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 6 December 2022

This Month in Your Garden - December

 "It is the middle of December. The nights are longer, the weather is colder, winter comes." Selena Fox

Winter for us officially begins on the 1st of December and by the middle of the month, as the festivities approach, there's probably little time to contemplate the garden. Besides, you will have already finished pruning roses, planting containers for winter flowering colour and putting in evergreen shrubs in borders as architectural statements. 

The Lawncare Guide - December

Neat and trim but not too short, thank you

While it is nicer to see the lawn through the winter neatly cut, it should not be manicured within an inch of its life. If the grass has still been growing through an unseasonably warm November, it may need that last cut in December, but not too short. The height of winter cut should be 20 to 25 mm for a leisure lawn, 25 mm + for a utility lawn, and 12 to 18 mm for an ornamental lawn. That will help the grass develop a good root system to combat wear. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have small, dead patches of grass with a whitish, fluffy ring on the outer edges and they seem to be joining up. What is this?

The Vegetable Plot - December

Chilli in winter

It's surprising what vegetables you can grow in December. Sowing seed now and then again in spring will extend your harvesting season. You might sow outside, directly in the ground or in heated propagators. Chilli peppers and aubergines can be sown any time of the year but you will need a heated propagator and grow lamp to get them going. Winter sown broad beans will give you an early crop in May. At the moment, it is mild enough in most regions to sow seed outdoors where they can germinate in about two weeks. Then they remain dormant until spring brings a rise in temperatures.

The Big Glut - December

Creamy chard, squash and parmesan tart

From BBC Good Food


  • 400g acorn or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2-3cm slices
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ bunch of thyme, leaves picked, plus a few sprigs to serve
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 5 banana shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp light brown soft sugar
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 400g chard, leaves chopped (reserve the stem to use in soups or stews)
  • 40g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
  • 100g mascarpone
  • 30g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • chicory salad, to serve

Monday 31 October 2022

This Month in Your Garden - November

“The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.” William Shakespeare

So far, through October we have largely escaped the frost and the Indian summer has seen bees and wasps still active right at the end of the month. However, change is inevitable as we march towards the darker days and those frosts will come. 

The Lawncare Guide - November

 Less stress makes finer lawns

A lawn of fine turf grows under conditions that are not entirely natural. The winter months will subject it to stress with the cold, wet and freezing conditions, so it needs a helping hand. You will probably have scarified, aerated and treated the lawn to a fertilizer last month. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Is it safe to lay turf in November and won’t the frosts kill the grass?

The Vegetable Plot - November

Fruit of your labours

You’re keen to grow as many vegetables as you can and you have a great lawn, but that has left you little room for fruit. Now is a good time to plant fruit trees and if you’re short on space you could try growing espalier against a wall of fence or why not grow standards in containers on a patio? 

The Big Glut - November

Cock-a-leekie traybake with croutons 

A different take on the traditional Scottish soup from Delicious Magazine


  • 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

Tuesday 4 October 2022

The Lawncare Guide - October

The patient in recovery 

The long, hot summer that led to drought, brown lawns and heavy compaction was heartache for proud lawn gardeners who love their Wimbledon stripes. For many of us, hosepipe bans are still in place. But grass is nothing but resilient and the first real rains for a long time saw the lawn start to recover.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I am ordering top dressing but need to know what quantity I should get?

The Vegetable Plot - October

Not lost to frost 

We have had had a few pretty cold nights at the end of September and in some areas frost has threatened. All the more reason to lift turnips, parsnips, carrot and beetroot. Cut the tops off turnips before storing in a frost-free place. Fork up potatoes and store them in a cool, dry place (the garage is a good idea).

