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.

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.


  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.