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 1 December 2015

This Month in your Garden - December

Check your list

Well, the choice is yours, you can put your feet up and peruse the seed and plant catalogues by the fireside or take advantage of milder days when you can get things done in the garden. It’s handy to make a check list of things to do in December.

Check for damage to fences and trellis, gutters and drains that may have leaf blockage, plant supports, fishponds freezing over, greenhouse heaters and winter protection structures. All’s well? Good.

Lawn Care Guide - December

One more mow to go?

Depending on your location it may still be mild enough for the lawn to need a light mowing which will also give a tidier look through the winter. Grass will still grow in temperatures above 5ºC (41ºF).

Keep the lawn clear of fallen leaves which block out light and repair damaged edges and any patches. If you are planning to sow a new lawn in spring you can start deep digging, raking and tramping down the soil in preparation.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  We treated the lawn for moss in the autumn and raked it out but it has got worse. What would cause that?

The Vegetable Plot - December

Enjoy your festive vegetables

Are you enjoying the fruits, or rather the vegetables of your labours? Crops in season include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, celeriac, leeks, parsnips and more. All set for Christmas.

But what about next year? You can be digging over the vegetable patch and incorporating well-rotted manure and your homemade compost but consider what is to be planted and where. Potatoes and carrots won’t like the soil rich whereas peas, runner beans, leeks and marrows like lots of organic matter. So take the time to do a little planning and consider other aspects of planting around the garden to add to your list for the coming months.

The Big Glut Recipe - December

Traditional Lamb Hotpot

A classic meal for four on a cold day, before the festive season’s proliferation of turkey meals. You’ll need greaseproof paper and some chunky country bread.


  • 4 thick lamb neck chops
  • Plain flour
  • 3 onions
  • 8 small potatoes
  • 3 large parsnips
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 8 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Monday 2 November 2015

This Month in your Garden - November

Carry on gardening

Why not make the first satisfying job this month one of planting tulips in what will be the sunniest spot. They like heavy soil lightened with some coarse grit and will reward you next spring with their variety and colour, especially when planted in a scheme with wallflowers and pansies.

Lilies can also be planted out now. Laying them on their sides on some sharp sand in the planting hole will aid drainage.

Lawn Care Guide - November

Still growing strong

Generally, you should be nearing the last mow of the season and time to put away the garden tractor or mower as far as the lawn is concerned. There may be some last jobs to do with accessories such as slitter attached to the lawn tractor and then you might want to get your machinery serviced – you may want to use it as a snow plough in the winter! Grass continues to grow in temperatures above 5º (41ºF) which may mean some final cuts with the cutting height set to about 4cm (1.5”).

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have to walk across the lawn to the greenhouse and shed. In winter it becomes a muddy path and the grass disappears. Any suggestions?

The Vegetable Plot - November

Calls for a spade – until you need a fork

A matured compost heap offers a big reward this month as you dig the goodness into the vegetable plot. A compost tumbler is another, fast, way to make compost to add to the cleared vegetable beds.

It’s the end of the season for half-hardy vegetables so enjoy your runner beans, courgettes, marrows and sweet corn. What’s left and you don’t want goes on the compost.

The Big Glut Recipe - November

A pearl of a pheasant dish for Sunday

Ring the changes for a Sunday lunch or dinner with plump pheasant (which the butcher has prepared unless you’re a pheasant plucker) with pearl barley and garden veg. Serves 4


  • 600ml (21 fl oz) of chicken stock
  • 100g (3.5oz) pearl barley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50g (1.8oz) goose fat or butter
  • 2 oven-ready pheasants
  • 4 rashers unsmoked rindless back bacon
  • 8 shallots, peeled

Monday 5 October 2015

This Month in your Garden - October

Shades of autumn

Surely the October spectacle as the leaves on the trees change colour is one of the best of the gardening year. The autumn tidy-up heralds winter not far away and while there is less work to be done in the garden there will be fallen leaves to clear and borders to be prepared. It’s best to get the leaves up regularly so they don’t smother young plants but it does no harm, more good, to let leaves in mature borders rot down.

Lawn Care Guide - October

Time for turf

Depending on how cold it’s getting in your area, this month will probably be the last chance to scarify, aerate and top dress the lawn, followed by an autumn lawn feed of a low nitrogen fertiliser. We’re reaching the end of the need to mow and the height of the deck or mower cut should be two to three centimetres or an inch in old money.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have a lot of weeds in the lawn. Can we apply weedkiller now to get rid of them?

The Vegetable Plot - October

Hoeing in the wind

It’s time to complete earthing up celery and leeks and lift main crop potatoes, letting them dry before storing. You can still sow some hardy lettuce in frames for next spring and plant out spring cabbages, grown from seed in August. If you have main crop apples harvest them now. Under glass, plant cauliflowers grown from seed and protect late crops with cloches and fleece.

