How to grow your own pizza garden: Expert tips to grow tomatoes, basil, onions and peppers

Alan Titchmarsh shares tip for growing vegetables

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A recent YouGov survey revealed more than a third of Britons have been forced to cut back on takeaways and eating out amid soaring living costs. Pizza oven purchases are on the up, however, so with more people cooking their own pizzas instead of ordering out, why not go the whole way and slash expenses even further by growing your own toppings, too?

Great Taste Judge, pizza-maker extraordinaire and founder of Ross & Ross Gifts, Ross Bearman, told Express.co.uk: “The cost of living crisis has made many Brits rethink their spending habits, particularly when it comes to how much is spent on the weekly shop.

“It can be more cost-efficient in the long run to grow your own vegetables. Besides, you only have to start small if you’re new to growing your own produce!”

With the warmer weather giving more people the opportunity to dine alfresco, there’s no better time to get started than now.

Whether you prefer simple or spicy toppings, growing herbs and vegetables are accessible for people of all skill levels with a little bit of patience and some expert advice.

Mr Bearman, and Fiona Jenkins, gardening expert at MyJobQuote, provided top tips and methods to grow your own pizza garden.

How to grow basil and oregano

To grow from seed, fill a 7.5cm pot with seed compost, firm down and sow a few seeds over the top – most will germinate so only sow a few more seeds than you need.

Next, cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Water it gently and cover the pot with a clear plastic bag, secured with an elastic band.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle and have their first leaves, transplant them into their own 7.5cm pot filled with multi-purpose compost.

Ms Jenkins said: “As the weather here in the UK is slightly unpredictable, I’d recommend potting your basil and oregano as it makes it easier to transfer indoors when the weather gets colder.

“A kitchen windowsill works just as well as the garden as basil and oregano love the sun.”

In terms of watering, Ms Jenkins recommends making sure to do this little but often. Despite these herbs loving moisture, they don’t like being wet.

Ms Jenkins said: “I’d say approximately once a week with just an inch of water, enough so the top six inches of soil feel moist but not saturated.”

She continued: “If your oregano starts to get woody, repot it in fresh compost and cut it back to the base to get it sprouting with fresh shoots.”

How to grow tomatoes, peppers and chillies

Tomatoes are quite possibly the most important topping of the pizza, so you’ll want to get these right when growing your own.

Mr Bearman said: “Although you can grow tomatoes from seeds, I’d recommend buying a young tomato plant if you’re new to growing.

“You’ll need a good compost and a sunny wall or fence to ensure they have lots of light and protection from harsh weather.

“Once your tomatoes start to appear, pick off any leaves that are blocking their sunlight to help them grow and ripen – be sure to keep them well watered.”

For tomatoes, Mr Bearman suggests choosing the right variety to suit your needs.

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He said: “Pick one that’s good for sauce such as the Astro Ibrido, or a flavoursome type such as Super Sweet 100 or Sungold for dotting on the top.

“If you’re short of space, go for a compact, bushy plant such as Red Alert or Rio Grande. For tall-growing tomato plants use canes or trellis to support them.”

Chillies and peppers, however, can be a little more tricky to balance.

Mr Bearman said: “Chillies and peppers love the sun and hate the cold. So, a windowsill or greenhouse is best for these plants. Feed with a dash of fertiliser that’s high in potash once they’ve started flowering.”

“If you’re growing chillies, peppers and tomatoes, use tomato feed for all of them, rather than splashing out on specialist fertilisers for each.”

How to grow onions

Like tomatoes, it’s recommended to buy a set instead of a packet of seeds.

Mr Bearman said: “Whether you fancy growing large or small onions, buy a set rather than a packet of seeds. It’s much quicker and easier.

“Onions don’t grow long roots, so if you haven’t got space for a veg patch or raised bed, a growing table works just fine.”

First, plant the sets with the pointy section facing up and locate them about 10 to 15cm apart. Keep the area weed-free and water them during dry periods.

Harvest the onions when they’re big enough to eat or the leaves have turned brown and started to wither. This normally takes about five months.

Mr Bearman recommends choosing a sunny spot in the garden or raised beds for growing the onions.

To boost growth, add small bits of charcoal to your soil – it increases the soil’s ability to hold onto plant nutrients and beneficial soil microbes.

Mr Bearman said: “The low density of charcoal lightens heavy soils, which allows better root growth, increasing drainage and allowing air into the soil.”

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