Your month-by-month checklist of what to do in the garden and when in 2020

Keeping on top of the gardening jobs can be daunting, and it's all too easy to let things slide in one area or another for a month or two.

The answer is simple: keep a detailed checklist of jobs which need doing in each month of the year. The list below is the one kept by Becky Crowley, formerly in charge of the cutting garden at Chatsworth.

Your list might not be as exhaustive as Becky’s β€” then again, the chances are that you’re not a professional gardener who’s just been poached for a new role in the USA. But whether you’re tending a couple of acres of a couple of window boxes, this exhaustive list will help you stay on track.

JANUARY

  • Check tools and kit required for the year ahead, including stakes, netting, compost, seeds, labels etc
  • Make repairs to irrigation, fencing, netting, cold frames etc
  • Clean and sharpen tools
  • Clear and tidy glasshouses, shed, cold frames
  • Project work requiring big changes, such as installing fencing / changing the garden layout etc
  • Order dahlias and chrysanthemums
  • Continue cutting down any perennials
  • Weeding
  • Mulching
  • Straw path laying
  • Plant bare-root plants

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3rd April 2019: We're planting lots of hardy annual seedlings at the moment 🌱. Over the last week or so we've planted ammi majus, ammi visnaga, scabious, gypsophila, malope, cornflowers, and of course the sweet peas! The picture of my notebook shows the sweet pea varieties that we're growing this year. These were sown in late January in a warm glasshouse (they could have been sown much earlier too). Once they'd germinated and had grown a few leaves I transfered them to the cold frames where they could grow in the cold & wouldn't become soft and leggy & therefore wouldn't need to be pinched out. I built the support structure for them to climb up out of birch, and because this area is not protected from rabbits we had to make little birch cages around each plant to give them a fighting chance. Time consuming but necessary! Most of the cutting garden is protected by rabbit fencing now, & time consuming jobs like this make me especially grateful for the effort we put into installing rabbit fencing in previous years! I'm looking forward to watching these little plants grow up & flower in a few months time 😊

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FEBRUARY

  • Make sweet pea wigwams from birch stakes
  • Install metal (rebar) stakes with netting
  • Order summer bulbs such as gladioli and lilies
  • Continue cutting down perennials
  • Start sowing annuals for early flowers
  • Planning plant positions and successions
  • Start pruning roses
  • Planting perennials and shrubs (weather dependant)
  • Weeding
  • Mulching
  • Straw path laying

MARCH

  • Sowing – lots
  • Planting autumn/winter-sown hardy annuals and perennials
  • Pot up tuberose
  • Take dahlia cuttings
  • Hoeing / weeding
  • Pot on seedlings
  • Prune roses
  • Harden off young plants for planting out later
  • Straw path laying and mulching
  • Topping up gravel on paths in preparation for re-opening to public

APRIL

  • Plant out sweet pea seedlings
  • Get dahlia tubers out of storage and start potting up
  • Apply biological control
  • Take cuttings (ie plectranthus, salvias, dahlias)
  • Sowing – lots
  • Paint shading on glasshouses
  • Pot on cuttings as they take root
  • Continue to move plants into cold frames to harden off
  • Keep on top of weeding
  • Water glasshouses and pots

MAY

  • Pot up cuttings
  • Pot up Gladiolus murielaea bulbs
  • Sowing – lots
  • Staking – lots
  • Start to plant out dahlias by the end of the month
  • Chelsea chop astrantias
  • Empty spring pot displays
  • Remove all tulip bulbs to clear ground for next crop
  • Planting out – lots
  • Potting on
  • Water glasshouses and pots
  • Weeding
  • Keep glasshouse pests in check

JUNE

  • Any work associated with RHS Chatsworth show
  • Lift and store glasshouse Ranunculus and Anemone coronaria
  • Mulch glasshouse beds
  • Replant glasshouse beds with zinnias
  • Sow biennials
  • Remove crops as they go over
  • Planting out – lots
  • Potting on where necessary
  • Pinching out
  • Deadhead peonies and other plants
  • Keep on top of weeds
  • Additional staking
  • Water glasshouses and pots

JULY

  • Remove spent annuals and replace with late-season crops
  • Plant Chrysanthemum plug plants in glasshouse
  • Plant up pots for late summer display
  • Keep on top of deadheading
  • Cut back early perennials as they go over
  • Potting on
  • Planting out
  • Weeding
  • Additional staking
  • Start to plant out biennials if there’s space in the garden
  • Collect and store attractive seed heads for winter decoration
  • Water glasshouses and pots

AUGUST

  • Start to stop and dis-bud chrysanthemums
  • Order spring bulbs and sweet peas seeds by end of month
  • Order annual seeds
  • Pot up / plant out biennials as space becomes available
  • Remove spent annuals such as sweet peas, replace where possible
  • Stake / tie-in plants as they grow taller
  • Seed collecting
  • Keep on top of glasshouse pests
  • General tidying up in the garden
  • Water glasshouses and pots
  • Go on holiday!

