Telegraph Column: Variety is key to gardening success

Rob Smith

Rob Smith

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Potatoes, cucumbers, peas and tomatoes - these are just a few of the crops I’ve been growing on The Big Allotment Challenge (Fridays, 9pm, BBC2). However, at home on my allotments I’ve grown totally different crops, not just to be different but because I want something different.

You can go into any supermarket or grocer and buy potatoes and tomatoes.

In fact frozen peas are probably the cheapest frozen veg, so there’s little financial gain to growing them for yourself. I prefer to grow different types of crops or varieties, these are either very expensive in the shops or just not available. Take cucamelons for example, these grape-size water melon look-a-likes actually taste like cucumber with a squeeze of lime. They’re great in kids’ lunch boxes, mixed through salads or pickled on their own or with onions.

They’re easy to grow from seed and form tiny vines. I grew them in an old bucket with holes in the bottom and they scrambled up three canes about a metre and a half high.

I’m going to grow them in a terracotta pot on the patio this year as they are such a good looking plant and everyone is curious as to what they are.

Other unusual crops I’m growing this year are elephant garlic which are the size of your fist, and Chilean guavas which are small red berries (reported to be Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit).

If you’re more of a traditionalist and want to grow peas, onions or carrots, why not try a heritage variety.

These include peas that are lime green inside a dark burgundy shell, onions so sweet they rival a gala apple, and carrots in almost every colour of the rainbow! I’m a great advocate of the Heritage Seed Library which is a charity that enables us to save rare vegetables, and for a donation you can choose six different vegetables to grow for yourself.