Gardening is good for our physical and mental health. You don’t need to be an expert gardener to feel the benefits of being a bit green fingered. We’ve bought together resources for everyone, any time of the year. You also don’t need a big space to get involved and even if you’ve no outdoor space you can use our wildlife watchlist to appreciate the natural world.
Buy some seed potatoes for growing in bags or pots. ‘Early’ potatoes are best – ‘Swift’ and ‘Rocket’ are good options. See if there is a ‘Potato Day’ locally where you will be able to buy a few of several sorts and get advice. Keep your tubers somewhere cool (but frost-free) and light before planting in April.
Chilli seeds can be sown later in the month if you have a heated propagator or heated greenhouse – you could try a few seeds on a warm, bright windowsill over a radiator, but don’t risk them all.
It’s a good time to plant trees and hedges. Hedges are cheapest if bought with bare roots, so you have to be ready to plant them as soon as they arrive. A tree is a great thing for even a small garden, but choose with care.
If you have an apple or pear tree, now is the time to start thinking about pruning. And it is worth taking time to think before you cut – you’ve got until March. Take it gradually and read some reassuring advice from the experts before you prune your apple or pear tree. It’s also a good time to prune ‘soft’ fruit like currants and gooseberries – again, have a read before getting out the secateurs. I always do! Blackcurrants are pruned differently – here’s a smashing video on pruning blackcurrants.
Check online for a local ‘murmuration’ of starlings – an amazing spectacle of thousands of birds flying in formation. If you can’t get out, there are amazing videos of this posted every year.
Nearer to home, don’t forget to leave out water for birds and other wildlife as well as food. The RSPB have some great advice for gardening for wildlife in January and beyond.
Sow early peas in pots for planting out later in the spring in the garden, allotment or in containers in a yard or patio. ‘Early Onward’ is a good variety for February. ‘Mangetout’ and ‘sugarsnap’ peas are really easy but you’ll have to wait till March to sow them. Push five peas 2cm into pots of peat-free compost, water them, and put on a sunny windowsill. You don't need much space to grow peas!
Planting snowdrops is traditionally done ‘in the green’, that means planting the leafed plants in winter rather than bulbs in autumn. Plant as soon as possible after getting them.
Force rhubarb – not as mean as it sounds! Rhubarb is a really easy crop which supplies leaf stems early, before any other fruits. It is worth covering the sprouting crowns to exclude light to get sweeter, redder stems
Turn compost to get air to all parts. If your compost is too wet, mix in scrunched-up newspaper or drier material, if too dry, increase the proportion of wetter ingredients like kitchen veg peelings and scraps.
Look out for aphids on over-wintering plants like cabbages and kale. The best way of removal is just to catch them early and squish… or squirt off with water.
It’s time to prune rose bushes to about half of their average height. If you’re rusty or new to this, there an excellent video from the rose experts. It’s also good to put some slow-release organic fertiliser round the base of roses and other flowering shrubs to give them a good start. Always follow the instructions and don’t add more than stated.
In a mild winter wildlife is starting to stir – you may see frogs moving to their spawning ponds, and there will be snowdrops out.
If you have a nest box but still haven’t put it up, now’s your chance – it’s National Nest Box week this month!
Growing in pots is a good way to start, whether you have a garden or just a backyard or even just a space near the front door.
Plan your growing year – The first thing to do is prepare your garden/greenspace. Keep track of what you have sown, and when – do a sketch plan of your beds or plots as well as labelling seeds sown or plants planted with the name and date of sowing or planting. Veg and flowers all come in lots of different versions (‘cultivars’ = cultivated varieties) so if one sort does really well in your garden you will want to know what it is! There is a useful guide to gardening terms available from RHS.
Sow radishes if you have a warm spot such as a raised bed. Also, broad beans and peas can be sown outside on warmer days or in pots or trays. But look out for frost! Find out more about frost in gardens.
You can also sow hardy annuals such as sweet peas, California poppy, cosmos, in pots.
March is a good time to sow tomato seeds on a sunny windowsill for planting outside in early summer or growing on the windowsill.
It’s the last chance to plant bare-rooted plants such as trees, fruit bushes and roses.
In March it can feel like the world is waking up! Garden birds like robins and blackbirds start to make nests, frogs and toads may already have spawned, and you may even see an over-wintering butterfly such as a peacock. More information is available from the RSPB.
