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, 8 August 2018

Lawn care: Questions and Answers

Q. When considering top dressing for the lawn, what is the ratio of soil sharp sand and multi-purpose compost for me to mix?

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

This Month in Your Garden – August

"Summer's lease hath all too short a date." – William Shakespeare


We British complain. It’s too cold, too wet, too dry, too hot. Certainly the latter has applied on the hottest days of this summer’s heat wave as far as carrying out any but the simplest of garden tasks.

Even ambling around the garden with a pair of secateurs and deadheading roses, to bring on a second flush of blooms, has encouraged retreat beneath the parasol and a grasp for a cool drink. Hopefully all the good work you put into the garden in earlier months has come to fruition with bold, colourful displays in borders.

The Lawn Care Guide – August

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” – James Dent


There hasn’t been much call for mowing the lawn these past weeks unless you have a regime of keeping it watered, growing, green and needing cutting. If you have cut you will have raised the height on the mower or cutting deck on the garden tractor to reduce drought stress.

Mow lightly, frequently and ideally with a mulching deck or mower to leave the cuttings finely chopped to act as a mulch and retain moisture.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. We have areas of dead grass in rings right next to the green grass. What is this and what can we do?

The Vegetable Plot – August

“Salad days.”


Shakespeare’s expression for a youthful time implies inexperience but those in the know will be taking the last chance in August and planting salads. Little Gem and Tom Thumb lettuces, mustard and cress, radishes - hurry, sow and shade seedlings from the sun and heat.

If you have an established vegetable plot you’ll be enjoying your salads, the lettuces, rocket, tomatoes, beetroot and second-early potatoes. How about a Caesar or a Salad Nicoise?

The Big Glut Recipe – August

Caesar Salad with chicken


A slightly different take on the Caesar salad borrowed from Delicious Magazine

Ingredients

  • Large, 1.7kg free-range chicken
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • 6 smoked streaky bacon rashers
  • 3 thick slices white bread or a small ciabatta loaf, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 romaine lettuce, roughly torn into pieces
  • Handful rocket leaves

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

This Month in Your Garden - July

‘I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.’ - Claude Monet

 
The cultivation of roses, it is believed, began about 5,000 years ago in China. In the 17th century roses were so prized royalty considered them as legal tender. And this year seems an exceptional one for the roses in our garden. But growing conditions will vary greatly across the country and we each have our own favourite flowers.

The Lawn Care Guide - July

‘Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so called scientific knowledge.’ - Thomas Edison


The best lawn advice this month is to mow according to growth and consider a light dressing of fertiliser or a summer feed if the lawn is looking a bit weak and thin. Ensure though that the nutrient ratios of Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus are low. You need no more than 10% Nitrogen.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. How do I know when the lawn has been watered enough?

The Vegetable Plot – July

‘It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.' Lewis Grizzard

There is definitely a lot to be said for home grown vegetables and fruit. If you have the space and time there’s nothing like stepping out of your back door and pulling up or picking total freshness for your lunch or evening meal.

The Big Glut Recipe – July

Risotto Primavera


It has the sound of summer and is just waiting for all those lovely fresh vegetables from the garden. A BBC Food recipe. Serves 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75g/2¾oz unsalted butter
  • ½ onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, very finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, very finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 125g/4½oz asparagus spears

Monday, 11 June 2018

This Month in Your Garden – June

It was June and the world smelled of roses – Maud Hart Lovelace


It’s fair to say with June 21st being the longest day of the year that summer arrives this month. We had that wonderful taste of summer in May, then the rain.

Sprinkle with light and more warmth and the roses burst forth to join the fragrant chorus of the June garden. And joining as well in this lustrous impact of scent and colour come the weeds. Well, you didn’t honestly think it would be all romance and no work, did you?

