size of small marrows until the skins are hardened by about the end of October if you want to store some for Christmas. 

Although it’s too late to make successional sowings outside you can sow some lettuce, endive and radishes in unheated frames. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

This Month In Your Garden - AUGUST

Now you really are reaping the rewards in the garden and in the greenhouse if you have one. 

Seeing the results of you work in earlier months should spur you on to preparing, seeding and planting for an even greater display next year. Nature will be lending another helping hand. 

Keep an eye open for plant seedlings whilst weeding and preparing beds. Many flowering plants will have self-seeded and you can collect these gifts for planting where you wish.

The Lawn Care Guide - AUGUST

Preparing to sow or turf a lawn

What do you want to use the lawn for? If the kids are going to play football on it you’ll need a tough, rye grass mixture. If you want the finest grass it will need lots of attention. Creeping grasses will be mixed with tufted grass for better cover and wear resistance. Broad leaved grasses such as perennial rye can be mixed with narrow leaved fescue for a stronger turf that needs little attention.

The Vegetable Plot - AUGUST

At this time of year, with usually high temperatures, it’s best to restrict the last sowings of salad crops to fast growing lettuces such as Little Gem or Tom Thumb.

Some types of endive will grow successfully, along with radishes, mustard and cress and hardy spring onions. 

Feed and train tomatoes and stop outdoor plants from further growing after four trusses have set by pinching out the tips of the main stems. 

The Big Glut Recipe - AUGUST

August’s apple and blackberry crumble

An end of August into September treat with Bramley or similar tart cooking apples. Or in October, November or anytime for that matter.

Friday, 29 June 2012

This Month In Your Garden - JULY

Your reward for all the hard work gone before. The July garden is full of flowers for cutting, drying or just to enjoy where they are. To keep the show going remove faded blooms or spikes from herbaceous plants, bedding plants, annuals and, of course, roses. Cut back lupins and take geraniums, violas and delphiniums back down to the crown once they have flowered. You may wish to leave some flowers of selected varieties to grow on if you want the seed for growing.

The Lawn Care Guide - JULY

The relentless and widespread rain has caused many gardener's to ask: Should I mow my lawn when it's wet? In an ideal world it would be avoided. However, many people are just too busy to wait for the good weather. If the grass needs cutting, the weekend may be the only opportunity you get - even if it means mowing wet grass.

With plenty of water around and the warmer temperatures of summer, the grass just keeps growing. The wetter it gets, the longer it grows. So is it OK to mow wet grass? With the correct equipment... yes it can be.

The Vegetable Plot - JULY

Keep feeding plants in growth and thin seedlings sown last month for succession.

As last month, you can make successional sowings of lettuce, endive and summer spinach. Sow in shadier places or they are likely to bolt in the heat. 

Look out for any tomato disorders and shade the greenhouse. Avoid splashing the fruit when watering. Harvest shallots when the leaves turn yellow. Garlic can be dug up as soon as the tips colour. 

The Big Glut Recipe - JULY

July’s Broad Bean, Pea and Pancetta Risotto

Hard to choose with so many fresh vegetables available and all sorts of summer salads, the barbecue to light, picnics to enjoy. Here’s a dish for now (or anytime if you use frozen beans and peas). Serves 4 with a nice glass of light white wine.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Water-wise Gardens: Chelsea winner Cleve West at the Lensbury

Cleve West, winner of ‘best in show’ at RHS Chelsea in 2011 and 2012, will be sharing images of his work and wisdom on gardening - for flowers and vegetables alike, for beauty and nutrition, - in the conditions of both drought and flood we’re experiencing this year.

This event is in aid of Jeevika Trust, a local charity delivering vital water and sanitation projects in village India, the world’s biggest poverty trap.

Women in rural India encounter severe water challenges with their precious kitchen gardens. Good water-harvesting and composting makes all the difference. One million Indian children die from diarrhoea every year – many because they do not have access to clean and safe drinking water.

Cleve’s talk, followed by Q&A and drinks is being kindly hosted by the Lensbury Club in their beautiful riverside ‘Pavillion’.

