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, 13 November 2019

Monday, 4 November 2019

Battery power vs petrol power


There was a time when it seemed petrol powered outdoor tools would always reign supreme. Battery powered tools were regarded by gardeners as no competition. They couldn’t match the power and uninterrupted operation of their two-stroke counterparts. That time has passed.

Today’s Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised the way we work with battery powered tools. Now they can produce the power to equal petrol equipment while producing zero emissions at the point of work. Noise levels are also greatly reduced and the benefits don’t stop there.

This Month in Your Garden - November

‘Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves are whirling fast’.  - Sara Coleridge.


Another poet, James Rigg, in his ‘Wildflower Lyrics’ wrote of October ‘yielding her easel bright to November’s black and white.’ A slight misquote but one which demonstrates the way we used to see November. With so much choice today, it needn’t be a dull month at all. There’s plenty of activity with late digging, composting, cleaning the greenhouse, and planting bare root roses, along with clematis, honeysuckle and jasmine.

The Lawncare Guide - November

Still growing? Keep mowing.


Depending on the weather in your area you may still need to mow but set your mower or cutting deck to winter height (which you would have done in October). The height depends on your type of grass. For ornamental grass a winter cut of around 18mm, leisure, 25mm and utility 25mm+ are often the recommended heights but as a rule of thumb most household lawns will benefit from final cuts at about 4cm (1.5”) to help protect the grass through the winter.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers


Q. Can I adjust the pH of my soil?

The Big Glut Recipe - November

Maple glazed parsnip and chestnut loaf


The nut roast of nut roasts, serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter, plus an extra knob and a little to grease
  • 150-200g parsnips, trimmed and cut lengthways into 1.5cm slices
  • 50g pecan halves or pieces
  • 50g blanched almonds
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 200g button or chestnut mushrooms, quite finely chopped
  • 200g chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • ½ small bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs, finely chopped
  • Small bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 3 large free-range eggs

The Vegetable Plot - November

You might be relieved to know if your soil is light, sandy loam, it’s best to leave digging it over until the spring, whereby it won’t lose too much moisture. For those of us where the subsoil is heavy clay then, sorry folks, we’ll need to take a fork to it and turn it, leaving it rough to break down in the frosts.

Where the ground has not been dug for a long time, we’ve talked before about using the double digging technique so here it is again. Use a spade to dig a trench one spade deep then fork the bottom to the depth of the fork. Dig the next trench and turn the soil into the first and so on until the last trench is dug and you use the soil from the first trench to fill it. Keep off the dug area until spring planting.

Friday, 27 September 2019

This Month in Your Garden - October

‘Everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.’ Elizabeth Lawrence


Spectacular is a word reserved for great sights like the Grand Canyon, Macchu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and surely it also befits nature’s autumnal display of colours. Take a proverbial leaf out of October’s almanac and you can make a date with next year’s display of your own. Planting deciduous trees and shrubs is best done in autumn when they are less stressed, and you can create your canvas and backdrop of turning leaves.

The Lawn Care Guide - October

A lot of hot aerating


With the spells of dry weather, you have by now probably done the scarifying and aerating to clear thatch and moss and give the lawn a new lease of life, with oxygen reaching the roots and plenty of good drainage.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Is it too late to scarify and aerate the lawn?

The Vegetable Plot - October

Jack Frost is nipping at your nose

Vegetable like parsnips and celeriac actually benefit from a little frost so it’s no bad thing to leave them in a while longer. Carrots, beetroot and turnips, however, need lifting now. Potatoes should also come up and be allowed to dry before they are stored, preferably in paper bags or sacks.

The Big Glut Recipe - October

October roasted vegetables with Halloumi 


Makes a nice, simple veggie dish or as a side. Use other veg as you wish.

Ingredients
  • 4 small uncooked beetroots
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 3 small red onions, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
  • 3 whole heads of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 150g (5oz) Halloumi cheese, cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes
  • Coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 heaped tsp sumac (see tips)
  • 1 x 400g (13oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Parsley leaves, to serve
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Monday, 2 September 2019

This Month in Your Garden - September

Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years. Anon.


How do you see your garden next year? Do you have a picture in your mind of swathes of colour across bright borders or muted, subtle shades and architectural planting. The act of gardening is good for physical health and the pleasure a garden brings has bearing on mental wellbeing. The garden need not be a complicated affair, often the simplest plan outshines the complex.

The Lawn Care Guide - September

The green, green grass of home


If the lawn suffered from the hot weather now is the time to bring it back and prepare it for the winter. This is the best month to treat for moss, which you can do with lawn sand or an organic treatment such as MO Bacter. Scarifying the lawn will remove dead thatch and moss, while aerating will provide drainage and get air to the roots of the grass.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Can I make my own top dressing? 


