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 December 2016

This Month in your Garden - December

"The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination. "

Terri Guillemets

The fire is lit. A warming glass of mulled wine depends from one hand, while the other turns the pages of the garden catalogue and major plans are afoot for next year’s garden. Traditionally, December is a good time for the obvious reasons to put your gardening feet up and consider what you have achieved, and how your garden will look come spring.

Lawn Care Guide - December

Just a trim please 

Well, at the end of November we were still seeing temperatures above 5ºC (41ºF) which means in some parts the grass has continued to grow and may still need a light cut. It’s nicer to see a manicured lawn through the winter months rather than have it long and tufty.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. We have a lot of mole hills appearing on the lawn and some areas of grass have died off. What’s the best way to deal with them?

The Vegetable Plot - December

How keen have you been?

There’s a whole crop of vegetables in season this month and if you have the space and are really keen, you will have Brussels sprouts, celery, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, kale and cauliflower all lined up as Christmas fare.

If you’re growing under glass you may have lettuce, endive and chicory, radish and rhubarb to add to the spread. Then again, you might simply not have had the time but now you have, and you’re staring at an empty patch thinking there’s not a lot you can plant out.

The Big Glut Recipe - December

Sag aloo with roasted gobi curry

At this time of year, with the concentration of getting the Christmas dinner on the table, it’s handy to have a quick vegetable curry recipe to hand, to eat on its own or with all that leftover turkey. This one is from The Hairy Bikers.


For the roasted cauliflower
  • ½ head white cauliflower
  • ½ head romanesco cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Friday 4 November 2016

This Month in your Garden - November

“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds - November!"

No! by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

Perhaps it was bleaker in those days or is it just we keen gardeners like to make sure we keep November colourful.

There is a long list of flowers that can still brave the month and starting at ‘A’ you can have Aconitum – Monkshood with tall, spiky flowers, Agapanthus, the African Lily, Alstroemeria, the Peruvian variety with its long lasting flowers, and asters, the Michaelmas Daisies with around 180 species bringing a mass of different colours to borders; and don’t forget the Helleborus or Christmas rose with its delicate flowers.

Lawn Care Guide - November

Keep your mower running

In some areas you may well find you still need to mow given mild weather through October. Don’t cut the grass too short. Grass doesn’t stop growing even in winter months and mild spells could mean the mowing regime continues into December. If the air temperature is above 5º C the grass will continue to grow, albeit slowly.

Heading through autumn towards December the mowing frequency will be reduced from twice a week to once a week and on down to once a month in November and December, unless of course the temperature has remained mild and the ground dry. Even then this final mowing should only cut the top twenty-five percent off the grass to keep it tidy and collect up any fallen leaves.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I am aiming to keep my garden organic and have done with fertilisers for the vegetables and flower beds. My lawn though hasn’t recovered from drought in the summer. Is there anything I can use in November or do I have to wait until spring?

The Vegetable Plot - November

May the force be with you

Think about your crop rotation plan as you dig and weed the vegetable border. It helps to divide the plot into sections. Now is the time to force rhubarb, chicory and seakale and to lift Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips for storing.

If you can sow under glass, in a frame or greenhouse, try carrots, onions and radishes, French beans, lettuces, mustard and cress.

Plant fruit trees or if space is limited why not grow some standards on a patio for a crop of apples, cherries, pears and plums next year?  You can lift and store leeks in a bucket of compost in the greenhouse or shed. They are best lifted after a good frost.

The Big Glut Recipe - November

Mushroom and parsnip rösti pie

November calls for warming, winter fare, stuffed baked potatoes on bonfire night – and pies. This one taken from Anna Jones/BBC Food is hearty but light.


  • olive or rapeseed oil
  • 750g/1lb 10oz mixed mushrooms (preferably portobello, chestnut and wild mushrooms), roughly chopped into chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • small bunch thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 250g/9oz swede, finely chopped
  • 200ml/7fl oz white wine or vegetable stock

Wednesday 5 October 2016

This Month in your Garden - October

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

L.M.Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables

Asked to list the top ten jobs to do in the October garden it’s quite hard to focus on where to begin.

For the avid gardener you’re spoiled for choice, especially with the mix of sun and rainfall in September promoting growth – the lawn seems to be growing as you look at it. A good place to start if you haven’t prepared it for winter and next year is to aerate and scarify early in the month.

