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.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This Month in your Garden - April

Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s certainly the month to inspire and plant for colour, especially if you started early sowing of hardy annuals which are ready to be planted out. Plant summer flowering bulbs, lilies for example, in containers or pots you can move around or prepare soil to give the bulbs good drainage.

We’ve had some cold nights in March so still watch for frosts and protect susceptible plants with fleece or cloches. If you haven’t grown modules of plants in February or March, consider buying plug plants to save money on bedding. Herbaceous perennials will be putting on growth so they need planting out.

Lawn Care Guide - April

Feed me now

From April onwards the need for more frequent mowing of the lawn is likely, depending on weather and location. Remember the higher the height of cut the healthier the lawn will be and cutting not more than a third off the height with any one mowing should be the rule.

Weeds will start to proliferate and the lawn can be treated now with a selective weed killer, one that does not affect the grass plant. Aerating the lawn by hand (a garden fork will do the job on a smaller lawn) or machine before the ground becomes hardened is beneficial in helping the soil to warm up, encouraging growth, and allowing it to drain more freely by breaking up compaction that has occurred over the winter months.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  Our grass has become thin and sparse. What could be causing this?

The Vegetable Plot - April

Get sowing now

A good place to start your vegetable sowing is with peas but begin with digging a good amount of compost or well rotted manure into your vegetable beds. Plant out vegetable seedlings grown in the greenhouse or frames, by around by the middle of the month but watch out for frosts.

Sow your peas at three week intervals for a good crop and start the rest of your vegetables: spinach, carrots, turnips, leeks and on to lettuces, spring onions, summer cabbages and cauliflowers. Plant and protect early and second-early and maincrop potatoes.

The Big Glut Recipe - April

A spring leg of lamb with goat’s cheese and herb salad 

Juicy spring lamb perfectly complemented by fresh herbs


  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Small bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked
  • Finely grated zest 2 large unwaxed lemons  
  • 1 tsp sea salt  
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ British lamb leg, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher to do it for you) 
For the salad
  • 2 bunches fresh soft herbs such as basil, tarragon, mint and coriander, or a mix of what you fancy
  • 50g wild rocket
  • Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
  • Squeeze lemon juice  
  • 200g Dorstone goat’s cheese or similar ash-rinded goat’s cheese

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

This Month in your Garden - March

Daffodils that come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty

William Shakespeare

March heralds the start of spring gardening and you could say by mid-March spring has arrived. The weather is looking fairly typical with sunny days but beware the frosty nights. Last month we commented on the early daffodils appearing, this month we can begin gardening in earnest.

The frosts will have been beneficial to the soil, breaking it down and now it’s time to get going, preparing seed beds and in mild areas even sowing hardy annuals and sweet peas. Otherwise you can be sowing seeds in small pots or trays of compost to germinate in a warm place. But if you don’t have a warm, bright place, temperature 10C (50F) to grow the plants on, wait until April or early May.

Lawn Care Guide - March

How to cut the grass

This is the month when the grass starts growing strongly and needs regular mowing. Now you might ask why you should be told how to cut grass. Well, it’s not just as simple as lowering the height with each successive cut, although of course that’s a part of it.

Grass needs mowing a little at a time and, depending on the type of grass and its different uses, at different frequencies. The aim is to remove a third of the available leaf each time you mow, allowing the grass time to recover from the cut. Leaving the majority of the leaf intact allows photosynthesis to turn compounds such as water into food for growth. Take off two thirds or more and you’re exposing the grass plant to disease attack as it becomes weaker, thinner and showing yellow in colour.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I’ve been told that as grass grows it makes the soil more acid which slows growth and can lead to disease. Is this true and what can I do about it?

The Vegetable Plot - March

Let the show go on

Whilst you can start sowing seeds for growing many vegetables this month it’s worth checking the soil temperature in colder regions. For outdoor spring-sown crops you need a temperature of 7C (45F).  If the soil is colder, wait until later in the month for it to warm up.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop and wait because there’s a host of vegetables you can start sowing indoors in a warm room or in heated propagators with tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and aubergines high on the list. Then, when the ground warms up you can get going outside by removing over-wintered greens from the vegetable plot, and freezing any extra vegetables, to keep spinach and beans for later for example.

The Big Glut Recipe - March

Leek gratin with Gruyère


Serves 6 and uses those leeks from the garden, or bought if you like. Great after a good walk.


  • 3 to 4 leeks
  • 20g (¾oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) double cream
  • 125g (4½oz) grated Gruyére
  • Optional herbs: thyme or finely chopped rosemary

Heat the oven to 160°C/fan/gas mark 2-3 and grease a baking dish large enough to hold the leeks in two layers. Trim off the roots and most of the green from the leeks then quarter them lengthways. Rinse  to remove any dirt and pat dry with kitchen roll or clean tea towel.