Alan Titchmarsh says striped lawn is ‘good for mental health’

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The celebrity horticulturist has spent more than 56 years as a gardener and is among the nation’s most trusted experts. Prior to Titchamarsh’s TV fame, he worked as a gardening journalist and wrote books on his favourite green-fingered pastime. Now starring in ITV shows, Love Your Garden and Alan Titchmarsh: Spring Into Summer, he divulges even more of his top tips.

Titchmarsh studied horticulture at an agricultural college before moving to Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens, to supervise and train staff.

Since then, he’s appeared on Gardeners’ World, Ground Force and a number of documentaries including Secrets Of The National Trust.

But the 71-year-old is best known for his quick and easy tips to make the lives of amateur gardeners that little bit easier.

In an article for You magazine, he gave some advice for spring that would allow eager growers to enjoy a “soothing” season.

He explained spring was the time to perform “the basic jobs”, including sowing, thinning and transplanting seedlings.

By this time, gardeners should have “kept on top of weeding”, mowed the lawn “at least once a fortnight” and filled in any empty seed patches.

In a Daily Mail article, Titchmarsh advised “watering and hoeing vegetables regularly” and to “thin out and transplant seedlings” from their pots.

He also noted that it was safe to put outdoor tubs outside and hanging baskets up providing they were “kept under glass”.

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Titchmarsh advised the best way for gardeners to know when it was the right time to transplant seeds outside was to check the temperature of the soil.

In a video for Waitrose and Partners earlier this year, he revealed some of the ways “old gardeners” would do this.

The first was to keep an eye out for weeds because when they can grow it’s a sign that “hardy seeds” can germinate too.

If they weren’t sure, Titchmarsh claimed they would “stick an elbow” into the soil and see if it felt warm.

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The most drastic option – if the others didn’t clarify it – was to “sit with your naked bottom on the soil”.

He added: “If you go ‘Oh that’s cold!’, it is too cold for seeds.”

It is also advisable to read seed packets to see when it’s advised to plant them outside or to check online. 

Titchmarsh recommended sowing “veg seeds thinly in shallow drills”, which could be made by pushing the top of a bamboo cane into the soil. 

He warned not to “cover small seeds” with more than six millimetres of soil and larger ones, like beans, should only be covered “to their own depth”.

For wannabe gardeners with smaller amounts of space, he recommended only attempting “patio veg”.

He listed courgettes, runner beans and tomatoes as “worthwhile crops” that could be grown in “in a few tubs on the patio”.

Titchmarsh told You: “They are so good-looking.

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“If you didn’t know better, you would think they were chunky bedding plants.”

To achieve that goal he suggested using a growing bag and said “12 runner bean plants” could be fitted into one of them.

Alternatively, he said it was possible to put “two bush courgettes or three outdoor tomatoes” plants.

Once they are inside, Titchmarsh advised: “Water them in well.”

After four weeks, he told gardeners to feed the plants with “liquid tomato feed, every two weeks”.

When the plants have “filled the bag fairly well”, it was advised to “increase watering and up the feeding to once a week”.

To help tomato and bean plants, Titchmarsh suggested it was useful to buy “growing bag frames or tie them to a trellis”.

One thing he specifically warned against was using bamboo canes for support, “as they can go through the bottom of the bag and make it leak”.

Titchmarsh suggested buying pots that were between 30cm and 38cm.

From there, he advised filling them with a 50/50 mixture of “John Innes No 2 and peat-free potting compost”.

He said gardeners could “plant one tomato or courgette” or “five runner beans” in them. 

Love Your Garden airs at 10am Sunday and Alan Titchmarsh: Spring Into Summer airs at 8pm on Monday, both on ITV.

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