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, 4 October 2017
"It's a funny kind of month, October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you discover that your wife left you in May." Denis Norden, 1977
Excessive amounts of thatch are a harbour for pests and diseases and promote poor drought tolerance. A shallow layer though is good because it acts as a barrier to prevent excessive moisture loss and help to prevent wear on the surface. Striking a balance will give the lawn enough of the soft cushioning you want.
Hoe, hoe, hoe, not long ‘till Christmas
Certainly now is the time to use the hoe and keep the vegetable borders free of weeds. Soon you’ll be turning the soil ready to let the winter frosts break it down. If you have been hard at work in your vegetable patch you’ll probably be reaping the benefits for your Christmas fare.
It’s wise to lift carrots, beetroot and turnips before the frosts and to fork up potatoes to dry before storing. Complete earthing up of celery and leeks and protect any late crops with cloches and fleece. Cauliflowers need protection and you can do this by bending outer leaves over any hearts froming. Thin out onion and turnip beds, cut down asparagus foliage and cut back globe artichokes. Harvest maincrop apples and take cuttings of bush fruit to cultivate.
Beef jhal faraizi, karhai broccoli and sweet and sour squashThis Madhur Jaffrey recipe from BBc’s Saturday Kitchen Best Bites is a great way to use leftover roast beef and even better if you have grown your own butternut squash and broccoli. Serves 4.
For the beef jhal faraizi
- 340g/12oz small floury potatoes, unpeeled
- 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, cut into 7mm/⅓in cubes
- 2-3 fresh, hot green chillies (such as bird’s-eye chillies), chopped
- 40g/12oz leftover roast beef, 7mm/⅓in cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Thursday, 7 September 2017
"Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done, what we didn’t do, and what we’d like to do next year." Unknown Author
Gertrude Jekyill also said: “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”
Let’s consider if you’re new to gardening, both quotes are a meaningful start to a lifetime of gardening pleasure. If you are an ‘old gardener’ I’m sure you’ll agree with both sentiments. You might have inherited an ornamental garden when you moved house, or your own garden is well established.
“My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower and I told him of course he could, so long as he didn't take it out of my garden.” Eric Morecambe
We have probably all known someone at one time or another who pops round and asks if they can borrow this tool or that. Never to return them unless pressed to do so and even then it’s as if they are parting with something that actually belongs to them and not you. Well, there’s a lot to be said for hiring some garden equipment when you need it.
“I had this image of lots of marrows, squash and pumpkins all wearing sombreros and lazing around in the September sunshine.”
You can freeze what you don’t need now so you can have peas, beans, cauliflowers, broccoli, sweet corn and Brussels sprouts waiting for the pot. By now you will be lifting maincrop beetroot to eat when you’re ready, as well as carrots and potatoes for storing in hessian or thick paper sacks in a dark, frost-proof place.
Roasted butternut squash with chilli, spinach & peanuts
- 2tbsp gochujang
- 2tbsp vegetable oil
- 1tbsp fish sauce (replace with soy sauce if veggie/vegan)
- 2 butternut squash, about 2kg, peeled, halved and seeded
- 300g baby spinach leaves
- Juice of 1 lime
- 50g roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
Thursday, 3 August 2017
"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." - Sam KeenWhilst August is usually the hot month, the long range forecast tells us we may have seen the highest temperatures back in July. Certainly we have had a fair bit of rain in the past weeks and more coming our way. With the rain we have also observed plenty of weeds growing such as Calystegia sepium and Convolvulus arvensis, better known as Bindweed, rapidly twist its way around roses, vines and tall shrubs, strangling the plants as it reaches for the sky with not unattractive white flowers.
It’s hard to eradicate with cultural methods, with its creeping deep rooted rhizomes and may need a glyphosphate such as Roundup to deal with it. The problem with a non-selective weedkiller is the danger of killing plants around the weed. Hoeing at the base now, and then digging out the roots in autumn is a good alternative and placing tall bamboo canes for the Bindweed to grow up, where it can then be safely sprayed, is another tip.
‘A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule’ Michael Pollan
If you’re in an area where there has been little or no rainfall and drought is causing your fine lawn to brown, raise the height on your garden tractor cutting deck or lawn mower. Better still, if you have a mulching deck use that to let grass clippings act as protective mulch. It all helps to reduce drought stress.