The Vegetable Plot - September

"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." Mahatma Gandhi


Crop rotation in the vegetable plot is important to avoid soil nutrients becoming depleted. It also helps reduce the spread of soil-born disease and lessens the need for pest control. You decide what crops you want to grow and plant the same type in one area. Then every year the type of plants grown in that area are changed.

The Big Glut - September

Layered aubergine and lentil bake


Simple, healthy, low calorie vegetarian bake from BBC Good Food

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines, cut into ½ cm slices lengthways
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 140g Puy lentils
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves,finely chopped
  • 300g cooked butternut squash
  • 400g can chopped tomato
  • ½ small pack basil leaves
  • 125g ball of mozzarella, torn

Friday, 2 August 2019

This Month in Your Garden - August

'Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it'. Russel Baker


Vacation or staycation, holiday time needs a bit of planning. If you’re away is there someone who could lend a hand in your garden to water and keep things ticking over? If it’s a large garden with lots to do it may be worth getting a local company in and they can be sorting out borders and planting while you’re putting your feet up on a sunbed in some tropical paradise.

The Lawn Care Guide - August

Weed away, feed away.


If it’s been raining in your area then you probably have more than a few weeds on the lawn to deal with. Plantain, speedwell, dandelions, self heal and ragwort will pop up given half a chance, especially if you haven’t done much weed control. If you did treat in spring then now and into September is a good time to spray using a knapsack sprayer.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. What is overseeding and when should it be done?


The Vegetable Plot - August

Cut-and-come-again


August is a month for both harvesting and sowing on the vegetable plot. Crop peas, courgettes and beans while they are young and tender. What else have you grown? Tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, beetroot, carrot – keep them coming for summer salads.

The Big Glut - August

Pork tenderloin with rhubarb, onion and tarragon


A Danish style recipe by Trine Hahnemann for House & Garden

Ingredients

  • 2 x 600g pork tenderloins, trimmed 
  • 50g salted butter
  • 4 shallots, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 200g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp whole black peppercorns, crushed 
  • 10 sprigs tarragon

Friday, 5 July 2019

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I have just cut down a large tree 54"x62" in diameter that was hollow. The trunk is about 3' high, we thought maybe fill the centre with earth but what would be the best plants to grow that would in time cover down the sides of the trunk?

Monday, 1 July 2019

This Month in Your Garden - July

"The hum of the bees is the voice of the garden." Elizabeth Lawrence


Gardens with plenty of flowers naturally draw in the honey bees. We need their help as pollinators and they need as much help as we can give them. They sometimes suffer from a drought of pollen from June into July.

The Lawn Care Guide - July

New lawn blues


A new lawn can often run into trouble early on for a number of reasons. There‘s nothing worse than seeing a load of weed appearing in your carefully nurtured grass you sowed back in April. Fear not, mowing takes care of much of the problem.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We laid a turf lawn in April and now there are ugly cracks everywhere. What went wrong and what can we do?

The Vegetable Plot - July


Spilling the beans


It’s easy to think of July as month when you don’t do too much in the vegetable garden. Depending of course on the size of your plot you can still be sowing summer and winter salad crops, spring cabbage and root crops. Parsley can be sown for a winter supply. It may take a bit of time to germinate – up to six weeks for seedlings to appear, so be patient.

The Big Glut Recipe - July

Aubergines in tamarind sauce with baked halloumi and saffron rice


By Sabrina Ghayour from Saturday Kitchen

Ingredients

For the aubergines
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled and smashed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 6 aubergines, halved and cut into large wedges
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

This Month in Your Garden - June

‘I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.’
-  L. M. Montgomery


June is the month of festivals, medieval fayres, airshows, horse racing, tennis and strawberries and cream. You could be forgiven for not having much time to spend in the garden but if have been hard at it all year, digging, sowing, pruning and hoeing, when you do get into your land of herbaceous borders, cottage garden plants, shrubs and roses, take a deep breath.

The Lawn Care Guide - June

Mow as you mean to go on


May rolls into June and the mowing regime is much the same with twice a week cutting if the soil is moist. If there’s a long, dry spell, raise the cutting height on the tractor deck or mower and leave off the grass box. But mostly continue as you were, with frequent mowing a benefit for the grass.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We seem to get a lot of areas on the lawn that get shaved bare when we cut the grass. What can we do to stop it?

The Vegetable Plot - June

‘Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.’ - Elizabeth Berry 


There is no better vegetable than fresh from one’s own garden, with the knowledge of where it came from.

The Big Glut Recipe - June

Pan fried gnocchi with broccoli pesto and grilled veg


Smoky, tasty, fast fresh veg with fried gnocchi for extra crunch. By Michel Roux Jr. From Food & Drink.

Ingredients

For the pesto

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

This Month in Your Garden - May

'Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment'. -  Ellis Peters 


All the careful planning, neat planting and border tidying and there’s always some plant, some flower, pops up to astonish us. Now where did you come from? May is always full of surprises and with the frosts passed we can sow and plant more to delight the eye in the months to come. Early bulbs have gone over so we may be thinking about lifting them if they are overcrowded.

