The gardener's calendar: a month-by-month guide

The gardener's calendar: a month-by-month guide

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

This gardening calendar will take you through all the gardening tasks required in the vegetable garden, ornamental garden and orchard throughout the entire year. Read on for our advice on when to sow, plant and harvest, as well as how to care for vegetables, fruits and potted plants.

Important features

  • Vegetable garden
  • Ornamental garden
  • Orchard
  • Potted plant care
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Gardening tasks throughout the year

Month

Vegetable garden

Ornamental garden

Orchard

Additional tasks

January

- Prune fruit trees

- Check the condition of your tools

February

- Sow your first frost sensitive crops indoors.

- Prune cane fruits and apple and pear trees.

- Apply preventive treatments against disease.

March

- Prune roses.

- Scarify and fertilise the lawn.

- Finish pruning pome fruit trees.

April

- Direct sow your first crops.

- Tackle slugs and snails.

- Prepare flower beds.

- First lawn mow of the season.

- Deal with the first garden pests (aphids, caterpillars, codling moth, etc.).

- Start weeding.

May

- Sow the bulk of your vegetable crops.

- Plant flowers in pots and planters.

- Sow and plant all summer flowers, annuals and bulbs.

- Set up pheromone traps.

- Thin out fruit.

- Deal with slugs and snails.

- Treat crops for disease prevention.

June

- Thin out root vegetables.

- Stake tomatoes and climbing beans.

- Prune spring-flowering hedges and bushes.

- Train climbing plants.

- Start green pruning.

- Protect fruits from birds.

- Mulch the soil between plants.

July

- Sow seeds for staggered harvests of lettuces, beans, courgettes, etc.

- Sow autumn vegetables

- Deadhead wilted flowers.

- Water any bushes planted in the past year.

- Water the lawn regularly.

- Water any bushes planted in the past year.

- Continue to green prune.

- Thin out fruit again if necessary.

- If you haven't mulched, hoe the soil to break through surface crust.

- Apply preventive treatments against disease.

August

- Sow lamb's lettuce, spinach and winter lettuces.

- Transplant cabbage, leek and lettuce seedlings.

- Sow biennials and perennials.

- Prune summer flowering raspberry bushes.

- Provide support for branches at risk of breaking.

- Remember to make special arrangements if you plan to go on holiday.

September

- Plant strawberries.

- Remove lower leaves from tomato plants.

- Sow green manure seeds on empty spots.

- Plant perennials and biennials.

- Gather and burn any fruits damaged by pests or disease.

October

- Plant winter vegetables under cover.

- Harvest chicory to force the roots and produce endives.

- Replace annual flowers with biennials or bulbs.

- Divide and replant perennials.

- Overseed or reseed the lawn.

- Bring frost sensitive plants indoors.

- Dig holes for new trees.

- Fertilise trees using hoof and horn and compost.

- Work the soil or break up any clumps.

- Spread manure over the soil surface.

November

- Clean up the vegetable garden.

- Spread organic fertiliser over empty beds then mulch.

- Mow the lawn one last time and clean the mower.

- Gather all dry leaves and make compost.

- Protect cold-intolerant plants and cut back perennials.

- Treat your trees once all the leaves have dropped.

- Start to plant fruit trees.

- Drain the watering system.

December

- Any empty beds should be mulched.

- Inspect plant protection systems.

- Force bulbs like hyacinths in pots.

- Plant fruit trees.

- Brush off flaking bark from trees and limewash or apply white oil.

- Sprinkle wood ash over the whole garden (except any areas with heath plants).

Winter in the garden

January in the garden

January in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Check your seed supplies.

  • Organise your gardening schedule for the year.

  • Tidy up the garden shed. Clean and disinfect stakes, seed trays, pots, etc.

  • Clean your tools, pots, planters and stakes to prevent disease spread.

  • Check your tools are working correctly.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • January is generally the sparsest month in the vegetable garden.

  • Check any winter protection you have put in place for your crops.

What to do in the orchard

  • Continue planting bareroot trees unless the ground is frozen in which case you should heel in the trees until they can be planted.

  • Monitor the condition of any fruit you have stored indoors (in a basement, cellar or shed, for example) and get rid of any that is starting to rot.