Thursday 6 September, 6.30-8.30pm
At the Lensbury club, Broom Road, Teddington,
Tickets are £10, with a free drink

To register for ‘Cleve at the Lensbury’ please e mail

For more information call 020 8973 3773 or go to

Friday, 1 June 2012

This Month In Your Garden - JUNE

Summer is around the corner and roses, poppies, campanula, a host of flowers and plants are about to put on a show. Plenty to do.

Border carnations need staking and disbudding but let them arch naturally, remove side shoots and flower buds except the terminal one on each stem. Do the same for hybrid tea roses to achieve big blooms. 

Lightly trim evergreen hedges. If you want a colourful display next spring now is a good time to sow biennials such as wallflowers, sweet Williams, Canterbury bells, Iceland poppies and verbascums in a nursery, for planting out in the autumn where they are to flower.

The Lawn Care Guide - June

A lot of what was said in May about caring for the lawn still applies in June. A new lawn is best started in August to September, so continue to prepare the area and complete any deep cultivation.

Give existing lawns the last treatment of lawn sand and weed killers that destroy broad leaf weeds.

Watering can be important but with hosepipe bans and periods of drought you need to do what you can to help the grass. Whilst reasonably drought tolerant, prolonged dry periods will make the ground hard and difficult for water to penetrate. Spiking will help, as will mulching by raising the mower blades in dry weather and instead of collecting the grass, leaving it as moist cuttings to act as protection. A purpose-built mulching deck on the garden tractor will be just the job. 

The Vegetable Plot - JUNE

Warmer weather means more pests on the move so keep an eye open for carrot fly and cabbage root fly. Reduce stress on cauliflowers by transplanting when the seedlings are still small but just big enough to handle. 

The various vegetable seedlings from April and May sowings will need thinning. Stop broad beans growing any taller by pinching out the tip. Celery can be planted out along with runner beans raised under glass in April. Do the same for aubergines and capsicums that are hardened off.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Big Glut Recipe - JUNE

Eton Mess

What better on a June evening than this traditional English dessert? Various tales of its origin exist, including one of a Labrador who sat on the strawberries and cream. More factually it was served in the 1930’s in Eton College’s “sock shop” or tuck shop, made with strawberries or bananas. Meringues were a later and perfect addition. You may wish to add a little splash of port, Kirsch or cointreau, whatever, when you mix the mess together.

  • One large punnet of strawberries 
  • A little dash of sugar 
  • Dash of port if desired 
  • 6 merangues broken up 
  • Double cream softly whipped 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

This Month In Your Garden - MAY

Aphids can be troublesome  - especially in May
May, the month of the colour and splendour of Chelsea Flower Show. It’s also the time when you’ll probably be joined in the garden by some unwelcome companions.

Greenfly – aphids are likely to arrive in numbers. There are plenty of proprietary sprays available but two you can make yourself and go organic are tomato leaf spray and garlic oil spray – you’ll find recipes online. 

Slugs are on the march to attack seedlings, your lettuces and delphiniums. Again, there are some natural, non-toxic methods of slug control. 

Another busy month. Herbaceous plants are growing fast and will benefit from fertilising. If you like summer bedding the beds or areas between shrubs and herbaceous plants need forking over and weeds removed. Most summer bedding plants prefer poorer soil so not too much spreading of fertiliser into those areas to be planted. Don’t plant out too early in May, harden them off and let the soil warm up. Thin and stake herbaceous perennials. 

The Lawn Care Guide - MAY

May is a good month to use a weed and feed treatment or lawn sand, an important job if the weeds are to be prevented from flowering and seeding. Choose a calm, dry day to treat daisies and plantain in the lawn. The chemicals slip off the narrow grass leaves but settle on the broadleaves of the weeds and scorch them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on when and when not to mow during treatment.

The Vegetable Plot - MAY

You can start to cut asparagus from an established bed – the second, or even better the third, year after planting.

