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.

Monday, 1 December 2014

This Month in your Garden – December

How is your own journal looking?

When the Gardener’s Journal first started, the suggestion was to use it as a handy reference to building a journal of your own garden. Keeping a planner and reference book on the way the garden has developed will help you progress your individual design and planting.

Equally, if you’re starting afresh, perhaps with a recent move to a new house and you simply haven’t had time with all that DIY or self building you have been doing, December offers a moment to contemplate and start jotting down ideas. Which plants where? Which way does the garden face? Where are the hot spots and the shady corners?

Lawn Care Guide – December

Keeping on and off the grass

There is a chance in a mild December that a last mowing is needed, and while it’s good to wait until March/April time to mow a new lawn sown from seed in autumn, it can be done now on dry, sunny days.

Set the mower or cutting deck on a garden tractor to a high setting. Cutting the grass too short will encourage moss. Brush off earthworm casts which can encourage weeds and moss as well.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  Can I still mow the grass in December?

The Vegetable Plot – December

Planning ahead

In keeping with your planning the rest of the garden it’s worth considering crops that have been in season from autumn into December with a view to next year’s planting.

Jerusalem artichoke, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, endive, kale and leeks are all crops in season in December and under glass you can add in chicory, endive, lettuce, radish and rhubarb.

You can continue to prune fruit trees in December; it’s a mistaken notion that they can’t be pruned when the weather is frosty.

The Big Glut Recipe – December

Chargrilled pheasant with Brussels sprouts and chestnut cream 

An intimate dine-in for two. You can get your butcher to prepare the pheasant and there are plenty of prepared chestnuts in the supermarkets if you don’t want to roast them yourself. This is based on a recipe seen on ‘Saturday Kitchen’.


  • 2 boneless pheasant breasts
  • 2 boneless pheasant thighs
  • 250g/9oz prepared Brussels sprouts
  • 150ml/5fl oz red wine
  • 200g/7oz smoked bacon lardons
  • 110g/4 oz roasted chestnuts
  • 400ml/14fl oz double cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Lawn Care Guide – November

The last chance mow

Make sure leaves are cleared off the lawn and if the grass is still growing keep an eye on the weather reports to squeeze in the final mowing for the year – it’s nicer to go through the winter with a neatly finished lawn than one that looks like it needs a haircut.

If you have a rotary mower you can use it to suck up the leaves and, better still, a garden tractor with a sweeper/collector will be just the job.

Monday, 3 November 2014

This Month in your Garden – November

Digging in the compost

Making compost is not only the ideal way to complete the growth and decay cycle, it’s also very satisfying to produce your own fertile mixture to replenish your soil. You can compost any organic waste from the garden and kitchen, mixing in layers with woody material, leaves and grass clippings.

A composter can be a simple wooden construction you might want to build yourself, a composting bin, they come in all shapes, sizes and prices, or even a ComposTumbler, a drum you turn every day for a couple of weeks and out comes rich, fertilising compost.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  We had a new lawn laid in September/October and it’s really growing. When should it have a first mow?

The Vegetable Plot – November

Crop rotation for good yields

When you are digging over the vegetable plot give some thought to rotating the planting next year. The same crop should not be grown in the same section year after year as this can result in pests and disease getting a hold and reducing the yield. Divide the plot into sections and plan to grow the same vegetable in one section, then in a different section next year.

Most plans work on four sections and so you might grow cabbages, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts in one section this year and another section next year. These brassica family vegetables may be preceded by or intercropped with lettuces, radishes and other small salads. It does pay to take a bit of time learning more about rotation.

The Big Glut Recipe – November

A warming sausage and two bean casserole

The simple match of beans, sausages and tomatoes but not in the same tin. Other beans would be flageolet, lima, haricot or butterbeans. The pork sausages can be any you prefer, though Italian or Lincolnshire are good. Serves 4 or halve for two.


  • 150ml/5fl oz olive oil
  • 8 pork sausages 
  • 2 x 400g/14oz tinned cannellini beans
  • 2 x 400g/14oz tinned borlotti beans
  • 4 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

This Month in your Garden – October

Colour scheme now for next year’s display

Gathering seeds from favourite plants you have allowed to run to seed is easy and a saving on the pocket. You know the seed is fresh and many of the hardy annuals and perennials can be sown but keep some back for spring. Collect the seed heads or pods in paper bags, separating them from any chaff, and let them dry out in a cool and dark but airy place. Once dried pop them into packets or envelopes, label them and then back they go to the dark place until needed.