On to borders, it’s time to cut back faded herbaceous perennials and to lift and divide overcrowded ones. Which means it’s also a good time to visit the garden centre and find new plants to add to next year’s border canvas, with the soil still warm and moist.

Lawn Care Guide - October

Don’t be frightened to scarify

In many areas the grass is still growing quite vigorously so we are some way off the final mowing, though raising the height on the tractor cutting deck or mower will ensure it’s not cut too short for the winter.

October is about the last chance to scarify, aerate and top dress the lawn and any autumn feed applied should be low in nitrogen.  If it’s still mild and you’re sowing seed make sure the area is protected from cold or hard rain by covering with clear polythene but if the rain is light to moderate leave it uncovered to promote quick growth.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I have a bumpy, uneven lawn and I’m told that top dressing will help sort it. Can I do it now and what do I need?

The Vegetable Plot - October

The weeds will keep you hoeing

Early October and planting spring cabbages from August sowings, earthing up celery and lifting parsnips to store before heavy frost threatens are old family gardening traditions. This month, crops in season include Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac and endive to name but a few.

If you are keen on the vegetable patch you probably have lettuce, mushrooms parsnips and peas to add into the mix. If the frost is threatening you’ll probably want to lift your carrots, turnips and beetroots and fork up potatoes and leave them to dry before storing them. Cut the tops off turnips before you store them in a frost free place.

The Big Glut Recipe - October

Lancashire hotpot

With the evenings drawn in and a chill in the air what could be more warming than a Lancashire hotpot from The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain?


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg/2lb 2oz neck of lamb, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 lambs' kidneys, cleaned, trimmed, cut into quarters
  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml/9fl oz lamb stock
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme 
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 50g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 x 250g/7oz black pudding rings, outer casing removed, thickly sliced
  • 1kg/2lb 2oz potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Monday 5 September 2016

This Month in your Garden - September

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.

John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

Is September to be considered late summer or early autumn? In meteorological terms autumn officially begins on the 1st of September. The garden observes no such rule and whilst the mainly dry August and summer colours of fading herbaceous borders make way for the more mellow tones following harvest time, there is still much colour to be enjoyed and many trees and shrubs are at their peak.

Friday 2 September 2016

Lawn Care Guide - September

A new lawn, a new dawn

Creating a new lawn is a very satisfying task once you see and can enjoy the results of your labour. Having prepared the ground in August you will be either laying turves or seeding. Laying turf is the more expensive route but the result is immediate and the new lawn can be enjoyed into the rest of the autumn. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap turves, you’ll regret seeing the amount of weed that accompanies them.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I have prepared a seed bed for a new lawn. What are the sowing rates I need to apply?

The Vegetable Plot - September

Where the mistress is the master, parsley grows the faster

Just one of many old wives’ tales and superstitions associated with growing parsley, some with dire warnings such as never transplant it. But where would we be without parsley in many culinary dishes?

One solution is to grow it in pots and then move it to the cold frame or greenhouse before the frosts. You can, however, without fear move spring cabbage sown in Mid-July to the plot where they will mature – the plot where you have just lifted onions or potatoes is ideal, so go ahead and lift, along with carrots and maincrop beetroot.

The Big Glut Recipe - September

End of Summer Ratatouille

Easy peasy (no peas though) with fresh veg from the garden if you grow them but no worry, buy them if you don’t.


  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 aubergine 
  • 1 courgette or more if small
  •  2 green peppers
  •  8 small tomatoes
  •  2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  •  3 sprigs fresh thyme
  •  olive oil
  •  salt and coarse black pepper

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Lawn Care Guide - August

Tops off or top dressing

There usually is not a great deal of mowing to be done in August. The mower will be set at the summer height of cut and adjusted according to growth, as will the frequency of mowing.

So you’ll probably just be enjoying the lawn, playing games, re-positioning the sun loungers, throwing the ball for the dog. All of which takes its toll and can cause compaction, leading to lack of water reaching the grass roots, a build-up of thatch and even the right conditions for moss to develop come autumn and winter.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have noticed at the bowling green the grass is becoming patchy in places and our own lawn has similar brown patches, what causes this?

The Vegetable Plot - August

Sow and go

Should you be feeling energetic and inclined there’s plenty of sowing and growing you can do. Fast-growing lettuces such as Little Gem and ‘Tom Thumb’ will keep your salads coming.

Sowing cauliflower, endive, cress, red cabbage, spinach, turnips and radishes will add to your vegetable platters while Chinese cabbage and Chinese Kale make great autumn salads and stir-fries.