Last month we talked about watering the lawn in times of drought. If you prefer not to water and the grass is browning it will recover when the rains come. What you can do is begin a regime in the autumn to help reduce browning next year. Scarifying, aerating and ensuring good drainage will help reduce thatch, moss and soil compaction in preparation for the season.
We’re rooting for youIf you’re wondering what to do with that spare bit of ground or border and haven’t grown vegetables before why not give it a go? There’s plenty you can easily sow this month and a good place to start is with fast growing lettuces such as ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Tom Thumb’. Move on to cauliflower, red cabbage, spinach and turnips and you’ll soon be producing crops for the table.
Chinese cabbage and Chinese Kale are great for autumn salads and stir fries. Land cress, radishes and endive are easy to grow and delicious to eat. It’s not too late to grow carrots but watch out for carrot fly when thinning the plants. Radichio can be sown outside now for autumn salads and winter hardy spring onions such as ‘White Lisbon’ can be direct sown for cropping next spring.
Chicken with chorizo, peppers and sage with spiced aubergineA tasty summery meal for four, with a little fiery kick from the chorizo. Nice to eat out on a warm evening. Recipe by Angela Hartnett, Saturday Kitchen Best Bites.
For the chicken
- 1 large corn-fed chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 110g/4oz chorizo, peeled and sliced
- 3 red peppers, cut into 2.5cm/1in squares
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 lemon, juiced, zested
Tuesday, 4 July 2017
‘I am Summer, come to lure you away from your computer... come dance on my fresh grass…’ Oriana Green
First the heatwave and we’re out there feverishly watering and then all it takes is to set the sprinkler going on the parched lawn and behold, the rain comes. Well, we needed some moisture but the problem with a lot of rain in a short period is the lawn hardly benefits. It takes a really thorough soaking to keep it green during such hot spells and dry July. But be water-wise.
The border plants however will be grateful for the rain and to maintain the benefit you can mulch around them with a bark mulch. Not only is it a good weed deterrent, it will help keep the soil below moist for longer. Keep an eye on any clematis you have for signs of wilt, where the leaves appear diseased. Cutting the plant right back can revive it. Deadheading repeat flowering border plants and perennials is rewarded with more colourful flowering into the autumn.
Feed me! Feed me!
If your lawn is looking thin, weak and generally as if it needs a good tonic you could apply a light dressing of fertiliser. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive. You could use tomato fertiliser or even rose fertiliser. You just need to ensure the nutrient ratios of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium are low. You don’t want more than 10% Nitrogen in the mix. Applied evenly the fertiliser will spruce up the grass nicely. Alternatively you can apply a turf conditioner but that might be a bit more expensive.
"An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh." - Will Rogers
It’s more or less a time for pottering around the vegetable plot, sowing some quick maturing beetroot,
turnips, fennel and spinach beet will keep you occupied in the sunshine. Watering will be called for especially for tomatoes both in and out of the greenhouse.
You might like to sow some Chinese cabbage and certainly spring cabbage. Autumn onions can be lifted and stored. Mint, marjoram and tarragon will benefit from cutting back to encourage fresh growth, while parsley for autumn can be sown and then moved inside the greenhouse or placed in a cold frame. Finish planting your celery now and earth up any early celery you planted.
Vegetable garden risotto
A lovely way to use the beans, peas and asparagus from the garden, in a light and tasty risotto. From The Hairy Bikers’ Best of British. Serves four.
- 250g/10oz broad beans
- 50g/2oz butter
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 long strip lemon zest
- 1 bay leaf
- 150g/5oz Arborio risotto rice
- 150ml/5oz dry white wine
- 750ml/1 pint 7fl oz hot vegetable stock
- 100g/3½oz peas
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into short lengths
- 100g/3½oz fresh runner beans, de-stringed and cut into long thin strips
- 100g/3½oz feta cheese, drained and crumbled into small pieces
- Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- Parmesan shavings, to serve (optional)
Friday, 2 June 2017
"It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside." - Maud Hart Lovelace,What a contrast to the end of April. There we were wrapping up warm and looking out for tender plants. Now we can think about planting out the dahlias, summer bedding and plants raised from seed. What about some fast growing hardy annuals such as Clarkia, Godetia and pot marigolds – Calendula, which can be direct sown for late summer colour?