The Lawn Care Guide – June

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side – Ricky Gervais


You have been following a regime of scarifying, aerating, fertilising and removing moss and weed from the lawn through the spring. The weather has warmed up and the rains come and go. The grass has grown and you have gradually lowered the cutting height on the mower or garden tractor deck. The lawn has greened up and is beginning to look more lush than it has for a long time. But it’s still not looking as good as you want it.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. Our lawn has developed a series of mounds on the surface along the mowing lines. What’s causing this?

The Vegetable Plot – June

When is a cucumber like a strawberry? When one is in a pickle and the other is in a jam!


Time to earth up potatoes, blanch leeks and remove runners from strawberries. It’s also time to continue successional sowings of lettuce, endive, mustard and cress and turnips. Thin out seedlings from April and May sowings.

Don’t stop there. If you have the space you’ll be planting out the winter greens you’ve grown – broccoli, Brussels sprouts. Along with runner beans, celery, tomatoes, sweet corn, marrow, ridge cucumbers, aubergines and capsicums. I hope you can eat all this.

The Big Glut Recipe – June

Roasted asparagus wrapped in Parma ham (side dish)


The English asparagus season is over on the longest day, 21st June. This recipe from Delicious magazine is just a simple side, but check out all the other ways you can make asparagus into tasty
mains.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of asparagus (about 24 spears), woody ends removed
  • Small handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 8 slices Parma ham


Thursday, 3 May 2018

This Month in Your Garden – May

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. Mark Twain


No, we’re not going to have a rant about the weather. You all know what it’s doing in your area and many gardeners will have put on their hardy hats and are already out there forking over planting areas.

If you like your summer bedding for great splashes of colour in your gardening canvas, be prepared for a busy week or two at the end of the month.

The Lawn Care Guide – May

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. - Zen


All it needed was some rain and a warm spell and away it goes, full of energy and growing like crazy.

Weed might be a problem and a selective weedkiller may be required, following the directions on the label or pack. To stand up to the hard time we give it, the lawn may need a spring feed if not already done, followed by another in late summer.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. How do I know how much weed and feed or fertiliser to spread without scorching the lawn?

The Vegetable Plot – May

There’s nothing I like more than picking fresh vegetables then putting them in the dinner you make that night. Patrick Duffy


Should you have a greenhouse without any extra heat it’s safe now to plant tomatoes and other tendercrops directly into the soil, or use a grow bag. If you haven’t started your own tomatoes from seed indoors you can still buy plants from the garden centre.

Give the plants the support they need – a string or line from ceiling to floor will enable you to get the plant growing around it. Remove side shoots and after the first truss appears, feed every second watering. Don’t over water, you’ll get a watery tomato, use as little as you can to ensure you get the full flavour.

The Big Glut Recipe – May

Super spring salad


It had to be something asparagus for this month’s Big Glut recipe and a healthy one it is with bags of flavour. John Torode’s recipe from Saturday Kitchen

Ingredients

For the spring salad
  • 12 Jersey Royal potatoes
  • 10 green asparagus spears, sliced on an angle
  • 150g/5½oz young broad beans, podded 
  • 150g/5½oz peas, podded
  • 150g/5½oz fresh or frozen soy beans
  • 3 spring onions, sliced on an angle
  • drizzle of olive oil 

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

This Month in Your Garden – April

No life is without difficulties. No garden is without weeds.
C.L. Fornari


It seems like it’s been a long time since we were truly able to get into the garden with the sun on our backs. It depends of course which part of the country you’re in but for many there are those jobs we keep putting off because the weather has been against us. Still, one thing is certain, weeds will grow and now is the time to take control.
Arm yourself with a hoe and stop those annual and perennial weeds from spreading. If you have to, lift herbaceous perennials that have couch grass growing through them and remove grass and weed roots before replanting the plant.