  • Check the supports or ties holding up your trees.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Once the Christmas festivities are over, plant your potted Christmas tree in the garden.

  • Check any cold protection you have put into place around perennials or bushes.

  • Open up the greenhouse on warmer days but don't forget to close it again overnight.

  • Place traps around the base of any trees with signs of processionary caterpillars.

February in the garden

February in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Gently work the soil in garden beds or the vegetable garden or aerate using a broadfork when weather allows. Do not attempt to loosen clay or waterlogged soil.

  • Cover the soil with a warm layer to help you get your plants in earlier.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Cover seedlings or new plants with horticultural fleece to warm up the soil by a few degrees.

  • In the second half of February, start sowing summer vegetables like aubergines, tomatoes and peppers indoors.

  • Start chitting your potatoes.

What to do in the orchard

  • Keep planting fruit trees until about mid-February.

  • Treat stone fruit trees like peaches, plums and cherry trees with a copper spray to protect them from fungal diseases.

  • Prune pome fruit trees in frost-free periods.

  • Prune gooseberries and blackcurrants.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Aerate the soil in any biennial plant beds.

  • Clean out summer bulb beds.

  • Cut the grass at the end of the month before growth really starts.

March in the garden

March in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Loosen the soil ready for seedlings or plants.

  • Add compost or an organic fertiliser like horn and hoof to all your beds.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Sow seeds under cold frames.

  • Sow things like tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, basil, etc. in seed trays or small pots.

  • Cover your first seedlings with garden fleece.

  • Air out your cold frames or polytunnels and remove fleece on sunny days.

  • Chit your potatoes in a bright, cool spot. Plant your first potatoes if weather allows.

What to do in the orchard

  • Prune pome fruit trees (apple trees, in particular) and vines.

  • Fertilise your fruit trees.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Deadhead any spring flowers once wilted (e.g. tulips, daffodils and hyacinths) to prevent them from going to seed, but leave the leaves in place to feed the bulb.

  • Fertilise shrubs and trees.

  • Plant summer bulbs in a frost-free spot with full sun.

  • Prune roses.

  • Plant roses and summer flowering shrubs like Russian sage or hibiscus at the start of the month.

  • If weather allows, you may be able to remove winter protection from the least fragile of your plants.

  • Scarify the lawn to remove moss and to inject air into the soil.

What to do with potted plants

  • Repot any rootbound plants.

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Spring in the garden

April in the garden

April in the garden 

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Air out greenhouses as often as possible.

  • Hoe the soil to get rid of any weeds that have started to grow, but don't mulch to ensure the sun can reach the soil to warm it up.

  • For the same reason, remove any mulch you put down for the winter.

  • Start preventive treatments like fermented horsetail tea.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Thin out seedlings sown under cover in March.

  • Start harvesting asparagus.

  • Plant out your first seedlings of the year (e.g. parsley, carrots, cabbage, spinach, peas, turnips, onions, radishes and broad beans). For beans, pumpkins and courgettes, wait for the end of the month and cover seedlings with cloches to gain a few extra degrees.

  • Transplant tomatoes, aubergines and melons and keep them in a warm spot.

  • Potatoes should be planted out around this time.

  • To protect them from frost (which is still a possibility at this time), earth up the plants as soon as their leaves emerge from the ground.

  • Place insect netting around carrots, onions and cabbages towards the end of the month.

What to do in the orchard

  • Protect trees and flowers with horticultural fleece if frost is forecast.

  • Mulch vines, brambles and any other climbing plants as they start to grow.

  • Secure any new growth on trellis-trained trees.

  • Work some compost into the surface of the soil around trees.

  • Put glue bands on trees to protect them from ants and caterpillars.

  • In mid-April, install pheromone traps to tackle codling moths.

  • Graft cherry trees, quince trees and apple trees (using cleft grafts) as well as pear trees and plum trees (bark grafts).

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Depending on the weather and the plants you have, you can probably remove the last of your winter protection from cold-sensitive plants.

  • Add compost and natural fertiliser to bushes as perennials to help kickstart growth.

  • Divide or plant perennials.

  • Cut flowers from withered spring bulbs but leave the leaves in place until they are completely yellow.

