Chef James Martin graced our screens on This Morning, earlier today, to share his top tips for growing vegetables. From using loo rolls to recycling household waste, the chef has plenty of savvy tricks up his sleeve.
Speaking from his own beautiful garden in Hampshire James tells viewers a greenhouse is the reason why he fell in love with food in the first place.
It’s from his own beloved greenhouse he goes on to share his top tips for growing vegetables at home.
James Martin’s top planting hacks
1. Plant seeds on toilet paper
With seedlings, often tissue paper is a great way to germinate. But what if you don’t have any tissue paper? ‘Even toilet roll, there’s loads of that lately,’ he jests. ‘You can use a little bit of that, also plant the whole thing in the ground (he’s talking about the tube), because it degrades.’
2. Make sure seedlings don’t dry out
‘Moisture is the key,’ James explains. ‘You’ve got Perlite and Vermiculite, they’re actually like a stone or a mineral,’ he explains, before revealing that they are his gardening must-haves to stop your seedlings for drying out.
‘Minerals of this kind are really important to mix into the compost when you’re planting from seed,’ he stresses. ‘They keep the moisture in, I always find.’
3. Train your tomato plants to grow upwards
‘The key is to remove the shoots,’ says James, referring to the shoots that come off the central stem. By doing so he says, ‘it basically forces the plant upwards’, encouraging tall healthy tomato plants.
4. Sift the soil for perfect carrots
Another insightful tip while gardening with James was to sift any soil before your plant. But do you know why? To get rid of stones, he explains. ‘When you get a carrot and it splits in half or it curls and bends, it’s usually because as it’s growing it hits a stone’.
This fact left both Holly Willoughby and us amazed!
5. Always grow mint in pots
James explains how he plants all his herbs in one bed. But there is one exception. ‘If you’re growing things like mint, put it into a pot because it does grow crazy’. He’s spot on – mint does have a tendency to overpower the other herbs growing alongside it.
6. Recycle household waste
James seems to have made use of all sorts of things lying around to help tend his garden. As well as the aforementioned loo roll, James proudly shows off his chives, growing out of an old tomato tin!
He reveals that he leaves his recycled tin of herbs on the kitchen counter, so he can add them to dishes while he cooks.
7. Get multiple crops from one lettuce plant
The lettuces, once you’ve taken the heads of the lettuces, they will grow back,’ says James. ‘Cut the lettuce off – the whole head of lettuce – then put a cross in the top of the root. And in a bout five to six weeks it will grow back again.’
8. Try unusual varieties
‘These are amazing,’ says James, gesturing towards a root veg with tall, luscious leaves. ‘These are kohlrabi, otherwise known as a German turnip. These are delicious hot, cold, cooked, raw, but they’re amazing pickled. And you can eat the leaves, he adds.
Speaking of his passion for growing his own at home, James shares his story. ‘My grand father and uncle were keen gardeners, and my granddad used to produce amazing roses and potatoes. My uncle had an allotment and a greenhouse at the bottom of the garden and he used to grow tomatoes.
‘So the first thing I did when I got this place was build my own greenhouse.’
James’ own vegetable garden is bursting with homegrown produce. From tomatoes, runner beans, peppers, courgettes, beetroot, kale, lettuces, herbs and more – it’s safe to say his own kitchen is well stocked with fresh veg.