The Big Glut Recipe - August

Puy lentil, red onion, tomato and sundried tomato salad with feta cheese, for two

A bit of a mouthful and it is just that and very tasty. The recipe comes from two sources, Ainsley Harriot’s Barbecue Bible and Delicious Magazine, with the twist of using the ready cooked lentils that come in a vacuum pouch.

1 large red onion finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to taste
1 garlic clove, chopped
200g – 225g Puy lentils ready prepared
100g (4oz) feta cheese, crumbled
50g (2oz) of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2-3 cherry tomatoes, quartered, from your garden (or bought)
3 tbs flat leaf parsley
Salt & freshly ground pepper
A little grated lemon zest (optional)
A squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Thursday 30 June 2016

This Month in your Garden - July

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers: Of April, May, of June and July flowers.

Robert Herrick 1591-1674

Admire, cut, propagate. If you were handy with the seed packets earlier in the year and you havegrown plenty of annuals you can relax and enjoy the July colours, cut flowers for indoor display and deadhead bedding plants to ensure continuous flowering.

Tall perennials such as delphiniums, gladioli and lupins may need staking if you haven’t already done so. Pinks and carnations start to go leggy so now’s the time to take stem cuttings, dip them in hormone rooting powder and pop them into pots of compost.

Lawn Care Guide - July

Keep on mowing

That is, so long as there is no prolonged drought. If it is very dry it pays to raise the height on the mower or cutting deck on the garden tractor to help prevent the lawn drying out. Turf grass comprises over 85% water so it needs irrigation to replenish, strengthen it and ‘green it up’.

Watering is essential for seed germination, cooling the plant and helping to prevent dry patch while pushing fertiliser granules into the turf and converting it for the plant to take it up. But continuous watering can also have a damaging effect and lead to disease, hence the rule of irrigating thoroughly once or at most twice a week for a green lawn.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q How do I know how long to leave the sprinkler running on the lawn without wasting water?

The Vegetable Plot - July

Salad days are here again 

The keen vegetable gardener will be harvesting globe artichokes, broad beans, French beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, marrows and potatoes now.

Others of us are content with tending our tomatoes, harvesting our shallots when the leaves yellow and digging up the garlic when the tips turn colour. Remembering most vegetables are going to be thirsty in dry weather and will need frequent watering, so a water butt to catch the rain off the shed, the greenhouse roof or a downpipe will come into its own.

The Big Glut Recipe - July

Lamb burgers with mint mayo and tomato relish

Just the job for a July evening, light the BBQ and enjoy this recipe from Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking, BBC. Serves 8 but you can freeze the burgers you don’t use.


For the burgers

  • 50g/1¾oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1½ tsp mint sauce
  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
  • 500g/1lb 2oz lean lamb mince
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, for frying
  • 8 lettuce leaves, to serve
  • 8 brioche buns, to serve
  • 3 gherkins, thinly sliced, to serve
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Thursday 2 June 2016

This Month in your Garden - June

But Shakespeare also says, ’tis very silly to gild refined gold or paint the lily’.

Lord Byron

Spring ends and summer begins in the month when the Magna Carta was signed and the summer solstice is celebrated. Of the very many flowers the rose is the birth flower for June but for real head turners lilies can steal the show and, even if you didn’t plant any back in March, you can pick them up at the garden centre in pots for instant display on the patio. Let the show begin by putting out your summer bedding now the frosts have passed.

Plant up containers and hanging baskets or if you have them growing on in the greenhouse you can move them outside to their final position. For more colour sow seeds of annuals but if you have areas of overcrowded hardy annuals thin them out.

Lawn Care Guide - June

Get your mower running

For many of us the rainfall mixed with a little warmth had the grass put on a growth spurt in May but a few late frosts and cooler temperatures slowed it down again. Generally though, we’re starting to cruise around with the mower set at summer cutting height and mowing will be more frequent until we have drier conditions.

If you have a high maintenance, ornamental lawn you might apply a top-dressing of top soil. A light dressing now will help to maintain a smoother surface for mowing and help to deal with the lawn’s thatch. If there is a problem with thatch you can still lightly scarify but consider what the weather is doing and if it’s a dry spell consider irrigating after scarifying.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Not so much a question as a number of answers to deficiency symptoms.

The Vegetable Plot - June

It’s all about the weather

Wet, dry, last frosts, your vegetable plot needs attention according to the weather conditions. If you’re as sure as you can be the last frosts have passed you can plant out tomatoes, peppers, runner and French beans, sweet corn and aubergine. If it has been on the wet side there may be weeding to be done, especially where leeks and onions are planted.