Now is the height of summerWith successive mowing you’ve reduced the cutting height, according to growth, to the summer height of cut. If you have an ornamental, high maintenance lawn you could give it a light top dressing of top soil to help keep the lawn smooth and reduce thatch.
The dry weather calls for watering and lawns need a good soaking that really penetrates the soil, not a light water that only encourages shallow rooting grass. Water thoroughly once or twice a week, depending on how hot it is, and preferably early morning or evening. Only really pampered grass will escape the browning, scorched patches with the sun at its hottest but the lawn will recover. Don’t though, confuse browned areas with one of the lawn’s enemies, brown patch fungus, which is ring-like and appears when it’s hot and humid. Water the area once a week and apply a lawn fungus control every other week for about six weeks.
Water, water, everywhere...Once you’re certain the frosts have passed you can plant out outdoor tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, sweet corn, French beans and runner beans. For many of us, tomatoes will be a favourite to grow either in the greenhouse in beds and soil/compost that has been changed annually, in grow bags, or outdoors. When planting outdoors give them the sunniest spot possible and stake well. Plants should be about 15-23cm/6-9” tall with the first flower truss appearing.
Asparagus, goat’s cheese and smoked bacon quicheMake your own pastry or you can buy ready made short crust pastry.
For the pastry:
- 250 g plain flour
- 125 g unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp water
For the filling:
- 2 rashers of thick smoked back bacon, finely chopped
- 100 g of goat’s cheese
- 300 ml double cream
- 200 ml of milk
- 4 medium eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 6 sprigs of asparagus
- 30 g butter
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Inspired by a deep joy and curiosity for the wonders of nature, this school promises to combine the passion the whole team at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons share for the love of gardening, with the desire to pass on best kept secrets to guests.
Blanc has always said that the gardens at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons are as much a part of the excellence as the two Michelin-starred food and the launch of the school is the perfect opportunity to enjoy learning more about the mystery of horticulture within a truly convivial environment. Quite simply, it is a perfect marriage of true minds – where nature and culture co-exist.
Friday, 5 May 2017
"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden."Ruth Stout, Author, Gardener
Many of us have been out there at the end of April tending to the tender plants as the frost bites with the cold weather front. Dahlias are tender and growing plants are best kept in the warm until the frosts pass before planting out in early June to create their dazzling displays.
If you haven’t the room or the time to grow your own bedding plants you’ll probably be eager to pop into the garden centre to pick up your half-hardy border plants. But the summer bedding, in most areas, will be best planted out at the end of the month, with the exception of areas that are still cold enough to cause damage to the plants.
Come rain or shine the lawn will be fineWeekly mowing of the lawn is probably called for now and the mower blade or cutting deck on the garden tractor lowered for a finer cut and neat stripes. It may be necessary to make a further application of selective weed killer this month if the weeds are persistent.
If you have a large lawn area and use a garden tractor you can use a powered spreader, or a walk- behind pedestrian type to ensure the correct quantity is applied, following the instructions on the packet. If there’s a dry spell there may be the need to water if you use a granular treatment and the same will apply if you are weed free but spreading a slow release fertiliser to feed the lawn.
Keep on sowingGardening should be as much a pleasure as eating the fruits – and vegetables – of your labours. Slightly contradictory terms but May is a time to continue sowing and why not give the unusual a try with kohl rabi and salsify? If your beds are prepared, you can sow French beans, squash, runner beans and cucumbers after the frosts, or cover the sown area with horticultural fleece for protection.
Roasted Jersey Royal SaladRoasted Jersey Royal potatoes with spring herb, hazelnut and bacon salad and lemon brown butter dressing.
- 1kg jersey royals or other waxy new potatoes, scrubbed, halved if large
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200g (around 9-10 rashers) British free-range streaky bacon, chopped into thirds
- 75g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 100g watercress
- Small bunch each fresh basil, mint (leaves picked) and chives (snipped in half)
- 150g radishes, quartered
Monday, 3 April 2017
A sudden burst of warmth brought colour to March and winter does seem to have limped away, though Shakespeare had other meanings in mind when he wrote the line. First came the daffodils, and now the tulips, and April’s garden looks bright. Many years ago we planted a Japanese cherry: Prunis incisa, Kojo-no-mai which is a compact shrub and a delightful early herald of spring. Leave it to grow and it will reach about five feet in height, bringing the first real colour to the garden with white blossom turning to pink by the time April arrives.
