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, 1 December 2021

This Month in Your Garden - December

 A light cut might be needed

Grass continues to grow in temperatures above 5ºC (41ºF) and although the colder weather came in at the end of November, the lawn may need a light cut. Apart from anything else, it’s nicer to have it manicured during the winter months, but for a leisure lawn don’t cut lower than 20-25mm. 

The Lawncare Guide - December

 A light cut might be needed 

Grass continues to grow in temperatures above 5ºC (41ºF) and although the colder weather came in at the end of November, the lawn may need a light cut. Apart from anything else, it’s nicer to have it manicured during the winter months, but for a leisure lawn don’t cut lower than 20-25mm. The higher winter cut helps the grass develop a good, deep root system and this will allow the grass protection through to the first spring cut. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

 Q. We have a lot of moss in our lawn and we have treated it to an autumn weed and feed. What more can we do? 

The Vegetable Plot - December

 A hotbed of vegetables 

In Victorian times, gardeners used to make hotbeds in winter by filling a wooden compost container with horse manure covered with a layer of soil, mushroom compost and grit and placing the cold frame on top. The heat builds up underneath and you can sow early carrots, spinach, lettuces and turnips. 

The Big Glut - December

Cock-a-leekie traybake with croutons

Ingredients

  • 8 free-range chicken thighs
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 leeks, sliced in half lengthways
  • 2 fennel bulbs, sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 3 clementines or easy peelers, 2 cut into slices, 2 juiced
  • 200ml white wine or chicken stock
  • Grated zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 large pieces sourdough, torn

Monday, 1 November 2021

This Month in Your Garden - November

‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’ – Audrey Hepburn

Whilst the weather is likely to become more settled after the first week of November it is almost certain to turn colder. Things are slowing down in the garden, but there is still plenty to do to create tomorrow’s garden. You can take that literally by planting out winter flowering annuals such as pansies for splashes of seasonal colour. Hellebores, Christmas roses, too, will brighten the dullest days.

The Lawncare Guide - November

A lawn unto yourself

No one is likely to spend much time on the lawn in November and through the winter. Indeed, if there’s frost or snow, the grass should not be walked on if possible because of the damage that can cause. But if the temperature is above 5º C, grass continues to grow and while the frequency will lessen, mowing may still be required. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. A friend has identified yarrow weed growing in my lawn. I have tried a weedkiller, but it doesn’t seem to work. 

The Vegetable Plot - November

Rotate and propagate

Just as with farming, the vegetable plot needs rotation, alternating crops of vegetable families to different areas each year. It is helpful to divide the plot into sections, so in year one section one may grow potatoes, section two Legumes, onions, roots and section three Brassicas. 

The Big Glut - November

 Pumpkin soup 

Tasty autumn warmer by Annie Rigg for BBC Food 

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 25g/1oz unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium pumpkin (prepared weight about 850g/1lb 14oz) deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium-sized floury potato, such as Maris Piper, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre/1¾ pint vegetable or chicken stock, a little extra may be needed
  • 100ml/3½fl oz double cream
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Monday, 4 October 2021

This Month in Your Garden - October

‘Dry your barley in October, or you’ll always be sober.’ English folk-rhyme.

It’s easy to become inebriated on the colours of October and not just the autumn leaves. Many flowers will bloom through to the first frosts. Asters, Japanese anemone, agapanthus, chrysanthemum, calla and carnations, to name but a few, give the garden a vivid palette on darker days. Deadhead dahlias and they will keep coming and once blackened by frost the tubers can be lifted and stored for planting next year.

The Lawncare Guide - October

To turf or not to turf 

If you have prepared an area for a new lawn or you’re repairing an existing one, now is the time to lay turves when the soil is moist and warm. Turf can be laid as late as November if the forecast is not too cold or wet. Similarly, if the weather is still mild and you prefer the seeded route, you can sow now on a prepared area. 