Hot and dry weather calls for plenty of water for thirsty crops such as lettuce, celery, tomatoes and radishes. Outdoor tomatoes should have the first flower truss showing before planting out.

The Big Glut Recipe - June

Salad Niçoise

We’ve done this classic before in the Gardener’s Journal but it’s seasonally just right and refreshing on a warm June day, so here goes. This one inspired by Anthony Worrall Thompson from BBC Food & Drink.


  • 450g/1lb fresh tuna or 4 x 175g/6oz tuna steaks, 2.5cm/1in thick
  • 8 new potatoes, cooked and quartered lengthways
  • 4 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 115g/4oz extra fine French beans, topped, cooked and drained
  • 4 little gem lettuce hearts, quartered lengthways 
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced 
  • 4 eggs, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water from room temperature, halved
  • 6 anchovy fillets cut lengthways into thin strips
  • 16 pitted black olives in brine
  • 8 basil leaves, torn

Thursday 5 May 2016

This Month in your Garden - May

But the merriest month in all the year is the merry month of May

Ballads: Robin Hood and the Three Squires

The May Queen and the May Day holiday on the first of the month are for us gardeners sure heralds that spring is rolling into summer. There was a TV mini-series back in the 80’s called Frost in May which was an intriguing title, but it does happen so keep an eye on tender plants. That said the Bank Holiday weekend onwards is traditionally a good time to be down at the garden centre picking up ideas for splashes of colour roaming through summer borders.

By mid month it should be time to lift any daffodils, tulips and hyacinths from borders and containers for storage until autumn or, if you’re leaving them where they are give them a good feed of fertilizer such as fish, blood and bone meal or pelleted chicken manure which will also feed shrubs and plants in the borders. Leave the foliage for at least six weeks to die back as it is feeding the bulbs. A feed of Tomorite is good for bulbs in pots and containers.

Lawn Care Guide - May

Beat the weeds

By now you’ll be mowing as the grass dictates, reducing the cutting height to the summer cut as required. We’ve had more than our fair share of rain in April and in many areas the water has remained on the surface, especially where the sub soil is clay or if the lawn needs spiking and aerating.

With the wet and warmth a number of problems with the lawn may be occurring about this time and last month we looked at treatment for moss and thatch; and you may well have applied a three in one lawn feed, weed and moss killer, selective weedkiller or used an organic treatment. Good lawn management can preclude the need to use weedkiller and that leads to a number of considerations.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  We have patches of lawn that are starting to go yellow, what could be causing it?

The Vegetable Plot - May

Grow your own way

There’s a great deal of pleasure to be had from growing your own vegetables and fine days in Maycan only enhance the experience. Choose a warm spot for the French beans and put in your main crop of runner beans about now.

Sow late broccoli, peas, maincrop beetroot, dwarf beans, sweet corn and plant out winter greens such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower that are hardened off.

The Big Glut Recipe - May

May’s asparagus with harissa butter and coriander gremolata

Nice as a starter or as a side dish for six people, seasonal asparagus with a little kick from the harissa.


  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 3½ teaspoons rose harissa
  • A pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • 30 asparagus spears

For the gremolata

  • 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • Zest of 2 limes, removed in strands

Wednesday 23 March 2016

This Month in your Garden - April

Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s certainly the month to inspire and plant for colour, especially if you started early sowing of hardy annuals which are ready to be planted out. Plant summer flowering bulbs, lilies for example, in containers or pots you can move around or prepare soil to give the bulbs good drainage.

We’ve had some cold nights in March so still watch for frosts and protect susceptible plants with fleece or cloches. If you haven’t grown modules of plants in February or March, consider buying plug plants to save money on bedding. Herbaceous perennials will be putting on growth so they need planting out.

Lawn Care Guide - April

Feed me now

From April onwards the need for more frequent mowing of the lawn is likely, depending on weather and location. Remember the higher the height of cut the healthier the lawn will be and cutting not more than a third off the height with any one mowing should be the rule.

Weeds will start to proliferate and the lawn can be treated now with a selective weed killer, one that does not affect the grass plant. Aerating the lawn by hand (a garden fork will do the job on a smaller lawn) or machine before the ground becomes hardened is beneficial in helping the soil to warm up, encouraging growth, and allowing it to drain more freely by breaking up compaction that has occurred over the winter months.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  Our grass has become thin and sparse. What could be causing this?