Autumn’s spectacular colour schemes bring falling leaves to be gathered up for producing leaf mould for compost. Make sure rockeries don’t get left covered in leaves as they may kill the plants.

Lawn Care Guide – October

Overseeding the lawn

The benefits of scarifying and aerating were looked at last month. What this can also reveal is where there are some weaknesses in the lawn which develop over time from compaction, fertilising, shade from trees, the build up of thatch and general wear and tear. Some or all of these may lead to bare patches on the lawn and October is a good time to overseed the lawn before the frosts come.

This Month's Top Tip – October

Why should I scarify my lawn?

Scarifying the lawn, aerating and spiking are all jobs to be done around now. But what exactly is scarification and why is it important?

The Vegetable Plot – October

The vegetable store

Time to lift carrots, beetroot and turnips if you haven’t already done so. Some vegetables like parsnips and celeriac can benefit from a touch of frost, so you can leave them in for a bit but lift when the hard frosts start.

Store vegetables you don’t need now in boxes of slightly moist sand or garden compost. Lift as well any remaining potatoes and let them dry before storing in paper bags or sacks. Remove any damaged ones to prevent rotting.

The Big Glut Recipe – October

October’s flavour packing pumpkin soup

A warming and colourful starter that’s easily whizzed up in an electric blender and serves four to six as an autumn meal starter.


  • 25g/1oz butter
  • 2 small onions thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 500g/pumpkin flesh chopped
  • 1.2l/2 pints chicken stock
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 1 large potato peeled and chopped
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika pepper
  • 250ml/8fl oz double cream
  • Croutons

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

This Month in your Garden – September

A new canvas for next year

And so we mellow into autumn of which Edwin Teale said: For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.

There are of course still lovely flowers in bloom, colours and textures to take us into the next season, a new canvas we can create with shrubs, climbers, hardy perennials, pot-grown trees and spring bulbs we can plant.

Evergreen hedges can be planted and it’s time to take cuttings of bedding plants before the first frosts. Tender perennials need preparing, cuttings of these to be taken to over-winter for next year.

Lawn Care Guide – September

What lies beneath?

What has been happening beneath the lawn through a summer of use, dry periods, heavy rains, whatever we and the weather have thrown at it? Soil compaction is likely and the roots need air. If it’s not too damp now would be a good time to hook the scarifier onto the garden tractor or buy or hire a walk-behind to deal with the accumulation of thatch which is potentially harbouring disease while preventing fresh growth.

Conditions can’t always be perfect for scarifying but you don’t want the grass either too wet or too dry. If in doubt wait until later in the month or early October but before it really does get too damp. Cut the grass first. Don’t be deterred by the effect of scarifying, it’s simply lifting out all that dead material.

This Month's Top Tip – September

Q. We have lots of poppies in our garden of all types and the leaves turn brown but the flowers are alright, are we doing anything wrong?

The Vegetable Plot – September

All set to go

Planting time for autumn onion sets so you can be ahead of the game next year and harvesting in June to July. Choose varieties like Radar and Unwin’s First Early Mature which has a rounded shape and lovely, high quality yellow skin which is great for storing.

Plant 8cm (3”) apart in drills. Maincrop onions should be ripe for harvesting now as well as potatoes and you can remove leaves on outdoor tomatoes that are covering the fruit to let the sun ripen them off.

The Big Glut Recipe – September

Dash off a lamb dhansak and dine in

This Ainsley Harriott inspired dhansak is a perennial winner and made in next to no time. It has become a mainstay alternative to dining out or taking away and is probably a lot healthier, serving four, or two with two for the freezer. Great for butternut squash you’ve grown or simply pick one up when you shop. 

  • 500g/1lb 2oz cubed lamb
  • 2tbsp garam masala
  • 30-45ml/2/3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Vegetable Plot – August

The plot thickens

August is the last chance to grow salads but sowings and seedlings will need shade from the sun and heat. Grow Little Gem and Tom Thumb lettuces, radishes and mustard and cress.

Endives can be blanched by covering them with inverted flower pots. Second - early potatoes such as Maris Piper and Wilja should be ready but lift them only as you require them. Early beetroot should also be lifted before they get too big.

Lawn Care Guide – August

To water or not to water

We all like to see a well kept and green lawn through the summer months, our green oasis between herbaceous borders. The heat of summer and lack of rainfall can mean the grass drying out and becoming dormant. How often should you water it? There are other factors that combine to cause the grass to become dormant until more rain falls.