Should it become cold or heavy rain is forecast the sown area can be covered in clear polythene to protect it and promote growth. If it remains warm and rain is light, leave it uncovered to grow quickly and naturally. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Mole damage has left my lawn with hollows in places. What should I do to even it up and get it level?

The Vegetable Plot - October

Hoe and go

One of the least strenuous ways of dealing with weed in the vegetable patch is to use a hoe. There are other benefits to hoeing in that the topsoil is broken up, better aerated and water can easily reach the roots of your vegetables. 

The Big Glut - October

French cauliflower soup with scallops

From House & Garden. Serves 6. Prep 20 mins, cook 20 mins.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves removed
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 2 small sticks celery, chopped
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 100ml double cream
  • Mild curry powder, for sprinkling
  • 9 scallops
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-2tbsp chopped chives 
  • Crusty bread (to serve)

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

This Month in Your Garden - September

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

There is a certain change of light in early autumn that complements shades of red, burgundy and orange russets. They draw the eye and appear nearer, while cool colours give a more distant, calming effect. Annuals and bedding plants give you an endless palette of colours to work with. But as summer fades into autumn, we edge nearer to the first frosts when tender perennials are at risk. 

The Lawncare Guide - September

The lawn in winter 

There's plenty you can be doing now to give the lawn the best protection over the winter months. Scarifying and aeration are the priorities. Existing lawns will benefit from scarification to lift out dead grass, moss and thatch, using a scarifier attachment on the garden tractor or a walk-behind scarifier. Cut the lawn quite short to begin with and work the scarifier first in one direction and then across the first pass. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. What are the sowing rates for a new lawn? 

The Vegetable Plot - September

Lift and store

All manner of squashes, marrow, pumpkins need proper seasoning before storing them indoors. They should be cut when they are full size and good in colour when they can be laid out in the sunshine for a couple of weeks to harden. 

You can then store them indoors in a frost-free place. If you planted maincrop onions and they are starting to turn yellow at the tips, you can prepare them for lifting by digging a fork under the bulbs, lifting them slightly without breaking the roots. This will loosen them enough for ripening and harvesting later. 

The Big Glut - September

Marrow curry

A vegetarian dish to serve 6 as a spicy side for roast chicken or lamb, from BBC Good Food.

Ingredients

  • 1 marrow, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • juice ½ lemon
  • small pack coriander, roughly chopped

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

This Month in Your Garden - August

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. William Shakespeare.

August is officially the last month of summer and we want to cling to our enjoyment of the garden in the warmth it brings. There is certainly plenty to get on with as we soak up the sun and, at the end of the day, we’re allowed to be languorous as we admire our work. 

The Lawncare Guide - August

Top dressing for a tip-top lawn

Historically, top dressing has been carried out as part of the autumn lawn renovation or in spring so why would we do it in August?. Well, if the lawn has suffered hard wear during the summer and is showing lumps, bumps and stress through drought and hard play, you can treat it to a top dressing. Ideally, you should aerate and scarify first as this helps the dressing key into the surface and get into the soil below.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Our lawn has suffered from drought and the kids playing football and other games on it. What should we do to help it recover?

The Vegetable Plot - August

 Harvest and grow 

There should be plenty to harvest this month. Second early potatoes will be ideal for salads and maincrop potatoes will be ready when the leaves turn yellow. You can store potatoes in hessian sacks which allow ventilation but exclude light. Lift and dry onions, shallots and garlic when the foliage yellows and flops over. Harvest French and runner beans to stop them running to seed.

The Big Glut - August

 Grilled chicken thighs with sweet potato wedges, courgettes and feta

Ingredients 

  • 4 free-range skin-on chicken thighs, skin slashed
  • 2 medium-large sweet potatoes, cut into wedges (skin on)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced lengthways into 0.5cm thick strips (or 6-8 baby courgettes, halved)
  • Small bunch basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped, plus extra leaves to serve
  • Small bunch coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 25g parmesan, finely grated
  • Grated zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 80g feta, crumbled

Monday, 5 July 2021

This Month in Your Garden - July

If the first of July be rainy weather, It will rain, more or less, for four weeks together. John Ray, English naturalist

It is easy to get caught out when there has been a fair bit of rain and not water containers and new plants. The question is: did they get enough water from summer showers? Often the answer is no, and you need to give hanging baskets, tubs and the border a good soaking to be safe. 