The Vegetable Plot - April

Get sowing now

A good place to start your vegetable sowing is with peas but begin with digging a good amount of compost or well rotted manure into your vegetable beds. Plant out vegetable seedlings grown in the greenhouse or frames, by around by the middle of the month but watch out for frosts.

Sow your peas at three week intervals for a good crop and start the rest of your vegetables: spinach, carrots, turnips, leeks and on to lettuces, spring onions, summer cabbages and cauliflowers. Plant and protect early and second-early and maincrop potatoes.

The Big Glut Recipe - April

A spring leg of lamb with goat’s cheese and herb salad 

Juicy spring lamb perfectly complemented by fresh herbs


  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Small bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked
  • Finely grated zest 2 large unwaxed lemons  
  • 1 tsp sea salt  
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ British lamb leg, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher to do it for you) 
For the salad
  • 2 bunches fresh soft herbs such as basil, tarragon, mint and coriander, or a mix of what you fancy
  • 50g wild rocket
  • Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
  • Squeeze lemon juice  
  • 200g Dorstone goat’s cheese or similar ash-rinded goat’s cheese

Wednesday 2 March 2016

This Month in your Garden - March

Daffodils that come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty

William Shakespeare

March heralds the start of spring gardening and you could say by mid-March spring has arrived. The weather is looking fairly typical with sunny days but beware the frosty nights. Last month we commented on the early daffodils appearing, this month we can begin gardening in earnest.

The frosts will have been beneficial to the soil, breaking it down and now it’s time to get going, preparing seed beds and in mild areas even sowing hardy annuals and sweet peas. Otherwise you can be sowing seeds in small pots or trays of compost to germinate in a warm place. But if you don’t have a warm, bright place, temperature 10C (50F) to grow the plants on, wait until April or early May.

Lawn Care Guide - March

How to cut the grass

This is the month when the grass starts growing strongly and needs regular mowing. Now you might ask why you should be told how to cut grass. Well, it’s not just as simple as lowering the height with each successive cut, although of course that’s a part of it.

Grass needs mowing a little at a time and, depending on the type of grass and its different uses, at different frequencies. The aim is to remove a third of the available leaf each time you mow, allowing the grass time to recover from the cut. Leaving the majority of the leaf intact allows photosynthesis to turn compounds such as water into food for growth. Take off two thirds or more and you’re exposing the grass plant to disease attack as it becomes weaker, thinner and showing yellow in colour.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I’ve been told that as grass grows it makes the soil more acid which slows growth and can lead to disease. Is this true and what can I do about it?

The Vegetable Plot - March

Let the show go on

Whilst you can start sowing seeds for growing many vegetables this month it’s worth checking the soil temperature in colder regions. For outdoor spring-sown crops you need a temperature of 7C (45F).  If the soil is colder, wait until later in the month for it to warm up.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop and wait because there’s a host of vegetables you can start sowing indoors in a warm room or in heated propagators with tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and aubergines high on the list. Then, when the ground warms up you can get going outside by removing over-wintered greens from the vegetable plot, and freezing any extra vegetables, to keep spinach and beans for later for example.

The Big Glut Recipe - March

Leek gratin with Gruyère


Serves 6 and uses those leeks from the garden, or bought if you like. Great after a good walk.


  • 3 to 4 leeks
  • 20g (¾oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200ml (3½fl oz) double cream
  • 125g (4½oz) grated Gruyére
  • Optional herbs: thyme or finely chopped rosemary

Heat the oven to 160°C/fan/gas mark 2-3 and grease a baking dish large enough to hold the leeks in two layers. Trim off the roots and most of the green from the leeks then quarter them lengthways. Rinse  to remove any dirt and pat dry with kitchen roll or clean tea towel.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

This Month in your Garden - February

Another record year

It’s official, according to US scientists, that 2015 was globally the warmest year on record. Certainly for most of the country we’ve seen at the end of the year an exceptionally mild December and much of January, with daffodils already flowering in south-facing plots. Was yours a record year for growing?

February looks like being fairly mild for many and if the recent cold snap kept you out of the garden there may well be the chance to start preparing for a bountiful year of plants and vegetables. If you have a heated greenhouse or cold frame you can sow into trays of compost a whole variety of flowers to bring annual colour later in the year: antirrhinums, begonias, impatiens, petunias, pansies verbenas and violas are a good start. Or you could simply grow them on a bright windowsill.