If you have maintained a regime of spiking, aerating and fertilising the lawn it should be more tolerant of dry conditions than grass just left to fend for itself. Wind is another cause of the grass drying out. Drought conditions and hosepipe bans may preclude watering altogether but assuming you can water, it’s the grass itself that indicates when it needs moisture, it can look a little dull and is not so springy underfoot.

This Month in your Garden – August

Relax, admire your work

August is the hot month, not just in weather terms but also in the colourful display you can enjoy with phlox, alstromerias (Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas), helianthus (sunflowers), kniphofias (red hot pokers), heleniums and rudbeckias and bedding plants like pelargoniums, marigolds and salvias.

Now you might want to cool down with the contrasting greys and silvers of stachys or ‘lambs ears’, Senecio, lavender, sage and variegated ivy. Dry, hot areas of the garden can also be a good home for succulents such as echeveria and mesembyanthemums.

This Month's Top Tip – August

Q. Something is attacking my dahlias, the leaves are being eaten. Could it be slugs or snails, and what can I do?

The Big Glut Recipe – August

Summer salmon platter with sauce verte

Are friends coming round and you want something refreshingly different, or you’re just bored with barbecues? This can be done with a whole salmon for a summer lunch or supper. Or you can adapt it to a couple of salmon fillets cooked in minutes. The list is not as daunting as it looks.


  • 1 whole salmon about 4kg/8lb gutted and cleaned 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley plus some reserved
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 4 tbsp dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Slices of hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Torn lettuce leaves
  • Olives

Monday, 7 July 2014

This Month in your Garden – July

Let the show go on...

With all the planting you’ve done, you are rewarded with a summer display, a garden full of flowers and you want the show to continue. Before they run to seed and weaken the plant you want to regularly remove blooms or flower spikes that have faded on early-flowering herbaceous plants, roses, bedding plants and annuals. If you want some seed of a particular plant to propagate let one run to seed.

Watering is of course important, just at the point in the summer when it may be in short supply. A lot of water comes off the roof of the house, the shed and greenhouse which can be easily collected in water butts by fitting inserts in downpipes. Sprinklers are not very efficient – an hour’s sprinkling is equal to as much as a family uses in a day. Better then to run a soaker hose through beds and borders to take the water directly to where it’s needed. Water in the evening when the heat of the sun has died down and if you’re using a watering can or hose you can rotate the task by soaking one area thoroughly and then another the following evening.

The Vegetable Plot – July

If you have the thyme

If you have been keen on growing vegetables the garden should be overflowing by now, especially with successional sowing. During the month you can make further plantings of celery and plant out winter greens as you harvest crops and ground becomes free, but water freely if July is persistently dry.

Leeks sown in mid-March can be planted. Feed and train outdoor tomatoes, nipping out side shoots and when the first fruit start swelling you can put some well rotted manure or compost around the plants.

Lawn Care Guide – July

Brown drought or ‘dry patch’?

July’s lawn care is much the same as June with regular mowing, though if it is hot and dry the growth
rate may have slowed. In which case you don’t want the mower or cutting deck on a garden tractor to cut too low; raise it a notch. Frequent close mowing can cause damage to the grass. If the ground is hard and the lawn has become compacted it’s worth spiking it before watering so that the water can penetrate more deeply to encourage the roots to push down.

Earlier in the year you were probably dealing with worm casts, now it’s likely to be ants creating unsightly ant hills above their nests. Brush them away and apply an ant killer as directed by the manufacturer.

The Big Glut Recipe – July

A summer pea and broad bean humous

Pick your own fresh peas and broad beans for a different take on humous and serve this for lunch or
keep it to yourself in the fridge. If you don’t have fresh, frozen peas and beans will do. Adjust the cooking time accordingly. You need a food processor for this recipe.

  • 300g of fresh peas or defrosted frozen
  • 300g of fresh broad beans or defrosted frozen
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 slices of bread – use sourdough or similar
  • 125g/4½ oz soft goat’s cheese
  • 50g watercress or land cress to garnish

This Month's Top Tip – July

Q. Can I put orange and lemon skins on my garden compost?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Lawn Care Guide – June

Keep on mowing....

Lawn care in June is mostly about the mowing schedule, stepped up to twice a week if the conditions are promoting growth. You can still treat the established lawn containing weeds and moss with a lawn fertiliser, weed and moss killer such as Rolawn and remove by hand or spot treat coarse grasses and weeds.