SEPTEMBER

  • Continue to dis-bud chrysanthemums and stake them
  • Sow hardy annual seeds for flowers next year
  • Continue to plant biennials as space becomes available
  • Cutting back / removing spent crops
  • Continue deadheading and weeding
  • Plan where to plant bulbs
  • Order and plant and new perennials
  • Take cuttings if needed
  • Go through this years’ notes and make plans for next year
  • Water glasshouses and pots

OCTOBER

  • Pre-sprout and plant Anemone coronaria and Ranunculus
  • Start to plant spring bulbs
  • Order bare-root shrubs including roses
  • Clear beds of spent plants
  • Plant any remaining biennials and perennials
  • Plant bulbs in crates to be forced
  • Empty large pots of late summer displays
  • Plant up large pots for spring displays
  • Move a section of tender perennials indoors to protect from frost
  • Clear glasshouse zinnias
  • Continue to dis-bud glasshouse chrysanthemums
  • Double check that all dahlias are labelled before frosts
  • Mulching
  • Straw path laying
  • Plant out hardy annuals before the temperature drops too cold
  • Weeding

NOVEMBER

  • Continue planting spring bulbs including tulips
  • Cut back roses to reduce wind rock
  • Sow sweet peas for flowers next year
  • Sow hardy annuals to be kept in frames until early spring
  • After the frost start to lift dahlias to dry out in glasshouse
  • Start to clean up and store dahlias once dry

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25th November 2019: Today was spent working on the usual seasonal tasks; getting rid of spent annuals, weeding, raking up leaves etc, but it dawned on me just how differently I garden now to when I first started. For example, instead of weeding the narrow paths between the planted areas I tend now to cover them up, either with straw or with the top growth of plants that are being cut back. And instead of digging up entire annual plants, I cut them off at the base and let the roots decompose where they are. And instead of taking all the fallen tree leaves away, I rake them on to the paths between the planting areas. This feels like a much gentler way of gardening than how I used to work – both for myself and for the soil & all the life that's in it. I would previously spend days on end in winter weeding wet claggy soil, and hoiking countless wheelbarrows of soaked soily weeds, plants, rootsballs and leaves to the compost bays. I still do a bit of this, but no way near as much. This way of working means that the soil isn't getting disturbed as much as it would in the past and I've noticed that there's much more visible life in the soil as a result, which hopefully means that there's much invisible (to me) life in there too! There are SO many more worms now. Anyway, long story short(ish) – I've come to the conclusion that it's all really important – the garden has to be productive, it has to be teaming with life, and it has to be (some sort of) beautiful. It isn't all of those things all of the time, but that's what I'm always working towards. No doubt I'll change my methods of working again as I learn more about the garden, and I'm more than happy to do that. Entirely unrealated the picture is Chrysanthemum 'Avignon Pink' through the glasshouse window.

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  • Cutting back perennials
  • Removing all annuals
  • Weeding
  • Mulching
  • Straw path laying
  • Start to lift unwanted plants to be replaced with new varieties
  • Review garden to make changes for next year

DECEMBER

  • Finish tulip planting if not yet complete.
  • Plant bare root shrubs
  • Transplanting perennials where needed if weather suits
  • Mulching
  • Straw path laying
  • Weeding
  • Plant some seedlings in glasshouse for early flower
  • Specific research
  • Clearing and cleaning glasshouses, cold frames and shed
  • Sow sweet peas if not done already
  • Move sweet peas once germinated to cold frames
  • Project work such as installing rabbit fencing

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1st January 2020: I feel oddly nervous about posting on here after two weeks absence and so much travel and change. But the first day of the year seems like a fine time to check in with you lovely lot and wish you all a very happy and fulfilling year ahead! I've now made it to the Skagit Valley in Washington and have been getting to know the area and setting myself up in the lovely little house which will be my home for the year. Work at @floretflower begins tomorrow and I can't wait to meet the team & start getting stuck in! To get here I flew to New York and took the train across America to the west coast, seeing some great places and meeting some wonderful people along the way. Your suggestions of places to visit in NYC were great – I couldn't do them all but I managed some of them, so thank you for those! I'm going to add more about the journey up in stories soon… If I can whittle the photos down!! It might be a long one πŸ™ƒ

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