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Looking for new things to grow?

There are always new variants and varieties you won’t have heard of, from disease-resistant leeks to blue potatoes. To find them, look in seed catalogues, recommends MAT COWARD

SEED catalogues are a good source of free information and inspiration, especially for those new to vegetable gardening.

I suggest you get hold of as many as possible, online or on paper, because the range of crops you can grow in your garden or allotment these days may be much wider than you imagined.

I must admit I’ve never much fancied blue potatoes, but one of the reasons people choose so-called “heirloom varieties” is because, if gardeners have used them for generations, they are likely to have proven themselves in terms of flavour, yield or reliability.

Blue Congo is a Victorian early maincrop spud, available from Pennard Plants (www.pennardplants.com), which copes with drought but doesn’t suit wet soils. It’s said to be an excellent keeper, so you could be enjoying blue mash right through next winter.

Roxi is a chilli pepper, described as “mild/hot,” which has the advantage of making a very compact plant, suitable for growing on a sunny windowsill. Listed by Premier Seeds Direct (www.premierseedsdirect.com; tel: 01722 238-030), it’ll only reach 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) in height, but carries a large number of half-inch (1.5cm), cone-shaped fruit in yellow, purple and red.

Real Seeds (www.realseeds.co.uk; tel: 01239 821-107 ) is a catalogue I always recommend. They sell heritage and heirloom varieties, all chosen and tested for use in home garden conditions.

As well as the familiar crops, you’ll find plenty of unusual edible plants here, including Chinese Violet Cress, otherwise known as the February Orchid, the leaves and purple flowers of which are good in salads.

Anubis is a pea, new to Dobies (www.dobies.co.uk; tel: 0844 7364-209), which is specially bred for pea shoots, one of the easiest and most useful of vegetables for salads and stir-fries, perfect for growing in small containers.

Also suitable for pots is the cucumber Hopeline, from Mr Fothergill’s (www.mr-fothergills.co.uk; tel: 0333 7773-936). It’s claimed to be “robust” against mildew and gives small, unusually crunchy fruit.

Marshalls (www.marshallsgarden.com; tel: 01480 774-555) has a new leek, Jolant, for use from late summer to early winter, which it says is vigorous and disease resistant.

Sure Thing is the reassuring name of a courgette new to Thompson & Morgan (www.thompson-morgan.com; tel: 0844 573-1818), described as being a compact plant, with fruits of a stronger flavour than other courgettes. It’s not reliant on insects for pollination, so is more likely to perform well in a poor summer.

An onion called Tosca, from Simpson’s Seeds (www.simpsonsseeds.co.uk; tel: 01985 845-004), is an unusual, oblong shape, which is said to store well after harvest.

King’s Seeds (www.kingsseeds.com; tel: 01376 570-000) sells handy collections of seeds, at much reduced prices compared to buying each packet separately, including an Allotment Collection, an Easy Starter Collection and a Salad Collection.

If you’re planning to plant some fruit this year, you'll likely find what you want at Ken Muir (www.kenmuir.co.uk; tel: 01255 830-181). I’ve grown their space-saving, columnar minarette trees for years with great success.

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