The Lawncare Guide - July

Aerate to oxygenate

At this time of the year, grass and soil microbes have a high demand for oxygen. It makes sense to aerate using a walk-behind aerator or aerating attachment for the garden tractor. This will help get oxygen to the roots and promote good drainage to avoid a build-up of thatch. Prolonged periods of rain and warmth will also promote growth of course, and there may not be the opportunity to mow before the grass becomes quite high. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q How long should I leave the sprinkler running on the lawn, without wasting water?

The Vegetable Plot - July

Success with salads 

Who doesn’t like a good salad straight from the garden? Successional sowings of lettuce, endive and summer spinach will keep the salads coming. As tomatoes swell, they will benefit from a layer of well-rotted compost around the plants if you are growing them outdoors. Feed tomatoes when the first trusses set. 

The Big Glut - July

 Spaghetti with courgette and chilli 

A quick dinner for two which you can serve with a wedge of lemon and Parmesan cheese. From House and Garden

Ingredients

  • 200g (6½oz) spaghetti
  • 2 medium-sized courgettes
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ long red chilli, sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

This Month in Your Garden - June

‘Roses are red, violets are blue; But they don’t get around like the dandelions do.’ Slim Acres  

There’s plenty of hoeing in June, especially with a warm start to the month, and you prefer to control weeds without using weedkillers. Manual removal, burning, putting in weed barriers and covering with a mulch such as bark join the hoe in dealing with weed. 

The Lawncare Guide - June

If in drought…

There is nothing a lawn likes better in dry periods or drought than a thorough soaking once or twice a week. The water will thoroughly penetrate the soil and encourage the roots to push down deep. A light sprinkling every day is a waste of your time and precious water. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. How can I be sure of getting the right balance of fertiliser, as in what to apply and when?

The Vegetable Plot - June

After the frosts…

Didn’t we have some cold weather and late frosts in May? Then wet, wet, wet. Even professional growers had a hard time. If your weather watching tells you it is safe, you can plant out tomatoes, runner and French beans, pepper, aubergine and sweet corn. Outdoor tomatoes should have the first flower truss showing before planting out. 

The Big Glut Recipe - June

 Asparagus, egg and potato Caesar salad 

Ingredients

  • 200g sourdough bread
  • 50g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large free-range eggs, plus 2 large free-range egg yolks
  • 500g new potatoes
  • 250g asparagus spears
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 170ml sunflower oil
  • 5 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 60g watercress

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

This Month in Your Garden - May

‘It was the outdoor detail–and May is one fine month to be working outdoors.’ Stephen King

There are still some frosts around, so protect tender plants until you are sure the danger passes. May is truly a month to enjoy being in the garden and at the garden centre, stocking up with colour for your borders. You probably won’t plant out bedding until the end of the month, but there are plenty of other pleasurable jobs to get on with. 

The Lawncare Guide - May

We beat weeds into submission

April was, for many places, exceptionally dry, so mowing will need to be done as dictated by the grass growth. If your lawn hasn’t put on much of a spurt, you won’t need to lower the cutting height on your garden tractor or mower just yet. Besides, grass should be mown a little at a time and by aiming to remove a third of the available leaf when you mow you allow the grass time to recover from the cut. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers


Q. How often should I feed the lawn with fertilizer? 

The Vegetable Plot - May

Growing, growing, gone!

Growing your own vegetables is not only a pleasure on fine May days, you will also notice family and friends can’t wait to get the flavour of home-grown. Be it simply growing tomatoes in the greenhouse or outside, or a host of different veg in your plot, or even in borders with other plants, the story is the same. 