The Big Glut - October

Venison with pumpkin mash and cavolo nero 

From Delicious Magazine. Serves 4-6, hands-on time 1 hour, oven time 3 hours

  • 1kg venison shoulder, bone removed (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 500ml good red wine
  • 1kg pumpkin
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 50ml double cream
  • 400g cavolo nero

This Month in Your Garden - October

“Now autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods.” William Allingham

The tapestry of autumn colours never ceases to delight the eye as the trees make their gradual transition into winter. October brings many jobs to the gardener, but it’s not all work. Planning next year’s borders can mean pleasant hours of drawing inspiration from visiting the garden centre or ordering from the catalogues.

Thursday 1 September 2022

This Month in Your Garden - September

‘As Summer into Autumn slips and yet we sooner say “the Summer” than “the Autumn,” lest we turn the sun away…’ – Emily Dickinson

Autumn officially begins on the 1st of September in meteorological terms. You would think we should be glad after heatwaves, drought and hosepipe bans. Yet isn’t there a hankering to hold on to the last of the summer sun before the nights draw in? 

The Lawncare Guide - September

When in drought…

Many a mature lawn will be suffering badly from the drought, especially the ornamental lawn comprising fine, bent grasses. Those containing fescue are likely to have more resistance but even so, once the top 10cm (4 in) of soil has dried out, the grass can stop growing and turns brown. Usually, if you have kept your lawn well maintained, it will quickly recover with the autumn rains. But the not so well maintained lawn will suffer root deterioration and become weak, allowing the weeds and moss to become established as soon as rain is frequent. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. When is the best time to create a new lawn?

The Vegetable Plot - September

Let the good thymes roll

September, the month of plenty in the vegetable garden if you have been prolific with your seeding. The bounty includes tomatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes, marrows, runner beans, cabbages and cauliflowers, lettuces, cucumber, beetroot, potatoes, carrots and turnips. 

The Big Glut - September

Aubergine parmigiana lasagne 

From BBC Good Food


  • 3 large aubergines, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g vegetarian mozzarella, drained and coarsely grated
  • 50g vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese, grated
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
  • 8 dried lasagne sheets (egg lasagne sheets are best for this)

Monday 8 August 2022

This Month in Your Garden - August

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
Hal Borland, writer. 

It’s a good job grass is durable and persistent with one of the hottest July’s on record and more drought forecast. Even the most comprehensive watering regime would be hard pressed to keep a green lawn in these conditions. Thankfully, the grass will recover and green-up when the rains come. So best turn our attention to other thirsty areas of the garden. 

If you are using a water butt to conserve water, you are likely soon to run out. There are grey water alternatives, where bath, kitchen sink water, dishwasher and washing machine water are diverted to use in the garden. Regard this with caution because untreated grey water may expose you to disease-causing pathogens, while salts and chemicals can damage plants and soil. 

You would need a comprehensive system that treats the water for purity and most of the options will use additional energy which is not very ‘green’. Mulching round plants and shrubs is a good way to keep the moisture in, using home made compost or bark mulch after you have given them a good watering. It will help slow down evaporation. 

And so onto a few other jobs you can potter around doing in the sunshine. Deadhead roses, dahlias and penstemons for more growth and colour in the autumn. Take cuttings of roses, pelargoniums, hydrangeas and alpines to propagate new plants. Re-pot azaleas and propagate pinks and carnations by layering or take cuttings. 

  • Take cuttings or move self-seeded plants for more plants around the garden
  • Collect and store seeds from dried flower heads 
  • Cut back hardy geraniums for a new flush
  • Feed container-grown plants and flowers and water hanging baskets
  • Feed container plants with liquid tomato feed
  • Collect and store seeds
  • Prune rambling roses after flowering
  • Trim hedges

The Lawncare Guide - August

How to be a top dresser

The near drought conditions look like being with us for a good while and the lawn is suffering from the lack of rain. If you decide to water it, you need to do this intensely about once a week, giving it a thorough soaking for about 20 to 30 minutes. That way, the roots will push down deeper and help promote top growth. However, in many instances, it’s not enough to stop the dried out look and besides, we could be edging towards a hosepipe ban. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. My lawn looks really stressed from drought and the kids playing games on it. What can I do about it?