The Big Glut Recipe - October

Halloween Pumpkin and Tomato Gratin

A warming dish for four on a chilly October evening, all cooked in about forty minutes. You’ll need a gratin dish to cook it in.


  • 1kg (2lb) chunk of pumpkin
  • 500g (1lb) fresh tomatoes
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 45g (1½ oz) butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp coarse breadcrumbs
  • Parsley
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Wednesday 2 September 2015

This Month in your Garden - September

The use of Greenwich Meantime (GMT) began at 3pm on 25 September 1676.

Asters are the flowers of September, known as well as Michaelmas daisies after the feast of St. Michael on the 29th of the month, and they put on a fine, colourful display into autumn.

Harvest time is here again and if you have been growing vegetables through the year it is the month of plenty. It’s also time to sow grass seed if you prepared last month for a new lawn. There’s plenty of digging to be done to work manure into the borders and there’s more seed to collect and sow from perennials and hardy annuals.

Lawn Care Guide - September

Weed me, feed me

Mowing will be less frequent now as we head into autumn and, as the growth rate of the grass slows, raise the height of the cutting deck or mower.  This will afford the grass more protection from the end of the drier weather as well as through the winter.

Now is a good time to scarify and aerate the lawn to get rid of thatch and moss, using a walk-behind scarifier or attachments on your garden tractor. Once done you can treat the lawn to an application of a combined weed and feed such as Evergreen to help set it up for winter. You can follow this with a top dressing.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. The lawn has become greener after the dry spells but it’s patchy in lots of places, some of it in rings. What can I do to get it lush?

The Vegetable Plot - September

The big glut month for vegetables

The Anglo Saxons called September ‘barley month’ because it was when they harvested and made their barley brew. If you have been busy in the vegetable garden throughout the year you’ll be harvesting the benefits of your planting by gathering in the runner beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, lettuces, cabbages, courgettes and cucumbers and as if that wasn’t enough there are carrots, potatoes and turnips, courgettes and marrows and maincrop beetroot.

The Big Glut Recipe - September

Roast lamb and autumn vegetables

Use some of your glut of vegetables and serve four with a taste from the garden accompanied by a fresh mint pesto. The list looks long but it’s really very easy.


  • A 700g (1lb 8oz) boneless lamb from leg or fillet
  • 700g (25oz) new potatoes
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large courgette
  • 2 artichokes
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 100ml (3.5fl oz) white wine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Rustic chunky bread
  • 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Bunch of fresh mint
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Black pepper

Friday 7 August 2015

This Month in your Garden - August

‘Dry August and warm doth harvest no harm’

Traditionally the month for vacations, if you are going away plan ahead and see if a friend or relative can look after the garden while you’re away, at least to do some watering.

Capillary matting in the greenhouse with a ‘wick’ immersed in trays or pails of water can help keep vulnerable plants watered. If you’re not away but have time off, take advantage of the good weather and treat the shed, fences and wooden features with a preservative or paint.

Lawn Care Guide - August

Weod monath. The Anglo Saxon for weed month.

It’s more than likely your lawn is looking a little brown by now but don’t worry, it will recover and green up in the autumn. The lawn that was scarified and aerated last autumn has probably faired better than most.

Weeds can proliferate but avoid using weedkiller such as a weed and feed until the September when there’s some rainfall and moisture will help deal with this.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We’ve had a dry summer but when it does rain the water sits on the surface of the lawn for a long time, what should we do?

The Vegetable Plot - August

Pick and Mix

Harvest time for ripening vegetables. Carrots, beetroot, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more. Keep cropping your peas, courgettes and beans when they are still young and tender.

Keep watering during dry spells, particularly root vegetables and those you have transplanted such as the brassicas.

The Big Glut Recipe - August

Sumptuous summer pudding

Summer celebration and perfect to round off the barbecue, serving 6. Choose the berries and fruit you love best. Prepare the day before you need it.


  • 750g (26.5oz) of mixed summer fruit of your choice from: raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, loganberries, strawberries, tayberries, whitecurrants....
  • 185g (6.5oz) caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp crème de cassis
  • 1 good medium white loaf of bread
  • Clotted or double cream to serve

Wednesday 1 July 2015

This Month in your Garden – July

Water, water, everywhere

By now you will have been doing a fair bit of watering, whether it’s thirsty plants in borders or keeping hanging baskets and container plants happy. Which is why it’s good to collect rainwater from downpipes, shed and greenhouse gutters in case of drought. Usually, grey leaved plants need less water. Pop conservatory plants outside on hot days where you can give them a good spraying, but not in direct sunlight.