  • Direct sow cold tolerant varieties like alyssum, cornflowers, cosmos, snapdragons, lavatera, larkspurs and marigolds, but sow cold sensitive varieties like nasturtiums under cover.

  • Take cuttings of aubrieta, sedum, willow and passionflowers.

  • Layer tender shrubs or climbers like honeysuckle, clematis or forsythia.

  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs (e.g. forsythia, Japanese quince, flowering gooseberries or meadowsweet) just after flowering. Hoe lightly around the base of the plant and add a fertiliser like hoof and horn or some garden compost.

  • Now is the time to get out the lawnmower for the first real mow of the year. Do not cut the grass too short at this stage.

  • It is also a good time to overseed a lawn. You can also topfeed or scarify the lawn.

What to do with potted plants

  • Repot any rootbound plants.

  • Gradually start adding fertiliser.

  • Wait until the end of the month to bring out any flowering plants that have been kept in a conservatory, cellar or garage over the winter, but keep an eye on the weather and take them back in during cold spells.

May in the garden

May in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Put non-toxic slug repellent in place.

  • Monitor plants for signs of aphids and let beneficial insects do their job to get rid of them. Otherwise, you can use a homemade mixture to repel them.

  • Mulch to keep the soil cool and prevent weed growth.

  • Gather nettles, rhubarb leaves and comfrey to make plant slurries and decoctions.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Plant out summer vegetables like tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chili peppers. Wait for the end of the month in colder parts of the country.

  • Set up insect netting over carrots and leeks.

  • Add some organic fertiliser to any crops that weren't fertilised when you planted them out.

  • Earth up potatoes.

What to do in the orchard

  • Place pheromone traps in trees after blossoming.

  • Only keep two or three fruits per flower cluster on apple and pear trees.

  • Place glue bands on cherry trees before the cherries ripen to protect the trees from cherry fruit flies.

  • Spray on fermented horsetail tea when the leaves are fully formed to prevent fungal diseases like apple scab, brown rot and mildew.

  • Plant out any soft fruit plants bought in pots.

  • Spread fertiliser at the base of soft fruit bushes.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Now is a good time to replant your flowerbeds.

  • Direct sow annuals like cosmos, snapdragons and marigolds.

  • In the second half of the month, plant out any cold-sensitive and summer plants prepared the previous month such as dahlias, tuberous begonias, canna lilies, sage and geraniums.

  • Dig up spring bulbs after flowering and store them in slightly moist sand until you want to plant them again.

  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia or fuchsia flowering gooseberry as the flowers start to fade.

  • Layer tender climbing plants.

What to do with potted plants

  • Sow cold-hardy annuals and plant out summer flowers like freesia and ixia.

  • Bring out indoor plants from mid-May but keep them out of direct sun.

June in the garden

June in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Hoe any areas that you haven't mulched as grass will be growing quickly at this time of year.

  • Mulch using natural materials like buckwheat hulls, flax shives, straw or ferns.

  • Prevent pests using decoctions, slurries and fermented teas made using things like rhubarb leaves, garlic, tanasy and chili.

  • Apply preventive treatments against disease.

  • Strengthen the natural resistance of plants by spraying on a nettle tea every three weeks.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Tie up and lightly prune tomatoes and any tall-growing plants like peppers and aubergines.

  • Thin out root vegetables like carrots, beetroot and parsnips sown the previous month.

  • Remove suckers from tomatoes.

What to do in the orchard

  • Thin out apples, pears and peaches.

  • Shorten any fast-growing shoots to ensure the fruits receive as much sap as possible (green pruning).

  • Remove new shoots from the trunk and/or base of fruit trees like plum, apricot and apple trees.

  • Protect soft fruit plants and cherries from birds using netting.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Deadhead wilted flowers for blooms all summer long.

  • Remove suckers from roses, pinch out any long branches and apply fertiliser.

  • Prune hedges before the warmest weather arrives.

  • Prune any shrubs that have finished flowering.

  • Train climbers like clematis, passionflowers and jasmine as they grow.

What to do with potted plants

  • Add fertiliser to moist potting soil on a regular basis.

  • Air out any plants in the greenhouse, but don't expose them to draughts.

  • Don't forget to check up on any indoor plants you took outside for the summer.