It’s fun and easy to grow potatoes in compost bags or large pots. An excellent explanation for learners of all ages is available from RHS.
Sow peashoots – dried peas from the supermarket can be sown thickly on a few centimetres of compost in brown plastic mushroom trays. Put on a sunny windowsill and you can be snipping off tasty pea-flavoured leaves for salad garnish in 2-3 weeks. If you leave one pair of leaves on they will re-grow for a second or third cut.
It’s a busy month!
Pot on any tomato seedlings sown in March – also known as ‘pricking out’. Handle them by the leaves, not by the stem, which can be easily damaged. If you’ve not sown any tomatoes, it is not too late, but get them sown by the end of the month to get the full benefit of the summer to come!.
Start to sow hardy crops outside and tender crops indoors (greenhouse, polytunnel or sunny windowsill) – don’t sow all your seeds at once, save some for later in the month.
Similarly hardy annual flowers like marigolds, Cosmos, sunflowers, and nasturtium are pretty, good for wildlife, and can be sown now.
Keep a record of when you sowed your veg or flowers. Most will sprout in 1 to 3 weeks so if nothing has appeared after that you will probably need to re-sow.
Potatoes – plant earlies by mid-month, main crop by end. Find out more about the process from planting to harvest.
If you’ve got a nest box, watch out for the adults taking caterpillars and other food back to the box for the young birds to eat. Orange Tip butterflies are among the first to emerge in spring – and the males are easy to recognise with orange tips to their wings. Find out more about wildlife gardening in April from the RSPB.
Sow dwarf French beans in pots or raised beds – or climbing ones if you have space or a big pot. Tasty tender beans for months!
Sow easy annual flowers in the garden or in pots. Pretty and good for wildlife!
Don’t mistake garden friends for foes – plenty of wildlife in the garden are eating pests! Learn more about which insects are helpful and which are pests.
May is a lovely time for blossom and bees – if you’ve got a lawn, why not leave some of it to grow in May for daisies and clover for the bees? Find out more about no mow may.
Summer-proof your containers by watering and feeding plants.
Grab the last chance to get summer crops started: second sowings of cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins early in month; buy annual flowers and bedding plants; sow salad crops and sweetcorn, beans, etc, can be sown directly outside now. If you sowed plants earlier, they might need thinning out.
If you’ve not already done it, now’s the time to plant out French & runner beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins after hardening off (see May). Don’t let them get too big before planting, two proper leaves is ideal. Pot-bound plants are slow to take off and beans can get horribly tangled and make planting a pain! Try this handy guide to the perfect time to plant out seedlings and young plants for more advice.
Use wise watering methods: plant thirsty plants in a dip; water early or late in the day; put saucers under containers; mulch soil after rain to keep the moisture in and re-use the bath or washing up water!
As well as watering, some plants will need feeding, mainly ones in containers, and nowadays there are plenty of organic choices in garden centres and hardware stores. Find out more about how to fertilise container vegetables.
Now is the time to prune spring-flowering shrubs and some fruit trees.
Though as gardeners we can think of caterpillars, aphids, leaf-miners, slugs and snails as pests, they are firstly part of the ecosystem and food for fledgling birds. So don’t reach for the pesticides instead try wildlife (and human) friendly control methods.
You can still sow French beans, lettice, radishes, beetroot, cattors, and turnip direct in beds or large containers. Find out what to plant in July from Gardeners World.
Look for bedding plant bargains in high streets or garden centres at this time of year – get them in pots pronto and you’ll be enjoying their colour the rest of the summer. Try these tips for planting summer patio pots.
Check seed packets for last sowing dates. Buy seeds for August and September sowing for autumn and over-wintering crops, such as oriental greens, rocket, spinach, spring cabbage, and chard.
Hoe and pull weeds regularly – July is when weeds can ‘get away’, you could try organic methods to control weeds. Mulch round shrubs and trees where you have been weeding, ideally after rain – newspapers with grass clippings on top are good.
Feed fast-growing plants like tomatoes with seaweed liquid, comfrey ‘tea’ or tomato feed – always follow pack instructions. Tie-in tomatoes and side-shoot if needed – the RHS have a full guide to growing tomatoes.
It’s time to harvest early potatoes! You could also be harvesting broad beans, shallots and onions, turnips, carrots, beetroot, mangetout and peas as well as currants, raspberries, and strawberries. If you were really quick of the mark you could have French beans, runner beans, courgettes and marrows, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Gardens, parks and urban nature reserves are just as good for summer wildlife-spotting as the countryside.