The Lawn Care Guide - May

Early warning: weed attack


Just when the lawn is looking good you step out one morning and notice there are a lot more weeds than there were yesterday. Or so it seems. The speedwells, chickweed, dandelion and daisies all find your lawn a nice place to live. The buttercups with their pretty yellow flowers are creeping around and may be regarded as not offensive until, that is, off they go covering the turf at an alarming rate.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have cracks appearing in the soil surface of our newly seeded lawn, what can we do about it?

The Vegetable Plot - May

And sow on


Succession sowing brings you a plentiful and regular supply of fresh vegetables through spring and summer. Somehow there’s a greater delight in enjoying the crunch of home grown lettuce, salad onions, carrots and radishes on a warm summer evening, compared to taking them out of a plastic bag.

The Big Glut Recipe - May

Creamy broccoli and bacon spaghetti

Super, simple midweek dish serves four, courtesy of Delicious Magazine.

Ingredients

  • 400g spaghetti
  • ½ large head broccoli, cut into small florets
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 British free-range unsmoked streaky bacon rashers, roughly chopped
  • 100ml half-fat crème fraîche
  • 5 free-range egg yolks (freeze the whites in a labelled freezer bag)
  • Grated cheddar to serve (optional)

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

This Month in Your Garden - April

‘Sweet April showers Do spring May flowers.’ -  Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, 1557  


We’re seeing the results of strange weather patterns in February but one thing is certain, spring is with us and we can expect April showers. But sunny days too will see us out there mowing the lawn and sowing hardy annuals. If the temperature is up around 7°C/ 45°F you can sow directly into the ground or, to be safe from frosts, sow in the greenhouse if you have one, or a cold frame.

The Lawn Care Guide - April

Cut and come again


It’s only natural to want the lawn looking its splendid self after the winter and so there is a tendency among us all to cut too close, too early.  We should mow as the growth dictates, remembering the higher the cut the healthier the plant will be. So we should expect to lower the cutting height gradually down to 3cm (1.25”) cutting height by the end of the month.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have prepared for a new lawn but we’ve not yet seeded because of the weather. Is it too late?

The Vegetable Plot - April

Variety is the spice of life


All things nice grow in your vegetable patch and more than fill your five a day. Succession sowing will see you stocked with veg right through to autumn and beyond. What a list it is! Carrots, turnips, beetroot, spinach, radishes, Brussels sprouts, peas, parsnips, broad beans, leeks, broccoli, summer cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce.

The Big Glut Recipe - April

Lamb Fillet with walnut pesto 


A tasty way with spring lamb serves four and takes little time to prepare and cook. The pesto keeps in the fridge a few days and goes nicely as well  with goat’s cheese and roast beetroot salad.

Ingredients
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 50g (1 ¾oz) freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100g (3 ½oz) walnuts

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

This Month in Your Garden - March

‘Autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.’ -  Elizabeth Bowen


Whatever the weather, March is going to be a busy month because nature is irrepressible and once winter has bowed out around mid-March the show begins. Assuming you don’t have a carpet of snow, early month is usually best approached with general tasks of clearing and preparation, cutting back and tidying up. Hedges need trimming back before birds start nesting.

The Lawn Care Guide - March

Time to mow


The time has arrived, out with the garden tractor or mower, set the deck to the right height and away you go. That is assuming the ambient soil temperature has the grass growing and needing a haircut. That’s all it should be to begin with.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Can I make my own top dressing or do I need to buy it in?

The Vegetable Plot - March

Sow far, sow good


If you would like a supply of celery from October onwards and through the winter, now is the time to sow. Growing traditional celery takes a lot of effort but it’s well worth it for the flavour and in cooking it’s so versatile. Easier to grow is the self-blanching variety but it will still need humous rich soil and plenty of watering and feeding. Start from seed under heated glass in March and April.

The Big Glut Recipe - March

Shepherd’s Pie with lamb shank


A shepherd's pie recipe by Caroline Barty, using tender, braised lamb shank to elevate this favourite to something special.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and cut into 2cm-thick slices
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled, plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sprigs rosemary
6 small lamb shanks
500ml medium-bodied red wine
3 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
2 leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into 1cm rounds
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

Monday, 4 February 2019

This Month in Your Garden - February

‘The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.’ Gertrude Smith Wister (1905–1999)



The Anglo Saxons had several names for February, one of which was ‘Sprout-kale’ relating to kale and cabbages being ready to eat, and another, ‘Fill-dike’, because the ditches would fill with the rain and melting snow. The month may find us nipping in and out of the garden when the weather permits, enjoying splashes of colour from snowdrops, winter aconites, irises, crocus and evergreens such as Viburnums, Mahonias and hellebores.