The Vegetable Plot - August

Coming and sowing 

Cut and come again is easy with both succession sowing and choosing suitable leafy crops. Fast-growing lettuces from seed include Tom Thumb and Little Gem, but most lettuces and salad leaves provide pickings over a long period. 

The Big Glut - August

Barbecued courgettes with dill, goat’s cheese, mint and yoghurt

A starter for 4 or as a side dish from House & Garden/River Cottage Handbook.


  • 4–6 medium courgettes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 3 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 150g soft goat’s or ewe’s cheese
  • ½ small garlic clove, peeled and grated
  • A small bunch of chives, thinly sliced
  • 6–8 sprigs of dill, chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint, plus whole leaves to garnish
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Friday 1 July 2022

This Month in Your Garden - July

‘Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.’ Sam Keen

All your hard but hopefully pleasurable work in the garden earlier in the year pays off with leisure time to enjoy your chosen displays. The choice is yours. There are always plenty of jobs to be done, even in the heat of July, or you can be just plain lazy. Supposing though you’re a gardener who can’t sit still when you look around and see plenty of cuttings to be taken. 

The Lawncare Guide - July

Water, water, everywhere

Light, infrequent watering of the lawn only serves to encourage roots to stay near the surface leading to thin, unsightly grass. Continuous watering can also have a damaging effect, leading to disease. So what’s best if there is a prolonged dry period or even drought? Assuming there is no hosepipe ban (and we’ll talk more about that in a minute) what’s needed is thorough irrigation once or at most twice a week. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. Should I aerate the lawn at this time of year? 

The Vegetable Plot - July

Straight and marrow 

It’s time to pick your courgettes before they turn into marrows. Unless, of course, you want to grow marrows. A marrow is a cucurbit, from the same family as cucumber, melon, squash and courgette. So your courgette is a marrow picked early. But you already knew that. 

The Big Glut - July

Grilled chicken thighs with courgette, sweet potato wedges and feta from Delicious Magazine


  • 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 30 May 2022

This Month in Your Garden - June

‘June brings tulips, lilies, roses, fills the children’s hands with posies...’– Sara Coleridge 

A warm and sunny patch in the garden that is not serving any other purpose will make a great place to plant up to attract pollinators. Filled with Salvia, Verbena, Geranium, Allium, Thyme, the choice is yours from a host of plants that attract the honeybees and the entertaining hover flies. 

The Lawncare Guide - June

A weed is a plant growing in the wrong place 

The long range UK weather forecast tells us we could be in for a fair bit of rain throughout June (as it stands at the moment) and the month will get progressively warmer. So, while that encourages the grass to grow, the weeds in the lawn can also proliferate. A weed may be defined simply as a plant growing out of place or where it’s not wanted, but to the proud lawn owner, it’s undesirable and needs to be eradicated.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I know I need to use fertiliser on my lawn but when should I spread it and what type should I use?

The Vegetable Plot - June

Organic matters

A well prepared vegetable bed with lots of organic matter dug in is all you need to plant out celery, celeriac and outdoor ridge cucumbers early this month. The organic matter helps to retain water as well as supplying nutrients. You may have already started earlier in the season by sowing most of your brassicas, but you can still sow turnips, kohl rabi and calabrese now for an autumn crop. And sowing is what you can do a lot of in June if you want a bumper vegetable harvest. 

The Big Glut - June

Broad bean spaghetti with Pecorino 

Use those fresh broad beans. Recipe from House & Garden. 


  • 1kg broad beans (weight in pods)
  • 450g spaghetti
  • 50g butter
  • 75g pecorino, grated

Tuesday 3 May 2022

This Month in Your Garden - May

May, more than any month of the year wants us to feel most alive. Fennel Hudson

Step back to the time of the Roman Republic at the beginning of May and you would find the Floralia or Festival of Flora, who was the Roman goddess of flowers. The tradition has found its way down the centuries to our May Day, a fitting public holiday for many and a celebration of the beginning of summer.