Carry on the good work of deadheading flowers you don’t need for seed production, ensuring bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials continue to flower. Achilleas, scabious, gaillardias and geraniums will put on a display as can delphiniums and lupins if you remove the flower spikes.

Lawn Care Guide – July

When in drought

Lawns, indeed all grassed areas, can become compacted during long, hot summer months and brown patches start to appear. They will recover come the autumn but if you want to keep the lawn green you will need to water and using a sprinkler once a week can help.

Before you do it’s wise to spike the lawn first to relieve compaction and allow water to penetrate to the roots. A spiker attachment on the garden tractor or purpose built spiker/aerator will do the job of helping prevent the water sitting on the surface.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have some yellow patches on the lawn with strands of grass that are pink in colouration. What caused this?

The Vegetable Plot – July

Thyme and inclination

The keen vegetable gardener will be harvesting the vegetables of their labours, turnip, tender carrots, beetroot and towards the end of the month you should have runner beans, French and broad beans. Remember to keep the bean family well watered and mulch if it’s hot and dry.

Thyme, sage and rosemary harvested now can be dried or frozen and parsley sown in a sheltered spot for a winter supply.

The Big Glut Recipe – July

Summer sea bass with cucumber and dill salsa

Served on a bed of wild Basmati rice, a light summery dish for two. Wash but don’t peel the cucumber, the goodness is in the skin.

  • 2 Sea Bass
  • ½ cucumber 
  • 35g/1.2oz rocket
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Basmati & wild rice

Monday 8 June 2015

This Month in your Garden – June

A colourful canvas

June is a great month for catching up on lots of little jobs and with the garden putting on a fine display you can see where there are gaps you would like to fill. You can still sow fast growing hardy annuals such as Calendula, Clarkia and Godetia for late flowering and thin out earlier direct annual sowings in fortnightly intervals.

Fill in the gaps in herbaceous borders with annual bedding and for attractive flowers later in the year it’s not too late to plant Anemone rhizomes that have been soaked overnight. Sow Alyssum and Campanula carpatica, and Dahlias and begonias can be planted out now the danger of frost has passed.

Lawn Care Guide – June

For the avoidance of drought

Where your lawn is concerned, June is very much a continuation of the May regime except it might be a drier month. By frequently mowing the lawn you remove a little more often which is beneficial for the grass.

This is the last month to apply a weed killer to remove broad-leaved weeds and if moss is a problem use a combined fertiliser and moss killer when you feed the lawn, following the manufacturer’s instructions. If weeds and moss are not a problem you can apply a high nitrogen summer lawn fertiliser if you haven’t already.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have a lot of unsightly worm casts on our lawn. What is the best way to deal with them?

The Vegetable Plot – June

The plot develops

With the vegetables filling out the area there’s usually less weeding to do but keep an eye on patches with onions and leeks where weeds can get a hold, especially in wet weather. Watering is important when the weather gets hot so give the vegetables a good soaking with a fine spray every few days, starting with seedlings and plants in containers, on to tomatoes, lettuce and celery if you’re short on time. The big guns such as sprouts and cabbages will be more tolerant and need less water.

The Big Glut Recipe – June

Asparagus and courgette tart with peas

Three of your five a day, with fresh vegetables from your garden.


  • 3 to 4 small courgettes
  • 8 thick stemmed asparagus
  • 2 tbsp fresh pesto
  • 100g (3½ oz) feta cheese 
  • 1 x 375g (12 oz) ready rolled puff pastry
  • Olive oil
  • Peas

Thursday 30 April 2015

This Month in your Garden – May

Let’s mow

The warmth of May and nearing summer sees herbaceous borders spring into life and the grass keeps growing and you keep mowing. Bulbs have faded and you’ll be thinking about those you’re lifting to store, from both the borders and containers. Daffodils you leave in the ground will enjoy a good liquid fertiliser feed now the flowers have faded and let the leaves die back, don’t cut them down.

You can start sowing and planting bedding but keep an eye on the weather for any late frosts, where tender plants may need some protection. Propagate more shrubs by taking softwood cuttings – you can do the same with herbs such as Rosemary.

Lawn Care Guide – May

Daisy chain

What’s most noticeable in the lawn this month is the proliferation of weeds appearing and whilst not unattractive the lawn daisy, together with other broad leaf weeds such a plantains, need to be dealt with now. Leave them and they flower and seed, spreading through the lawn.

Applying lawn sand weed killer is a good remedy whereby the chemicals remain on the broad leaf, scorching and killing the plant, whereas the sand slides off grass blades. Hormone weedkillers or three or four in one treatments such as Evergreen will also do for treating moss and other weeds while feeding the lawn.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I have to let my dog out on the lawn and dog urine causes brown patches to appear. Is there anything I can do about it?

