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, 2 June 2017
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.
The Lawn in WinterThe 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.
Chitty, chitty bangers and mash
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.
For the topping:
- 1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and the seeds removed
- 30g (1oz) butter
- Pinch of ground ginger