You could be cutting it a bit fineBy now you have probably mown the lawn a couple of times or more, weather permitting, and that will have exposed areas that need some treatment or repair. Incorrect mowing can be a cause of problems so remember the rule: the higher the height of cut, the healthier the grass will be.
Get ready – sow!April always imparts a feeling of productivity in the vegetable garden, with plenty to sow and plant
for you and the family to enjoy over the coming months. If your plot is small or you’re confined to a greenhouse or growing frame then lettuces, radishes, spring onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and carrots will be on your list. You could try dwarf French beans grown in pots in the greenhouse, along with marrow, ridge cucumbers and melons.
Quick prepared Mediterranean Lamb, marinated for succulent flavour. A House and Garden recipe for April.
- 8 lean lamb chops or cutlets
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3tbsp olive oil
- 1 aubergine, sliced
- 2 courgettes, sliced
- 1 red or yellow pepper, cut into large chucks
- 50g (1¾oz) feta cheese, crumbled
- 250g (8oz) cherry tomatoes
Monday, 6 March 2017
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”Margaret Atwood
Spring officially starts on the first of March but then the daffodils, crocuses and primulas seem to
have been telling us that in the southern counties for the past couple of weeks. But what a mixed bag of weather we’ve had across the whole of the UK in the past few weeks. Now, hopefully we can look towards getting our hands dirty in the garden.
One man (or woman) went to mow....
One thing that is noticeable after the winter months is how patchy the grass can look and this may be pointing to the need for ‘over-sowing’ or ‘over-seeding’. The problem with constant mowing is the grass doesn’t get the chance to seed itself naturally and periodically needs a helping hand with an application of seed to rejuvenate it.
Sow to your heart’s content
Broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, lettuces and more in the list below will keep the vegetables on the table. If you have light soil you can plant out garlic and shallots – heavy soils need longer to warm up.
Poached chicken with carrots, kale and mushrooms
For the chicken
- 1 whole chicken, legs and thighs removed (you can use them in another dish)
- 1 litre/1¾ pints chicken stock
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 25g/1oz butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Wednesday, 1 February 2017
"Why, what's the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?"- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
We’ve had our fair share of frosty mornings and hard ground in January so perhaps it’s time to
welcome a little drama in our February garden. There’s another saying along the lines that no two gardens are the same and no two days in one garden are the same. So here we’ll merely suggest what you might be getting on with in your February garden, whatever the weather.
All dressed up and ready to goProbably the smoothest ‘lawns’ you’ll ever see are bowling greens and it’s interesting to note they date back hundreds of years, the oldest recorded being before A.D.1299. Whilst it would be nice to think we can achieve the perfect lawn the average garden is not conducive to creating bowling green standards and anyway, the type of grass would not take the kind of punishment we dish out on our garden lawns.
We can, however, follow the lead of the professionals to achieve a very pleasing effect by caring for the grass in similar ways as they do. During February the grass will start into more vigorous growth and the tell-tale signs of sponginess and moss indicate the need to aerate and, when weather conditions permit, scarify. If it’s wet then hold off until March (usually March to November would be the time to aerate with a machine or aerator towed by the garden tractor).
Don’t forget to make the bedThe likelihood of late frosts that break down soil into a workable tilth, especially a heavy clay soil,
make this a good time to finish off any deep digging. If you’re on sandy loam then you’re spared the digging and just need to lightly fork over the vegetable plot, removing any weeds or vegetable residue. If you wish you can cover areas with cloches or polythene to help warm up the soil ready for early sowings of carrots, radishes, lettuce and summer cabbage at the end of the month. Shallots can be planted, making sure they are deeply seated so the birds can’t pull them out before they root.
Tuesday, 3 January 2017
"January brings the snow, makes our feet
and fingers glow.”
That may well be the case for some of us but much of the country has been uncommonly mild. Welcome to the New Year and if, like us, you’re in an area where you haven’t seen a single flake of snow you may well be looking on the garden and thinking: I could be out there doing things. You could be warming up with a bit of pruning you didn’t get done before Christmas. Pear and apple trees will appreciate weak branches and dead wood being cut back and thick growth, tangled in the centre of a shrub or tree, once removed will get the air circulating. You can prune late vines but not apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches or figs.