Aerating or spiking the lawn will help get water and air to the roots in dry periods keeping in mind the summer droughts we have been experiencing.

If you are thinking about creating a new lawn you can prepare the area now but the lawn is best started in August to September.

This Month in your Garden – June

Enjoy your garden....

A little and often is a good gardening tip. Not trying to do too much all at once is a rule worth following.

As summer borders begin their colourful impact it’s all the more pleasure to take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labours. 

When you’re ready though you can get on and trim hedges, make successional sowings to follow on from last month and catch up with little jobs like starting propagation for next year and staking border carnations. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Vegetable Plot – June

The root of the problem

At about this time of year young brassicas, that’s cabbages, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts, come under attack. The cause of the problem is the cabbage root fly which lays its eggs in the soil near the plant stems.

Little white grubs emerge and eat the roots and your vegetable show is over. Take action at planting time by using cabbage collars which you can buy online or from the garden centre.

If you want to save a penny or two you can make your own from pieces of cloth or carpet, cut into circles. Cut a line to the centre and then cut two snips to make a Y shape in the middle. Fit these tightly around the young plants at transplanting time and they prevent the female root fly from laying her eggs.

The Big Glut Recipe – June

Artichoke with Cromer crab salad

You can use any fresh crab meat, Cromer crab is a bonus. You could also use prawns if you prefer. Increase the number of artichokes and ingredients for more than two people.


  • 2 globe artichokes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 handful of chopped celery and red peppers
  • 1 handful crab meat
  • 1 tsp plain yoghurt or cream
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A dash of paprika
  • 1 tsp capers rinsed and chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Thursday, 1 May 2014

This Month in your Garden – May

A month in three parts...

Let’s divide the month of May into three. It’s as busy a month as you want it to be with summer warmth coming and herbaceous plants putting on a growth spurt. It all depends on what you want to see in the garden in the coming months, in addition to your existing planting. 

If you favour dahlias then in early May you can plant tubers outdoors if you haven’t already started them in a greenhouse or frame. Cover them with about three inches (7cm) of soil to protect against late frost. Harden off bedding plants in frames, such as pelargoniums, marguerites and fuchsias, in fact most half-hardy annuals sown in late February should be hardened and ready for open ground by the end of the month. But keep an eye on the weather reports in case of frost. 

Lawn Care Guide – May

Feeding, weeding and cutting

We walk all over it, play on it, let the dogs run around on it, give it a haircut every week and generally treat the lawn like no other plant. Well the grass has needs as well. 

By May we should see strong and consistent growth and will have lowered the cutting height on the lawn mower or garden tractor. The problem is, mowing removes the lawn’s energy and that needs replacing. 

If you haven’t already done so giving it a feed in spring and another in the summer can work wonders or, if you use a slow-release fertiliser, one feed in early May is probably enough. On the other hand it’s important not to apply too much fertiliser – two applications during the summer months should be sufficient. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. How often should I mow the lawn?

The Vegetable Plot – May

Successional success

Once again you can make a number of sowings to provide vegetables after the ones raised from earlier sowings. 

Lettuces, spinach and turnips are best in a partially shaded position as a lot of summer heat makes them run to seed. Sow endive towards the end of the month. Grow courgettes, bush marrows French and runner beans from seed if you haven’t grown them in the greenhouse or frame. 

The Big Glut Recipe – May

Warm asparagus salad

Simple, tasty and a great way to eat seasonal asparagus. A light and healthy dish for six done with duck eggs, or you can use hen’s eggs.

  • About 500g asparagus/around thirty spears
  • Six duck’s or hen’s eggs
  • Six bacon rashers
  • 50g of toasted hazelnuts

To Make a Dressing
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp smooth Dijon mustard

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

This Month in your Garden – April

Ready to start planting…

It’s a busy month for the gardener and time to catch up if bad weather in March has delayed your progress. It’s time to sow hardy annuals outdoors where they are to grow and early in the month you can sow annual climbers.

Clearing up borders is a good place to begin if you haven’t already done so. Cut away dead growth from last year’s herbaceous plants, dig out weeds and spread some compost on the surface, then lightly fork it in. Now you’re ready to start planting new herbaceous plants and a trip to the garden centre for summer flowering plants such as achilleas, delphiniums and lupins will give you a mass of colour.

Lawn Care Guide – April

Dealing with weeds

Usually this month you will be mowing more frequently, lowering the height of the mower blades with each successive cut.

