Alan Titchmarsh: TV gardener’s 70-year-old trick to create perfect garden borders exposed

The 71-year-old is known for sharing his love of gardening, as well as many of the key experiences that have shaped his love of the traditional British past-time. For many, Alan is highly regarded as Britain’s most influential gardener, with his appearances on programmes such as ‘Gardeners’ World’ and the Chelsea Flower Show securing his legacy. But last year, in a column for Country Life, Alan took readers back to a particular time when he truly fell in love with gardening and the main reason behind it.

The TV star revealed that he began his love affair with the garden aged around nine years old, and his interest convinced his father to give him a book that was passed to him by Alan’s grandfather.

The book was called ‘Simple Gardening’ by R. P. Faulkner and the hope was that Alan’s father would take on the family allotment.

Published in 1950, the book details practical advice to avid gardeners, most of which Alan argues is still important today.

In the article, he wrote: “However, the book is also a reminder of how things have moved on.

“Writing about the hardy border, Faulkner describes it as ‘a comparatively modern development in gardening. It had its origin in the desire to get away from the stiff formality of the Victorian garden and to give plants a natural setting’.

“Do we cultivate that border in the same way as was suggested in 1950?

“I suspect we aren’t quite so rigorous in our management as Faulkner, who suggests that: ‘Every three or four years, the plants should be lifted and divided, selecting the youngest growths on the outsides of the clumps for replanting. Seize the opportunity to dig the border deeply and to work in a good dressing of hop manure. This work should be done in autumn.’”

Alan questioned the statement by asking when the last time anyone “double-dug” their borders – to which he responded the chances were never.

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But he added: “Most of us are content to let our border perennials go on year after year until they fizzle out through exhaustion and the gaps they’ve created are seized as a planting opportunity.

“Digging up and dividing clumps every three or four years is a counsel of perfection.

“Ah, but, in many instances, it really does pay off. The resulting plants are reinvigorated and the display is much more spectacular.”

More recently, Alan delivered a surprising hack surrounding how to produce the best compost on his show ‘Grow Your Own At Home With Alan Titchmarsh’.

Alan revealed that the one thing fruit, vegetables and plants need to thrive is good soil, which he confessed needs “organic matter in it to provide nutrients and to hold on to moisture”.

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He advised that the best way to get those nutrients is from a compost heap.

The star said: “You can buy soil enriched with it in bags of course, but with many of us out mowing and pruning now is a great time to save some pennies. And create your own garden compost.

“A big garden needs a big compost heap, but even a small garden can fit one.

“What do you put in? Your vegetable waste and your weeds. Soft pruning from flowers and lawn mowings.”

But the best thing for gardeners to do to finish off the heap is to place old carpet on top of it.

This, he told viewers, will “stop the sun’s rays from scoring it”.

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