The Big Glut Recipe - May

One pot salmon with roast asparagus

Refreshingly, serves 2. From BBC Good Food. 

Ingredients

  • 400g new potato, halved if large
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 asparagus spears, trimmed and halved
  • 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 salmon fillets, about 140g/5oz each
  • handful basil leaves

Thursday, 1 April 2021

This Month in Your Garden - April

‘Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment.’ Ellis Peters

Hardy annuals are among the least expensive ways of creating colourful flower beds or filling gaps in borders and they are easy to grow. Sow them directly into the soil when the ground is warm enough, around 7°C (45°F) and sufficiently dry to rake down to a crumbly and fine tilth. You need no fertiliser because most annuals like poorer soil to produce more flowers. You can create large areas of bold or subtle themes in shades of one colour, or a kaleidoscope of multi-colours. 

The Lawncare Guide - April

A good time to weed and feed

It is quite likely after the first cut of the season your lawn reveals patches of moss that have grown through winter. Poor draining, wet soils, inadequately fertilised soil, areas of shade and compaction can all lead to moss development and spread. Moss reproduces via hundreds and thousands of minuscule spores produced in spring and autumn before the mother plant dies. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q.  I have identified yarrow weed in my lawn, how do I treat it? 

The Vegetable Plot - April

And so, to seed

If you have a greenhouse you can start dwarf French beans and pot on for early picking. Sow two seeds to a pot in John Innes No. 1 compost with a little bottom heat if you can. You can either let them grow to maturity in the greenhouse or harden them off to plant out in late May. 

The Big Glut Recipe - April

Tarragon roast chicken with summer greens

From BBC Good Food 

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • large woody sprig of tarragon
  • 1 medium chicken (about 1.4kg)
  • 450g baby potatoes, halved
  • 2 tsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil (about 1.4kg)
  • For the summer greens
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 2 leeks, cut into rings (about 300g) 
  • 350g asparagus (250g pack plus 100g pack) ends trimmed, each cut into 4
  • 320g frozen peas
  • 260g bag of young leaf spinach
  • 2 tbsp bio Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tarragon leaves, chopped

Monday, 1 March 2021

This Month in Your Garden - March

March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. English proverb.

Spring in the northern hemisphere begins on the 20th of March but for the gardener, it is already well underway. The snowdrops and crocus planted last year are soon accompanied by the bright faces of primrose and daffodils, Muscari, Hyacinth, bluebells and Lily of the Valley. Fruit trees blossom and Fritillary show their ponderous heads, while pansies and polyanthus brighten containers and hanging baskets by the door.

The Lawncare Guide - March

Know your lawn and how to cut it 

With relatively mild weather in our area, the grass had already started into growth in February. This month most areas can expect strong growth and the tendency is to get out and give it a good haircut. But if you have been reading the Gardener’s Journal for a while you will know you need to start with a high cut and gradually lower with successive mowing.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

 Q. I’ve been told I should ‘overseed’ in March for a thick, lush grass but that I need to scarify first. Is that correct? 

The Vegetable Plot - March

‘Springtime is the land awakening, the March winds are the morning yawn.’ Lewis Grizzard 

Whatever the weather is doing there’s a host of vegetables you can start sowing indoors in a warm room or in heated propagators. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers and aubergines are high on the list. When the ground warms up you can get going outside by removing over-wintered greens from the vegetable plot. 

Freeze any extra vegetables such as spinach and beans for later. 

The Big Glut Recipe - March

Leek and greens lasagne

By Rosie Birkett for BBC Good Food

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the tin
  • 50g butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Rosemary sprig, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and rough green ends discarded, 1 finely sliced and 2 cut into medium slices
  • 40g plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • fresh nutmeg, for grating
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ green chilli, sliced
  • 400g mixed green leaves, such as kale, chard and spinach, roughly chopped
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 100g walnuts
  • 280g jar preserved artichoke hearts in oil, drained
  • 100g ricotta
  • 6 dried lasagne sheets