GARDENING guru Alan Titchmarsh has said he is pleased about the temporary lettuce shortage - because it reminds people not to take food for granted.

Supermarkets have put limits on the number of lettuces customers can buy following an extreme mix of weather conditions in southern Spain.

The former host of Gardeners' World and the Chelsea Flower Show said too many people do not think about where their food comes from.

He told the Press Association: "As long as it's there, people take it for granted.

"But we are dependent on climate and weather and growing skill and sometimes the weather throws things at you that you can't legislate for.

"It reminds people not to take food and food producers for granted.

"And, to be absolutely honest with you, every now and again it's good that sometimes thing like this happens because it just reminds people what skill it takes."

The green-fingered star, 67, who is presenting a new show on Channel 5 exploring National Trust properties behind the scenes, said: "They don't grow themselves, fruit and veg. They have to be grown.

"And if it gives people more respect and sympathy towards growers, I'm all for that."

The lettuce shortage follows similar reductions in the supply of courgettes, while salad peppers, broccoli and cabbage supplies are also under pressure.

Titchmarsh said: "This isn't a whinge. It's just a call to arms really.

"People devote their lives to growing things to feed us and every now and again I just want us to remember that.

"It's something I've been a promoter of all my life. It's not just a respect for the natural world and then the people who grow things, but for people to realise that we are at the mercy of nature, to respect growers, not just farmers but growers as well and the horticulturists who provide our food."

As well as sharing pictures of bare supermarket shelves, consumers have complained that prices have nearly tripled in recent weeks.

The former chat show host, whose new series, Secrets Of The National Trust, debuts on Tuesday, "hopes" that rationing will encourage more people to grow their own vegetables.

"It's my life's work. That would be wonderful," he said.

"I look with envy at the Great British Bake Off and its 14 million viewers and think wouldn't it be lovely if we got that many people watching a gardening programme and trying to grow something because it's even more important.

"It's the sharp end of conservation. And there's so much joy and satisfaction to be had in growing something to either eat or admire."

Titchmarsh added later that people should buy British.

"It's all foreign and imported produce that is the problem at the moment, and the great thing there is to use British seasonal produce," he said.

"Instead of having courgettes and out of season veg from overseas at this time of year, support the British growers and go on to root vegetables, sprouts, greens, that kind of thing, stuff that's British.

"That's the answer. I'm a great believer in seasonality anyway and waiting for my strawberries until April, May and waiting for my asparagus."

  • Secrets Of The National Trust With Alan Titchmarsh begins at 9pm on Channel 5 on February 7.