The Lawncare Guide - May

The green, green grass of home 

It has been pretty dry for a while in many areas, so leaving the grass cut a little higher will help it through drier spells. It creates a barrier against sun and wind. Otherwise you will probably be cutting at least once a week or as the grass growth dictates and gradually lowering the cutting height to the desired summer cut.

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We have small, circular reddish brown spots on the lawn. This happened last year as well, but disappeared in the autumn. Now it’s back. 

The Vegetable Plot - May

Succession for success

You can have a continual supply of lettuce, carrots and onions from spring until autumn and even beyond with succession sowing. By staggering crop propagation, you can extend the harvest season and it need not be complicated, but does require a bit of planning. 

The Big Glut - May

Asparagus and quinoa salad with peas and broad beans

This Delicious Magazine vegan recipe is from Gill Meller’s cookbook, ROOT STEM LEAF FLOWER. 


  • 12-16 asparagus spears
  • 500g broad beans, podded
  • 150g quinoa, rinsed
  • 300g peas, podded if fresh, or frozen
  • 6-8 spring onions, trimmed and sliced into 1cm pieces
  • Small handful chives, finely chopped (plus chive flowers to garnish if you can find them)
  • Small handful each flatleaf parsley and mint leaves, finely chopped, plus a few whole leaves to garnish
  • Handful lovage or parsley leaves, picked and finely chopped, plus a few left whole to garnish
  • A few fennel tops (optional)
  • Squeeze of lemon

Friday 1 April 2022

This Month in Your Garden - April

‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.’ Sigmund Freud

Weather-wise, April looks like a mixed bag, so a degree of caution is needed when planting out. The warm, sunny days of the last week of March have given way to a cooler start to the month in most parts, so beware late frosts and protect susceptible plants with cloches or horticultural fleece. Spring brings inspiration and now we can paint the garden with colour. Early sown hardy annuals can be planted out along with herbaceous perennials such as geraniums and oriental poppies. 

The Lawncare Guide - April

My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower and I told him of course he could, so long as he didn’t take it out of my garden.’ – Eric Morecambe

Mowing is going to be more frequent from now as rain and warmth promote growth and the aim is to maintain a constant height through the rest of the year. The lawn will be healthier with the right height of cut, ideally taking no more than a third off in any one mowing. You will have, of course, gradually reduced the height with successive cuts since the first mowing of the season. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. We want to sow a new lawn. When is the best time to do this? 

The Vegetable Plot - April

‘Life begins the day you start a garden.’ Chinese proverb.

Watching your vegetable garden come to life by simply sowing seeds is a joy. Eating the vegetables you have grown yourself straight out of the ground is, literally, sensational. So, get sowing this month.

The Big Glut - April

Rhubarb crumble

What could be simpler than Gregg Wallace’s rhubarb crumble for BBC Good Food?


  • 500g rhubarb, chopped into chunks the length of your thumb
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp port (optional)
For the crumble topping
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 85g butter, chilled
  • 50g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 50g chopped walnuts (optional)

Monday 28 February 2022

This Month in Your Garden - March

‘Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.’ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster 

About ten days ago, Iris Reticulata (dwarf Iris) splashed colour between small evergreen shrubs. Little early heralds of spring in a new border we created last September. They have been joined by Narcissus 'Tête-à-tête' and their taller cousins as the snowdrops fade and the pink buds of Prunus incisa Kojo-no-mai open to reveal their delicate white flowers and pink centres. After the storms and rain we are really beginning to feel the garden calling. 

The Lawncare 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. 

Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

Q. I’ve been told that as grass grows it makes the soil more acidic 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. 

The Big Glut - March

Leek Gratin with Gruyere 

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