Summer weather can be hard work for wildlife, so help them to have water and shade if you can. Countryfile have some helpful advice on how to help wildlife during heatwaves.
Easy, quick, cheap and nutritious, ‘micro-greens’ are plant seedlings can be grown to eat on salads or in stir-fries – just like mustard and cress. You can grow them even if you don’t have a garden or outside space. You can use mushroom trays or take-away trays instead of bought plant trays, and you will only need a small bag of peat-free compost. Kale, beetroot and rocket are good, and you can often get seed packets at reduced prices this time of year. Dried seeds for using as food or spices can also be used, such as coriander, mustard, fenugreek (a curry flavour!) and marrowfat peas. Watch a video introduction to growing microgreens.
You could multiply your plants! A great way of growing more plants is by taking ‘cuttings’, where you cut off a piece of plant, pot it up, and it grows new roots. It is pretty simple, if you follow some basic instructions. Summer cuttings of privet, herbs, hebe, ivy, periwinkle and many other plants are called ‘semi-ripe’ cuttings.
August can be damp, and that’s great for fungal diseases like potato and tomato blight and powdery mildew on courgettes and pumpkins. Try not to wet the leaves when you water the plants, as this can make them more vulnerable to infection. Watering plants regularly helps, as does spacing them a good distance apart when you first plant them – too late for this year, but worth remembering for next time. Use these helpful videos for identifying blight and identifying powdery mildew.
Similarly, fungal diseases could affect your ornamental garden. Rose Black Spot is a very common problem which most gardens will suffer from in a wet season.
Keep weeding! Regular hoeing and pulling weeds is better than occasionally pulling up big ones, and keeps the compost bin supplied.
Areas of long grass in gardens and parks should have the sounds of grasshoppers and bush-crickets ‘singing’ by rubbing their back legs together! Can you tell the difference between grasshoppers and crickets?
Swifts, swallows and house-martins will all set off on their long migrations this month. Keep supplying water and food (if you normally do) for all our other birds, especially in dry weather.
It’s not too late to get started with herbs on a sunny windowsill indoors. Some great beginner advice has been produced.
If you’ve got space to grow outside, now is a good time to plant onions and garlic for over-wintering. Both can also be grown in containers.
September is a joyful month – in an established vegetable garden you should be experiencing gluts of tomatoes, courgettes, beans, salads. As well as planting onions and garlic, you could be sowing lots of different crops for autumn or over winter. Find out more about what to sow in September
Collect and store flower seeds for next year – Cosmos, Californian Poppy, Hollyhock, Poppies, Calendula, Nigella and Nasturtium are all really easy. They may not come back exactly like their parents – but that is part of the fun of it! Choose a dry day and pick the ripest seeds or seed pods. Store in labelled paper bags or envelopes in a cool dry place.
It’s best to plant daffodils, crocus and hyacinths by the end of September, as they need to grow long roots while the soil is still warm enough. This means in spring they can grow plenty of leaves before the flowers. All can be grown in containers as well as in flower beds. Save tulips till later – November is best for them. Find out how to plant bulbs.
If you’ve got established perennial plants in your garden (ones that die back every autumn and grow again next year) you may need to think about dividing them. Read this entertaining description about dividing perennials.
If you’ve not harvested maincrop potatoes, now is the time. Dig carefully so as not to damage the tubers – carefully scraping away the soil with a trowel is good. Let them dry out for a few hours then wrap in newspaper or large paper bags and store somewhere cool. Tomatoes can be ripened in paper bags too – pop in a ripe banana as they give off plant chemicals which make the tomatoes ripen!
September is a time to see berries ripen and fungi appear. Insects like daddy-long-legs and wasps are more noticeable, and ladybirds start to look for somewhere to hibernate – perhaps in your house! There are also still flowers around for hoverflies and bees to visit. There is lots of wildlife to watch in September.
Now is an ideal time to plant containers with spring bulbs.
There are also plenty of plants that can be planted now for colour through the winter. Autumn and winter bedding plants such as Winter Pansies, Cyclamen and Chrysanthemum can be planted in the garden or in pots.
Keep tomatoes, courgettes, etc., fruiting as long as possible by regular careful watering and keeping an eagle-eye out for disease on the leaves – cut off affected leaves. If you have been growing pumpkins or squashes, they will need cutting off the plant leaving several centimetres of stem and bringing into somewhere dry but not centrally heated.
