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.

Monday 3 December 2018

This Month in Your Garden - December

‘In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.’ – Albert Camus

We don’t associate December much with growing anything from seed. It’s more about keeping warm if you’re working outside and checking on all those last minute jobs to be done before winter really takes a hold. 

However, you can grow alpines sown from seed because they love a cold break to wake them up. What they don’t like is being excessively wet, so put a sheet of glass over where they are growing using bricks to support and hold down the sheet, effectively making a glass tunnel. 

The Lawn Care Guide - December

Keep on top of the grass

Where we are in the country it’s looking unlikely the grass will get a final cut since most days it’s fairly wet but it would be nice to give it a last trim so it looks a bit neater.

If you have a large lawn and own a Countax or Westwood garden tractor you’ll be able to cut and collect in the wet. In drier areas you may be fortunate and able to give the lawn a haircut but not a crewcut.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I want to create a new lawn in the spring. When can I start preparing the area?

The Vegetable Plot - December

Who grows where?

The vegetable garden can be well stocked and growing through the winter months, with the vegetables virtually looking after themselves.

Onions, shallots, garlic, spring onions, broad beans, peas and more can be comfortably left to fend for themselves while you get on and sow some winter lettuce, lambs lettuce, mustard and cress.

The Big Glut Recipe - December

Game pie

Just the ticket for the festive season, hearty and hale with a choice of game you can use in this BBC Food dish. Delicious served with creamy celeriac mash.


  • 675g/1½lb mixed game meat such as pheasant, partridge, hare and rabbit, boned
  • 225g/8oz venison steak cut into 2.5cm/1in cubes
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 120g/4oz smoked streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
  • 120g/4oz chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 30g/1oz plain flour
  • 1 bay leaf

Tuesday 6 November 2018

This Month In Your Garden - November

“Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves are whirling fast.” – Sara Coleridge

The month of leaves and tulips. If you have a largish garden and trees shedding leaves everywhere, you’ll save a great deal of time by investing in a power blower. You’ll quickly clear the lawn and borders to create piles of leaves you can bag up to make leaf compost or pile them onto the compost heap.

The Lawn Care Guide - November

One man went to mow...

The traditional counting rhyme was probably written to help children learn numbers at harvest time.

The change in the weather brought down by arctic wind probably signal the end of mowing for now but there may be pockets in warmer parts of the country still warm enough for the grass to keep growing.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. We have rings of darker, taller grass on the lawn and mushrooms have appeared. Can you explain this?

The Vegetable Plot - November

“The gardener's feet drag a bit on the dusty path and the hinge in his back is full of creaks." -  Louise Seymour Jones

Around this time we get the first frosts, if you haven’t already, and so it’s time to lift parsnips and let their sweetness accompany what’s on the autumn warming menu.

But that will be at the end of the day when you’ve got the digging done and the manure spread on the vegetable bed to rot down over winter, divided and planted rhubarb, forced chicory and planted the asparagus bed.

The Big Glut Recipe - November

Michel Roux Jr’s pumpkin and swede crumble

Serve as a veggie main with the balsamic dressing or as a side with meat and gravy


  • 100g unsalted butter, chilled
  • 150g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 heaped tsp flaked sea salt
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 75g almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped
  • 300g pumpkin (peeled weight)
  • 300g swede (peeled weight)
  • 300g butternut squash (peeled weight)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Wednesday 3 October 2018

This Month In Your Garden - October

Dry your barley in October or you’ll always be sober. 

English folk rhyme

If you don’t dry your barley you will have no malt to brew your beer, folklore tells us. Old rhymes and songs have many tips for us gardeners to help us throughout the gardening year.

Many point to October as a dramatic month of changing colour and this year is no exception as we embrace colder mornings and our Indian summer slips away.

The Lawn Care Guide -October

Top dressing is not just a fashion

So you have your mower set at winter cutting height and cut the lawn according to growth. The edges are trimmed and neat and the leaves raked up. Worm casts have been brushed off on dry days and dead or dying moss removed after September’s weed and feed.

There’s been hardly any rain and although the grass is greening the lawn will benefit from a heavy irrigation. You can lay turf this month or seed worn areas with a pack of multi-purpose grass seed.

Lawn Care : Questions and Answers

Q. When is the best time to top dress the lawn?

The Vegetable Plot -October

The plot thickens

Beans and peas, carrots, turnips, beetroot, they are all there for the picking along with harvesting squash and pumpkins before the frosts. Leave the roots of pea and bean plants in the soil to break down and release nitrogen into the soil.

Time to start garlic cloves from seed bulbs in pots or modules in a cold frame, where you have also planted cauliflower seedlings you have picked off. Keep the frame ventilated.

The Big Glut Recipe - October

Cheese and Broccoli bake

A quick and easy recipe from Delicious Magazine, just right for colder nights.


  • 300g macaroni
  • 200g tenderstem broccoli, cut into thirds
  • 50ml light olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 50g plain flour
  • 550ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100g spinach
  • 60g vintage cheddar, grated
  • 60g gruyère cheese, grated (or vegetarian alternative)
  • 40g fresh breadcrumbs

Thursday 6 September 2018

This Month In Your Garden – September

"Happily we bask in this warm September sun, which illuminates all creatures..."
– Henry David Thoreau

So often we begin the Gardener’s Journal with a summary of what the weather is up to. A topic relevant to all us gardeners of course, made even more so with this year’s long drought. Now even just a little rain has made a difference and the grass has greened and jobs we’ve held back on need some catching up.

The Lawn Care Guide – September

‘An Englishman’s home is his castle...’ – Sir Edward Coke/The Institutes of the Laws of England 1628

Now what does that have to do with lawns? Well, the English lawn began inside castle walls, where knights and ladies walked and played and then in about 1610, the Jacobean age, the close cut British lawn evolved. And the British lawn became the envy of gardeners everywhere.

But that was on the grand scale and it was not until the Industrial Revolution, when gardening changed with the building of small Victorian villa gardens, there came a breakthrough.

Lawn Care: Questions and Answers

Q. I have prepared an area for seeding a new lawn, should I apply a feed before seeding?

The Vegetable Plot – September

The big freeze

We easily forget we can freeze our home-grown vegetables and rightfully claim we have frozen them even faster than the bought packaged variety.

Out of the garden come the beans, Brussels sprouts, peas, petit pois, broccoli, sweet corn – washed and into freezer bags in batches for when you need them.

The Big Glut Recipe – September

Butternut Ricotta tart with fiery rocket salad

Ready rolled puff pastry, cream cheese and sage, squash and chilli for a warm September. A BBC Good Food recipe.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 600g), peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 320g sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 250g tub ricotta
  • a few sage leaves, finely chopped
  • good grating of nutmeg
  • zest and juice ½ lemon

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


  • 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
  • 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


  • 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


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.


  • 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.