The Lawn Care Guide - April

‘I walked across the two feet of drive to the lawn and stepped slowly onto the grass. It wasn't a wild grass, of course, but it was happy grass.’ 
Faith Hunter


We all want happy grass but it takes a little work to achieve it. Moss is the arch enemy when the winter and early spring has been so wet it has encouraged the rapid spread through the lawn. A regime of spiking and aerating when conditions have left standing water, then scarifying when it’s dry enough will help get air to grass roots and promote growth.

Aerating the lawn also helps to warm up the soil, while relieving compaction. Severe moss and weed infestation needs remedying with a mix of fertiliser, moss and weedkiller such as Evergreen. If you have a new lawn it can be damaged by weekiller but Scotts Verdone Extra claims to be usable two months after sowing.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I don’t like the idea of using chemicals in the garden and on the lawn. What are the alternatives?

The Vegetable Plot - April

Get sowing now!


There’s nothing to beat home-grown spuds and it’s time to chit and plant out second early potatoes in the first half of April and maincrop in the second half. You don’t have to have a large area of ground, you can grow them in containers or even large trug buckets providing there is drainage and enough depth of compost to grow them in.

The Big Glut Recipe – April

Stuffed Mediterranean leg of lamb


What a lovely way to serve six as a real start to spring. Recipe from House and Garden.

Ingredients

  • 2kg (4lb) leg of lamb on the bone
  • 4tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 anchovies, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2tbsp salted capers, rinsed
  • 1tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 teacups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2-3tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Rocket or baby spinach leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters

Friday, 9 March 2018

This Month in Your Garden

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant" - Anne Bradstreet


Certainly winter has hung on grimly with the wind and snow from the east to disrupt everything. This time last year we were saying spring arrives in mid March, so we hope we’re right in believing the freak front will subside soon and allow us into the garden to start planting and sowing.

If you’re still waiting for the ground to warm up you could be cutting back winter shrubs, tidying, weeding and pruning. Large flowering clematis, roses, dogwood, buddleia and willow will all benefit from being cut back. The soil in borders you dug over in the autumn will have benefitted from the heavy frosts and can be worked over with a spade or fork to create a fine tithe, with plenty of compost added ready for planting.

The Lawn Care Guide - March

"I fought the lawn and the lawn won" - Internet quote


Sometimes it does seem as if the lawn is dictating to us. For sure, the ambient soil temperature will determine whether you need to be out there mowing, hand weeding, grooming. Time to take control and tell the lawn you’re in charge.

Once you have decided how your regime is to be run you can have a lawn as good as the best. If you have been following the Gardener’s Journal tips for lawns you’ll know we’ve talked about aerating and scarifying come the spring to counter moss and thatch. Before you do that you’ll be mowing and it’s recommended you start with a higher cut and gradually lower the tractor deck or adjust the mower height. Your grass is most probably a mixture of fine and coarse grasses.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. Can I make my own top dressing rather than buying it? 

A. You can make your own top dressing with a mix of sieved soil, garden compost and sharp sand in a 3:2:3 ratio.

The Vegetable Plot - March

"There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic" -  Louis Diat


Well, as soon as we can get into the vegetable garden it’s time to put in the onion, shallot and garlic sets, along with seed potatoes. If you’re in a mild area you could be sowing peas, broad beans, parsnips and carrots, along with Jerusalem artichoke tubers, asparagus crowns and globe artichokes. Now if that sounds like meals for kings, if you have the space it’s really take your pick month for the number of vegetables you can grow from seed in March if the weather (at last) becomes suitable.

The Big Glut Recipe

Roasted red pepper and tomato soup


A nice warmer while the March weather sorts itself out. Add a dash of extra virgin olive and some fresh basil, and follow the extra tip to make it really special for four people. A House and Garden recipe

Ingredients
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large red peppers, seeds removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 600g (21oz) ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1l chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp chopped fresh basil, to garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

Friday, 2 February 2018

This Month in Your Garden - February

"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides" -W.E. Johns 


The name Galanthus is derived from the Greek gala for milk and anthos for flower. Add the epithet nivalis: ‘of the snow’ and that’s how Carl Linnaeus arrived at the name for the snowdrop in his Species Plantarus in 1735. These little early heralds of change in the garden, and spring ahead, have proliferated in abundance in January and into this month, quickly followed by the daffodils.

