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, 3 April 2017

This Month in your Garden - April

“When well-apparelled April on the heel Of limping Winter treads.”

William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

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.

The Lawn Care Guide - April

You could be cutting it a bit fine

By 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.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. We have very sandy soil. How often should I fertilise the lawn?

The Vegetable Plot - April

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.

The Big Glut Recipe - April

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

This Month in your Garden - March

“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.

The Lawn Care Guide - March

One man (or woman) went to mow....


Depending on the soil temperature you will probably be mowing the lawn by now, starting as always at a high cut height to take off just the tip of the grass. You’ll gradually lower the cutting height of the mower or cutting deck on the garden tractor as the weather gets warmer and the grass is in full growth.

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.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. When is the best time to seed the patches in my lawn left by the removal of moss. And also the best method?

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I have identified Fusarium patch in my lawn even though I have regularly scarified, aerated and top dressed. What could be the cause?

The Vegetable Plot - March

Sow to your heart’s content


This month you can sow a dazzling variety of vegetables if you’re so inclined, and your plot is large enough and the weather fair; or simply be content with your favourite veg. Sow under cloches if the soil is sandy and you’re in a mild area.

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.

The Big Glut Recipe - March

Poached chicken with carrots, kale and mushrooms


A light and healthy bite from James Martin and Saturday Kitchen

Ingredients

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

This Month in your Garden - February

"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.

The Lawn Care Guide - February

All dressed up and ready to go

Probably 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).

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. A question that pops up every year is: How do I deal with worm casts and can I get rid of the worms?

The Vegetable Plot - February

Don’t forget to make the bed

The 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.

The Big Glut Recipe - February

Leek gratin with Gruyere

A dish to serve six with a seasonal slant, appropriately from House & Garden.

Ingredients
  • 4 leeks
  • 20g (¾oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) double cream
  • 125g (4½oz) grated Gruy√©re
  • Herbs to taste – thyme or rosemary

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. What can I do to get rid of ants in the lawn? Counted over 50 ant hills last year on small lawns front and back - about 150 sq mtrs max. I have tried the normal powders and sprays and also drilled down into the hill before applying powder but no luck. Is there anything on the market that will completely eradicate the problem?

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. Is winter the right time to core aerate my lawn? I have had a company looking after the lawn as it's quite large and there are quite a few trees around, moss was a big problem. They came yesterday and core-aerated it at a daft cost...and I notice none of the other neighbours had this process done ( those that use this company that is) and I just want to make sure they are not pulling the wool over my eyes ( they know I'm widowed..). I appreciate every garden is different, in it's needs and issues, but just a general idea of when these processes should be done, would be helpful.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

This Month in your Garden - January

"January brings the snow, makes our feet
and fingers glow.”

Sarah Coleridge

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.

Lawn Care Guide

The Lawn in Winter

The immediate advice is: if it’s frosty, snowy or just downright wet, stay off the lawn if you can, it will only suffer underfoot. Walking on the lawn when it’s frosty causes ‘frost burn’ as your footprint damages the cells of the frozen grass, leaving blackened impressions. If you have to reach an area where you feed the birds for example, try and work out the least damaging route as you make a mental note it would be an idea to lay stepping stones for next winter. You did already? Clever you.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I have to let my dog out onto the lawn to do his thing but I’m worried his urine is damaging the grass, what can I do?

The Vegetable Plot - January

Chitty, chitty bangers and mash 

Good old British weather permitting, digging over any plots that haven’t been dug is a useful start to the year, harvesting any leeks and parsnips you have grown as you go. If you like to have home grown lettuce in the winter months you can sow every two weeks in succession, indoors or in a heated greenhouse or frame at about 13°C (55°F). You can do the same for early cabbage, cauliflower, mustard and cress. For early peas, place a cloche over the growing area on your plot for a few weeks to let the soil warm before sowing.

The Big Glut Recipe - January


Butternut Squash Cottage Pie


Described by House & Garden from where the recipe emanates as ‘comfort food without the calories’. Not a bad idea after all that Christmas fare.

Ingredients:

For the topping:

  • 1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and the seeds removed
  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • Pinch of ground ginger