Last chance to plant garlic, overwintering onions and shallots, and broad beans! Garlic may seem like a sun-loving Mediterranean plant but it does grow best if it has some winter cold. Try the RHS guide to expert garlic-growing. Broad beans are a bit more of a risk, so only try them in autumn if it is mild – and save some of your seed for spring just in case!
Sow hardy annuals in pots or modules if you have a cool greenhouse or sheltered area to keep them in over winter.
Protect your soil over winter by mulching. This just means covering any bare soil, this could be with autumn leaves (or just leave them where they fell), or newspaper covered with grass clippings or leaves to stop them blowing away. Save your compost for the spring!
Don’t get too tidy in the garden – leave seed-heads for birds to eat, and areas for animals to shelter, and don’t pull down ivy – it is wonderful for autumn nectar for bees. It’s an excuse to leave weeds – thistles are an excellent wildlife plant!
Now is the time that leaves change colour and nuts and berries ripen. Not only are these important for birds and mammals to eat over the winter, we can eat some of them too. Safe guidelines on foraging have been produced by the Woodland Trust.
It’s too late to plant daffodils and crocuses for a good display next spring, but ideal for tulips. All you need is a big plant pot, some peat-free compost and some tulip bulbs – dwarf or short ones are best for growing in containers. Here’s a nice little video showing you how to plant tulips.
Frost and snow may be less likely than downpours and gales, but all can be damaging to the garden. Group plants in containers together in a sheltered place and remove saucers so they don’t waterlog. Protect half-hardy plants like agapanthus with a thick mulch or straw or garden compost. In a vegetable garden cover any bare soil with mulch, and possibly use garden fleece to protect late veg plants. There is lots of advice available on protecting plants from frost and cold weather.
Plant tulips in pots – see above – or in a sunny flower bed. There are more varieties of tulip than you may think, and they come in a huge range of colours. So it is worth planning before you buy! RHS have readable expert advice on how to choose the tulips right for you and your garden.
Multiply your shrubby plants by taking hardwood cuttings, e.g., dogwood, willow, currants, Forsythia, Buddleia and even roses. You’ll need a pot to put them in, some peat-free compost and grit or sharp sand, and a pair of sharp secateurs.
It's the ideal time to take stock and make plans for next year. Check through your seed packets, looking for ones you need to replace. If you have kept your seeds in a cool, dry, dark place, even opened and out-of-date packets could still be used. More advice on how to check if your out of date seeds are usable.
Fox cubs are leaving their families this month, so be forgiving if there are experimental holes dug in your flower beds! Small mammals are fattening up for the winter, so cover bulb plantings with wire mesh to stop squirrels from eating them. Always check bonfire heaps and leaf piles for hedgehogs before setting fire or moving them.
Ladybirds will be gathering in tiny spaces in the garden or even in the house – leave them in peace if possible as they are our friends, eating thousands of aphids each year.
Put gardening books on your Christmas list!
Plan for the year ahead – whether you have a large d garden or a window sill, now is the time for reading up on ideas and making plans. Get out there and make sure you know what you’ve already got. If you’ve got the itch to actually do something hands-on, then get to know your soil.
Planning a new area for veg? Now is a good time to dig it over and remove any weed roots. Best not to do this in wet weather as it damages the soil and is difficult to do. And you actually don’t have to dig – covering with a layer of cardboard or newspapers with compost on top is the ‘no-dig’ way.
Cut back overgrown hedges or shrubs from now till March – but carefully, leaving winter berries.
With all this pruning you could be generating lots of useable greenery – don’t waste it! You can use pruned greener to make a Christmas wreath.
It’s well worth tiding up pots, giving them a wash or a brush-out to reduce pests and diseases. Check over your tools and go through your bamboo stakes – broken ones can be cut up and bundled into ‘bee hotels’. Winter is a good time for construction jobs such as making a compost bin.
Check veg plot cloches and netting as winter winds can blow them off and let the hungry pigeons in. Remove and compost and dead and dying leaves on overwintering crops like chard, kale. They can harbour slugs. If you have fruit trees or bushes, remove any dead fruit remaining, otherwise disease can carry through to next year.
It’s a lovely time of year for winter berries. Not only do we value them this time of year – “The Holly and the Ivy” – but they are essential for birds and other wildlife.