Summer in the garden

July in the garden

July in the garden 

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Hoe gently around plants to prevent soil compaction and water evaporation.

  • Don't forget to treat plants against mildew and other fungal diseases. Use natural concoctions like tansy leaf infusion, fermented burdock, horsetail tea and sulphur to tackle powdery mildew.

  • Before going on holiday, you'll have to take a few precautions: carefully weed your beds to prevent them getting overtaken by weeds when you return, mulch beds to keep in moisture and prevent weed growth and if possible, set up an automatic programmable watering system.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Now is a good time to think about sowing autumn vegetables like autumn lettuces, turnips, lamb's lettuce and radishes.

  • Mulch your seedlings with a light layer of ferns or flax shives.

  • Water crops generously, but do not water too often.

  • Prune suckers from tomatoes and pinch out vegetables like aubergines, cucumbers, melons and squashes to encourage more fruit production.

  • Sow a new round of seeds for a staggered harvest of crops like dwarf beans, courgettes, lettuces and chicory.

  • Monitor plants for insect eggs and check cabbages for caterpillars.

What to do in the orchard

  • Continue green pruning by cutting down long branches that don't bear any fruit.

  • Thin out excess fruit.

  • Recently planted fruit trees are sensitive to drought. Water any that have been planted over the two previous years.

  • Install wasp traps.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Plant autumn bulbs like crocuses and winter daffodils.

  • Take cuttings from hortensias, chamomile, tuberous begonias and coleus.

  • Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms on roses, geraniums and so on.

  • Water any shrubs planted in the growing year.

What to do with potted plants

  • Do not leave your potted plants in full sun.

  • Water planters regularly and add natural fertiliser.

  • Pinch out longer branches to keep potted plants compact.

August in the garden

August in the garden 

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Water regularly but take care not to wet the leaves.

  • Add a fast action organic fertiliser like guana or dried blood for heavy feeders like tomatoes, courgettes and melons.

  • Divide young strawberry plants that have grown from stolons which will start producing the following spring.

  • Sow green manure seeds on any bare patches.

What to do in the orchard

  • Prune summer flowering raspberry bushes

  • Continue green pruning trellis-trained trees.

  • Prune peach trees by cutting back any branches that have already borne fruit.

  • Provide support to any branches heavily laden with fruit (especially plum trees).

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Clean and weed around irises. Cut back withered foliage and divide bulbs to plant them later on.

  • Cut flowers as they wilt.

  • Continue sowing biennials like forget-me-nots, wallflower daisies and pansies, and move any sown in July onto pots.

  • Take semi-ripe cuttings from viburnums, escallonias, lavender, rosemary, bay laurel, roses, skimmias as well as heaths and heathers, hydrangeas and fuchsias.

  • Water the lawn regularly to keep it looking neat. Be careful not to cut the grass too short in periods of drought.

What to do with potted plants

  • Remember to monitor any indoor plants brought outdoors for the summer to check if they need water or fertiliser, or protection from pests or disease.

  • Fertilise potted plants regularly.

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Green manure seeds

September in the garden

September in the garden 

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Place boards or flat stones beneath pumpkins and melons to protect them from ground moisture.

  • Remove any dried leaves and some tomato foliage to encourage ripening unless there is still a lot of sunshine.

  • Collect non hybrid tomato seeds for the following year. Be sure to pick the best varieties.

  • Prune rosemary, sage and thyme to keep the plants bushy.

  • Air layer bay laurel, rosemary and sage.

  • Sow green manure crops like mustard or a mix of rye and winter vetch – which will provide a lot of plant matter – on any bare patches.

What to do in the orchard

  • Bag your grapes to protect them from wasps and birds and use the time to get rid of any leaves that are casting shade on the grapes.

  • Collect any apples and pears that have fallen to the ground as, often, they will have fallen victim to codling moths.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Think about buying spring bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and crocuses.

  • Tidy up your flowerbeds towards the end of the month. Move around any plants that need to be moved. Pull out and divide any densely packed plants that have finished flowering and tidy up any plants that tend to spread such as irises.

  • Start planting perennials to ensure the roots have time to develop before the first frost.

  • Take cuttings from roses, geraniums and begonias.