Once you’ve enjoyed the snowdrops’ display you can divide the bulbs and plant fresh ‘in the green’ after the flowers have faded but the leaves are intact. They don’t do well planted as dry bulbs. Now there’s a succession of jobs to be done as February progresses. Pruning will be high on the list for those with roses not already cut back by a half to two thirds.

The Lawn Care Guide - February

"My mom said the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance" – Tim Allen, comedian


Turf can be laid this month so long as the soil is not too wet and it’s not frosty. It’s best to use planks to work from to save compacting the soil and allow several weeks for the roots to get established.

For existing lawns, also when it’s not frosty, have a walk about and look for any spongy areas and moss growth. You can treat this by aerating if it’s not too wet and when conditions are drier scarify the lawn to lift the thatch and moss.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers


Q. What is vertical mowing?


A. Vertical mowing is also (and probably better) known as scarification where a machine that has a set of knives or tines mounted on a shaft is used to remove thatch and moss to promote healthy, lush grass growth.


The Vegetable Plot - February

"Old gardeners never die, they just run out of thyme" Old gardening saying


The vegetable seed beds are prepared, the soil cleared of weeds and the old Brussels sprouts and cabbages are gone. Now is the time for chitting seed potatoes and planting out garlic and shallots in sandy soils – if your soil is heavy wait a while for it to warm up.

Vegetables you can sow now include Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, lettuces, onions, leeks, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, tomatoes and turnips. So there are no excuses. Follow the seed packet instruction for growing and use cloches, horticultural fleece, the greenhouse or seed trays indoors, whatever is appropriate to your garden space. You can even grow peas in the greenhouse in lengths of soil filled guttering with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.

The Big Glut Recipe

Cauliflower cheese with salmon


This James Martin dish uses cooked flaked salmon but suggests other leftovers from the Sunday roast would also substitute.

Ingredients
  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 50g/2oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 450ml/16fl oz milk
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and black pepper
  • 150g/5oz cooked flaked salmon
  • 125g/4½oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • 75g/3oz emmental cheese, grated

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

This Month in Your Garden - January

‘The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies’ – Gertrude Jekyll


If you’re so inclined and the weather isn’t too inclement there is plenty to be getting on with in the garden in January. For many of us the long range weather reports are indicating above average temperatures and even some sunshine but we shall see, won’t we?

We can put our trust in time-worn tasks for this month and first on the list is: have you had your garden tractor or mower and power tools serviced in readiness for the spring? If you have a non-heated greenhouse it’s good to ventilate it ready for sowing, assuming it has already been cleaned and disinfected. If the ground is not frozen you can still plant new fruit bushes, bare root roses, shrubs, hedging and trees. Prune apple and pear trees, dig over vacant borders and let the frost help break down the soil to a good tilth. It is actually the last chance to sow native tree and shrub seeds as well as alpines.

The Lawn Care Guide - January

Life begins the day you start a garden  – Chinese proverb


We tend to think there’s nothing much to be done to the lawn in January but if the weather is mild it’s a good time to repair bumps and hollows by making cuts in an H shape in the turf with a spade. Peel back the grass and fill the hollow with loam or remove what’s causing a bump. Press the turf back into place bringing the cut edges together. If there is an area needing a larger repair you can lay a new turf, but again only do this if the weather is mild.

If it’s frosty, needless to say, keep off the lawn if you can. Walking on it causes ‘frost burn’ which may leave blackened foot impressions on the surface. In dry weather generally tidying up edges with an edging tool or edging shears is another job well done. Picking out weeds each time you see them is a help towards having a weed-free lawn come spring, without the need for herbicide.