Some root crops can be sown such as swede for winter storing. If frost has passed, tender vegetables can be set out but in colder areas wait until later in May for warmer soil

The Big Glut Recipe - MAY

Pancetta-wrapped asparagus with lemon and garlic dressing

The British asparagus season is short but you can of course buy it in if you don’t yet have it in the garden. Quick, simple, yet a dish fit for kings as a sophisticated looking starter or with some special bread for lunch. Serves four.

  • 24 thin asparagus spears with the woody ends removed 
  • 8 rashers of thinly sliced Pancetta, or rashers of thinly sliced smoked bacon 
  • Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed 
  • 1 handful of very finely chopped flat leaf parsley 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus some extra for cooking 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Salad leaves to serve 
  • Shaved parmesan (optional) 

Monday, 2 April 2012

This Month in Your Garden - APRIL

It’s a busy month and possibly made even busier if poor weather in March delayed any jobs and there’s catching up to be done.

Between now and mid April is a good time to be sowing hardy annuals outdoors where they are to grow. Early in the month sow annual climbers and summer bedding can be bought as plug plants and grown on. 

Borders need weeding, cleaning up and planting started. Gladioli can be planted for succession, with a good mixture of colour for cut flowers. If you like alpines plant now and if space for a larger rockery is at a premium a small scree garden made with pea shingle, compost and coarse grit will get things started. Roses need feeding and mulching. Flowering shrubs can be pruned and grass seed can be sown if the ground is not sticky. 

Plan the climbers you want to grow. Plant evergreen shrubs but pay attention to north and east winds as the shrubs may need protection. Shrubs can be propagated by layering now. Mowing the lawn becomes more frequent so make sure your mower or garden tractor is ready for the work.

The Lawn Care Guide - APRIL

Mowing the Lawn in April
Up until now, much has depended on the weather conditions as far as the lawn is concerned - so this month’s tips may repeat some of those given for March.

Cutting the grass usually begins in earnest in April. Mow when the grass is dry. For the first mowing in spring, set the cutting height to the highest setting.

Thereafter, gradually reduce the height of cut until the desired height is reached. For fine lawns, this will be 6-13mm (¼-½in). For ordinary ornamental lawns this will be 13-25mm (½-1in) in summer and up to 40mm (1.5in) in spring and autumn. You shouldn’t take more than a third off the height of the grass at any one mowing. 

The Vegetable Plot - APRIL

Make successional sowings to maintain an unbroken supply of mustard and cress, lettuce, spinach, broad beans and carrots. It’s a good time to create trenches for celery so they are well prepared and manured for planting in June. Prick off seedlings from March sowings and early in the month harden off plants in frames such as onion, cauliflower, leek, broad bean and pea. Lift celery and leek in the ground from last year and heel them in.
  • Sow and plant asparagus 
  • Grow French beans in pots 
  • Start early variety leeks in the greenhouse 
  • Sow peas if not started in March, at three week intervals until early June, using a first-early variety
  • Plan late crops by sowing summer vegetables outdoors. Spinach, carrots, kohl robi, radishes, turnips, lettuces, spring onions, summer cabbages and cauliflowers. For winter greens/Christmas savoy cabbages, Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers sow now 

The Big Glut Recipe - APRIL

April’s spring lamb with parsley and walnut pesto

Take advantage of the early spring lamb, here using double loins with a tasty treatment of pesto topping and served on a bed of new potatoes with seasonal vegetables from the garden. You can ask your butcher to bone, roll and tie the individual double loins of lamb.

  • 25g (1oz) parsley 
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) walnuts 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 individual double loins of lamb boned, rolled and tied 
  • 450g (1lb) new potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced (no thicker than a pound coin) 
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lawn drought? Top tips to reduce the effects of a dried out lawn

A dried out lawn
Ask most homeowners to list their garden wishes and "a healthy looking, green lawn" is likely to be near the top.

Drought is a problem experienced by many gardeners at some point of the year. A dried out, brown lawn looks unattractive and uninviting. The good news is that there are things that can be done to reduce the impact of drought and retain a healthy looking lawn...