The Vegetable Plot – May

Sow be it

Now you can start reaping the rewards of earlier sowings and harvest spring onions and cabbages sown last year. Seedlings of carrots, onions, leeks and turnips should be ready for thinning and remove altogether what you take out, especially carrot which will attract carrot fly.

Early potatoes will need earthing up and check the supports for peas you’re growing, use peas sticks or netting for support.

The Big Glut Recipe – May

Asparagus and crab salad

Especially nice if you have an established asparagus bed and can harvest your own. This makes a great starter for a May meal for four people.

  • 20 trimmed asparagus spears
  • 50g (1.8oz) rocket
  • 100g (3.5oz) white crabmeat
  • Brown crabmeat (optional)
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp Wholegrain mustard
  • A lime
  • Olive oil

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Lawn Care Guide – April

Cut, care and groom

By now you will mowing frequently and lowering the height of the cutting deck on the garden tractor or mower with each successive cut. By the end of the month this should reduce to 3cm (1.25”) cutting height but not lower for normal lawns.

Aerating will help to relieve compaction and get air to the grass roots and where there’s moss and thatch, light scarifying will easily lift the worst of it. It’s best done when it’s warm, sunny and there’s some rain due so April is a good time, when the grass can grow back quickly.

Tuesday 31 March 2015

This Month in your Garden – April

It’s blooming spring

There’s a lot to be excited about in April. Spring bulbs and tree blossom bring fresh colour to the
garden, heightened by those inevitable sunny days. It’s time to divide and sow, weed and feed and step up the grass cutting but still watch out for frosts.

You can be sowing hardy annuals outdoors when the temperature reaches about 7°C/ (45°F) or early in the month in the greenhouse to give you early flowers. Harden off bedding plants and half-hardy annuals in the greenhouse where you can also pot seedlings of begonias and gloxinias. Divide Hostas before they start into leaf and it’s a good time to divide primroses and primulas after flowering.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Every year we get some type of bee appearing and burrowing into the lawn. What are they and how do we get rid of them?

The Vegetable Plot – April

Hoe, hoe, hoe

April is a great growing month for vegetables but that also means weeds are competing for space and they will win – unless you hoe. A dry day and a good hoe is all you need to keep you off your hands and knees later because you have let the weed get the better of you.

Continue your succession sowing this month and you will have vegetables right through into the autumn. You can sow carrot, turnips, beetroot, spinach, radishes, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, peas, parsnips, broad beans, leeks and broccoli, summer cabbages and cauliflowers.

The Big Glut Recipe – April

Parmesan coated purple sprouting broccoli

Among the foods in season are prawns, watercress, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach and lettuce. So you have a glut of purple sprouting broccoli. Why not make something of it and serve this simple fare for four?

  • 500g (18oz) purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Monday 2 March 2015

This Month in your Garden – March

Mad as a March hare

The old English term, traceable back to the sixteenth century, is in many ways applicable to the month itself. There’s so much you can do in the March garden you can go mad with sowing and planting, weeding and pruning, whilst nature excels itself with new spring shoots and demands on your time with lifting, dividing and re-planting.

Digging in compost or well-rotted manure will give your border plants a good, quick start, as will adding fertiliser such as pelleted chicken manure. Watch out for slugs attacking new shoots – nematodes will organically fight your corner for you - and deal with weeds now before they start taking over.

Lawn Care Guide – March

One man (or woman) went to mow

Whatever the size of your lawn, paddock, meadow or amenity area, the principles are the same. Come March and you’re mowing again – you have probably already done the first cut if it’s dry enough, the ground’s not solid and the grass is growing.

You will of course have remembered to raise the cutting height on the garden tractor deck or mower for the first cut, gradually lowering it with each session. Raise the blades for a light cut to begin with.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Bare patches have appeared on the lawn after the winter, do I need to re-turf?

The Vegetable Plot – March

Weed and feed

If you sowed cauliflowers back in September last year they should be ready for planting out now. With the work you did in January and February your vegetable beds should be ready for planting but don’t worry if they’re not, there’s time to dig them over – they probably need weeds clearing now anyway and you can dig in a good layer of compost or well rotted manure.

The Big Glut Recipe – March

Cauliflower and leek soup with dukkah

You don’t have to travel far to make your own dukkah and get a taste of Middle Eastern spice in a simple-to-make soup that feeds eight, or freezes for when you want more. You can use hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios for the nutty ingredient.


  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • A large cauliflower roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 litres (64fl oz) good chicken stock
  • 100ml (3fl oz) single cream
  • For the dukkah:
  • 1tsp coriander seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 25g (¾ oz) sesame seeds
  • 75g (2½ oz) pistachio nuts shelled, or other nuts above
  • ½ tsp Malden salt