  • Plant out any biennials (like pansies, wallflowers and forget-me-nots) sown the previous month.

  • Prepare the ground to start a new lawn from seed.

Autumn in the garden

October in the garden

October in the garden 

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Spread manure over the surface of the soil in the vegetable garden. Remember that manure should never be buried.

  • Leave insect netting in place as pests are still around.

  • Plant winter vegetables like cabbages and winter lettuces in a sheltered spot.

  • If you're looking for some hard work, now is a good time to break up any clumps of soil or work clay soil.

  • Sow green manure seeds for the winter (such as mustard, faba bean, phacelia and rye). It is recommended to sow a mixture of legumes and grasses.

  • Dig up your chicory roots and force them to produce endives.

What to do in the orchard

  • Prepare holes for planting trees.

  • Any worm-eaten fruit fallen on the ground should be collected and taken away from the trees. Otherwise, it will serve as a home for pests and disease.

  • Letting chickens into the orchard is a really efficient way to rid your fruit of pests.

  • Add some well rotted compost to your trees as well as a bit of ground horn to the base of cane fruits like raspberries, gooseberries and blackberries.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Replace annuals with biennials like pansies, wallflowers, daisies and forget-me-nots.

  • Divide and plant perennials.

  • Overseed the lawn by aerating any damaged parts, broadcast sowing grass seed and tamping down.

  • Prune lavender, helichrysums and santolina to keep the plants bushy and compact.

  • Prepare the soil to plant new roses and shrubs.

What to do with potted plants

  • Depending on the temperature, it is probably time to take your indoor plants back into the house. Check the condition of the plants and treat them for pests or disease as required.

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Grass seed

November in the garden

November in the garden 

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Drain your watering system.

  • Spread organic fertiliser (garden compost or manure) over any bare patches. Leave it in place all winter without digging it in and mulch over the top.

  • Clean up the garden.

  • Gather dry leaves as they fall. These leaves can be used to protect perennials or winter vegetables or to make leaf mould to add to your seedlings.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Harvest winter vegetables and store them in a cool place.

  • Cover up any vegetables you want to keep in the ground with mulch or dry leaves.

  • Remove stakes from tomatoes and beans, as well as any labels or garden boards used to separate beds. Store these items in a dry place. You can then clean and disinfect them over the winter.

What to do in the orchard

  • Treat trees against fungal diseases like peach leaf curl, scab and brown spot just after the leaves fall. Do so when the weather is dry and there is no wind.

  • At the end of the month, start planting bareroot fruit trees.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Finish planting spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils.

  • Just like in the orchard, now is the time to plant new barefoot trees, shrubs and roses.

  • After your last mow, clean up the lawnmower and store it indoors.

What to do with potted plants

  • Prepare pots for forcing bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths and place them outside or under a cold frame. After exposure to the cold, they should be ready to be brought indoors to flower.

December in the garden

Gardening tasks for this month

  • Disinfect stakes, seed trays and pots.

  • Drain the oil from your lawnmower and tiller and sharpen the blades. You can also sharpen tools like secateurs and shears.

  • A copper sulphate treatment will help to prevent fungal diseases. Soak your stakes in the solution and spray it onto pots and planters.

  • If you haven't already put your winter protection in place, make sure to do so now.

  • Air out your greenhouse on warmer sunny days.

  • If you have a log burner at home, collect the ash to use in the garden. Wood ash is high in potassium and trace elements.

What to do in the vegetable garden

  • Don't leave any patches completely bare, it's best to mulch. Mulch offers a range of benefits. Come spring, you should be left with loose soil that requires little preparation.

What to do in the orchard

  • Plan barefoot fruit trees.

  • Start cleaning up older trees.

  • Brush the bark to remove moss and lichen if you do not like the look, but remember that this does not harm the trees and creates develop new ecosystems.

  • Treat your trees with mineral or vegetable oils to prevent pests over the winter.

  • Spray on copper sulphate to combat fungal disease.

What to do in the ornamental garden

  • Clear up the last of the leaves and use them to cover perennials or empty spots in the vegetable garden.

What to do with potted plants

  • Bring potted bulbs indoors to force them to bloom.

Gardening throughout the year

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study plant biology. At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart). They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood. I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specialising in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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