Now is the time for a good dressing of a proprietary lawn fertiliser or, if weeds are appearing, a mix of fertiliser and weed and moss killer such as Scotts Evergreen Complete 4 in 1, either in granular or soluble form.

You could do the old fashioned fertiliser mix of two parts of sulphate of potash, one part of sulphate of ammonia, two parts of dried blood, fish and bone meal to twenty parts of silver sand and apply at a rate of 6oz per square yard but there is a danger of the nitrogen content scorching the lawn. A ready mixed fertiliser gives a controlled release over a longer period.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Should I mow the lawn before applying a feed and weed product?

The Vegetable Plot – April

Planning late crops

The month begins with more successional sowing. Radishes and mustard and cress can be sown outdoors in a warm, sheltered place. Two further sowings of lettuces and spinach at fortnightly intervals can be followed with a sowing of broad beans later in the month. Most importantly you should have two sowings of peas but use a second early or maincrop variety for sowing after mid April.

If you want cauliflowers, savoy cabbage and Brussels sprouts for Christmas the seeds need sowing in April. Celery trenches are best prepared now to allow manure and soil to blend together before planting in June. Well-rotted manure or decayed vegetable refuse mixed with the soil will give the celery a good start. A shallow trench provides the young plants with protection and easy watering in dry periods.

The Big Glut Recipe – April

April lamb chops with chard and chickpea stew (inzimino)

Swiss chard is in season from October to April and June to August. This is a quick recipe for four with griddled spring lamb chops, served with Florentine style inzimino, which is technically any dish served with lots of vegetables. The River Cafe does a luxury version.


  • A head of Swiss chard
  • 4tbsp olive oil 
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove finely sliced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled and finely chopped
  • 1x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1x 440g tin chickpeas, drained
  • A char-grilled red pepper, remove the skin and seeds, cut
  • 8 lamb cutlets
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley finely chopped

Monday, 3 March 2014

This Month in your Garden – March

The arrival of spring…

Usually it can be said that spring arrives in mid-March so there is much to be done in the in preparation, weather permitting! Seize the moment if there are good days early in the month for those general tasks.

Sowing and planting of vegetables and flowers will soon be upon you. Now is usually the best time to transplant herbaceous plants, such as Michaelmas daisies, heleniums, rudbeckias, solidagos and other vigorous spreading varieties. You can split these by hand or break up larger clumps using two border forks back-to-back, discarding the hard, central portions and keeping the young outer pieces. Replant using a spade or trowel.

Lawn Care Guide – March

What is top dressing?

We think of mowing grass for the purpose maintaining an area of the garden as lawn. Mowing, however, also has an effect on the composition of the turf. While some grasses and weeds die back when they are cut very short, others can thrive with close mowing.

Dividing grasses into groups you have the low-growing narrow leaf types such as fescue and agrostis and taller broad leaf kinds, the perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne) and smooth stalk meadow grass (Poa pratensis). Usually your grass will be a mixture of both fine and coarse grasses.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Are there any particular lawn weedkillers you can recommend to use at home? Chris. 

The Vegetable Plot – March

Let’s get sowing

In early March you can make the first small sowing of summer spinach and, as alliterative as that sounds, ideally sow into a sheltered border with a southern aspect. Sow thinly in drills 1” (25mm) and 1ft (300mm) apart. You can make more successional sowings later.

Maincrop onions sown in drills will benefit from plenty of farmyard manure beneath them whilst on top wood ash can be mixed with the soil to lighten it and let the bulbs swell.

The Big Glut Recipe – March

Mouth-watering rhubarb crumble

What could be simpler and as comforting? 

  • 12 sticks of rhubarb
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 8 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 110gm/4oz butter
  • 110gm/4oz Demerara sugar
  • 200g/7oz plain flower

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

This Month in your Garden – February

A time to catch up?

If you have been a good gardener you should have completed all your digging, trenching and turning over ground earlier in the winter, leaving the rough earth to be weathered down by the frosts.

The trouble is, time and the weather may have conspired against you but all is not lost. Usually February will allow you some days to catch up and you could also be preparing a site for sowing a lawn or turfing come the spring. There is time for planting or transplanting lilies outdoors, pruning bush or standard roses and finishing planting trees and shrubs.

Towards the end of the month you should be able to start sowing vegetables. In early February flowering shrubs such as Hydrangea paniculata and Spiraea japonica  should be pruned, cutting back last year’s stems to within one or two joints of the older wood.