What are the warning signs of a dried out lawn?
Keep up-to-date with the latest weather forecast. All keen gardeners keep one eye on the weather report and another outside. If a long, dry period has been forecast, take early action. 

When the winter has been excessively dry, a hosepipe ban is much more likely to be enforced at some point in the spring or summer. Look for a yellowing colour on the lawn - this is often an indicator that the grass plant is underwatered. One top tip is to walk across the lawn and look for visible footprints. Without sufficient water, the grass plant will be slower to spring back to an upright position.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

How to get rid of moss in a lawn - A 3 Step Programme

Moss in the lawn can be a problem
It’s war out there. It’s ‘survival of the fittest’ and your lawn must compete against hundreds of other organisms all fighting for space, light, water and nutrients. Okay... it’s a bit of dramatic opening to a story on moss, but the point is this: you need to give your lawn a fighting chance if you want it to win the battle.

If moss is rampant, then treat is as a sign that your lawn is lacking what it needs and is ultimately losing the war. Removing the moss is not enough on its own. It WILL come back.

How to get rid of moss: Step 1 - Understand the cause Pull on your gardening boots, grab a jacket (and a torch if it’s nighttime) and go for a short walk to where the moss is most prolific. Check to see if any of these conditions are true - even one of them could be causing the problem. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

This Month in Your Garden - MARCH

There's a lot going on in the garden in March and plenty to do with (hopefully) the weather improving. March weather spurns many sayings: a windy March may forecast a fine May. If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb, but if it comes in like a lamb it will go out like a lion.

If you have not already done so in February, sow and plant of vegetables, transplant herbaceous plants and start others, like fuschias, into growth.

Tough clumps of plants like heleniums, Michaelmas daisies, geraniums (border) and rudbeckias can be divided by using two border forks back to back to prise them apart. Keep the young, outside parts to plant up, discard the old centres.Use a trowel or spade to plant the outer shoots in the border. Snowdrops can be transplanted. It's a good month for turf laying and the greenhouse will be filling with seedlings. Perennials can be grown from seed - delphiniums, pinks and lupins could be flowering by late summer.

The Vegetable Plot - MARCH

Old cottage gardeners used to grow vegetables alongside flowers so if space is tight and an allotment not available, use part of the border for some radish, carrots, lettuce, spinach and turnips. 

Add herbs to the border, thyme, parsley, chives and marjoram. Grow crops in succession. A good time to start an asparagus bed.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Lawn Care Guide - MARCH

Generally, lawn grasses fall into two groups: narrow leaf, low growing fescue and taller broad leaf types such as rye grass and meadow grass. For lawns that are to be closely mown the fine grasses will be predominant.

March is the ideal time for patching up bare areas by loosening up the soil, mixing a little soil and seed, spreading and then covering the area with some clear polythene. Slit to let in air and water and peg down. 

How to Start a Lawn Tractor

Although starting a lawn tractor is a straight forward process, there are several safety features found on most machines that means that a set procedure must be followed.

Sit on the seat
Always be sat on the tractor when turning over the engine. A sensor within the seat will prevent the engine from being started unless the operator is sitting down.

Ensure the Parking Brake is engaged
The lawn tractor will not start unless the handbrake is on.

The Big Glut Recipe - MARCH

March fillets of sole with spinach and Mornay sauce

Spinach comes into season mid-March as celeriac and leeks are on the way out, along with mussels and oysters. Garlic and wine mussels appeal, as does a creamed spinach and roast vegetable lasagne. But the sole wins here.

  • 700g – 1kg/11/2 – 2lb sole fillets, skinned
  • 125ml/4fl oz fish stock brought to the boil
  • 125ml/4fl oz white wine brought to the boil
  • 1kg/2lb spinach
  • 50g/2 oz butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • 25g/10z butter 4Tbsp flour
  • 300ml/10fl oz fish stock
  • 300ml/10fl oz milk
  • 50g/2oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 50g/2oz grated Gruyere cheese
  • 4Tbsp double cream
  • Salt and white pepper

Monday, 20 February 2012

Try BEFORE You Buy - Why Test Drives are Recommended!

Question: Would you purchase a new car without test driving it first? 

Imagine how disappointed you would be if, upon collection of your shiny new hatchback, you found out that your golf clubs didn’t fit in the boot. Perhaps the 15mpg fuel economy is a little too rich for your pocket or maybe the car is too wide for your garage.

A lawn tractor or ride on mower can be a similar price as a second-hand car, so why don’t more people test drive before they buy?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Patchy lawn: Top 3 Culprits - and how to fix them!

There are many reasons why yellow or brown patches might appear on your lawn. Here are the top three culprits to consider plus some easy solutions to overcome them.

1. The Weather

Drought is the main cause of a patchy lawn
By weather we mean drought! If there has been a prolonged period without rain, your lawn may have dried out. Brown or yellow grass with irregular patches is a good indicator that the soil is parched. 

Solution: Prevention is better than cure and, hosepipe ban permitting, you should water your lawn throughout the hot summer months. Many say that mulch mowing can help during periods of drought as the tiny clippings release nutrients and moisture back to the roots of the grass plant and provide a protective screen over the soil. If your lawn is badly dried, try spiking or aerating followed by intensive watering. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Choosing a Lawn Tractor - FEBRUARY

A 'sweeping' collection system avoids grass clogging
When it comes to the weather, the only thing you can count on is its unpredictability. The British climate, for instance, is notoriously wet and on most days, even when it has not rained, the grass is often damp.

If you live somewhere where long dry summers are not guaranteed, you definitely need to take the weather into consideration when choosing your next lawn tractor.

Avoid the GREEN ARM

Many lawn mowers, not just tractors, struggle to collect wet grass. The tell tale signs that your mower is failing are rolls or clumps of grass left in the cutting path. This usually means that the discharge chute is blocked. The blades continue to spin, throwing clippings to the edge of the deck where they are deposited in soggy piles behind the mower.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

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The Lawn Care Guide - FEBRUARY

At this time of year, some grass may die back as the lawn starts to grow, creating spongy areas.

If conditions are mild and dry in late February to early spring you can scarify the lawn now to remove moss or thatch. Use a scarifier attachment with your garden tractor, an electric/powered scarifier or simply a rake.

This Month in Your Garden - FEBRUARY

A powered cultivator can be used to
turn over hard soil ready for planting.
Snow or hard ground in January might have put paid to finishing off the digging so, weather permitting, now’s the time to finish it. 

Ground turned over and left can be broken down to a fine surface when it’s dry. A powered cultivator or tiller can help here. A top dressing of manure can be applied. Lawn sites to be turfed or sown later can be prepared now if it’s not too wet. 

There’s still time to plant and transplant lilies outdoors. Roses can be pruned in mid-February rather than waiting until March – note to clear up cut growth and give a dose of fertiliser, rose feed, well rotted manure. 

There’s still time to plant fruit trees, deciduous ornamental trees, shrubs and roses in early February. 

The Vegetable Plot - FEBRUARY

Plant out potatoes in late February
Remember, if in January you had set aside an area covered in polythene or cloches you can now early sow. 

You can plant potatoes in a sheltered border in late February, the Arran Pilot you started chitting in January would be good for an early crop.

The Big Glut Recipe - FEBRUARY

Leek & Sausage Casserole with a Chive Mash
A simple dish on a cold evening for four people that takes about 10 minutes to prepare and cooks in around 30 minutes. Served here with chive mash or you could rustle up some noodles with butter and garlic.

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 Lincolnshire or pork sausages of choice
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 200g/7oz sliced leeks
  • 4 garlic cloves sliced
  • 2 sticks of celery sliced
  • Small bunch of sage leaves (ideally from the garden)
  • 200ml/7fl oz white wine
  • 400ml/14fl oz passata (a jar from the supermarket or even better, homemade)
  • 400ml/14fl oz chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and cracked black pepper 
  • A small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped