For time-poor Londoners who love to grow edibles, baby plants that just need to be settled into soil or compost are the way to go. The choice has never been wider, and many are bred especially for small spaces and containers.
Runner beans, for instance, no longer need an eight-foot wigwam to produce a prolific crop. New Jackpot Mix, from Dobies, is a runner bean that has been crossed with a dwarf French bean and produces large yields of full-size beans from bushy, compact plants.
Sarah Raven’s eight-strong seedling collection of frilly French lettuces, Descartes and Seurat, form rosettes in bright green and deep beetroot that are perfect for pots. What’s more, you don’t need to pull the whole lettuce but can cut-and-come-again, so you don’t spoil the symmetry.
You can even grow a pumpkin in a pot — several, in fact — if you share Dobies’ view that with pumpkins, size isn’t everything. The Windsor is a non-sprawler so is ideal for containers, and you can expect a supply of fruits with a useful 15cm diameter.
Although peas might be easy-peasy to grow from seed, it’s tempting to buy 15 garden-ready plugs of Petit Pois plants that promise to deliver those finer-tasting, smaller French peas.
Mangetouts are equally simple, but plants of Golden Sweet mangetout offer pale green leaves, red leaf nodes, those gorgeous mauve flowers and, as contrast, lemon-green pods. All from Suttons.
FOR FOODIE PIONEERS
Cordon tomato Mountain Magic is Thompson & Morgan’s vegetable of the year because it has such good resistance to blight, wilt and just about any disease that affects tomatoes in the UK. Now we just need a tomato that will be unaffected by the average British summer.
If you have a greenhouse, you could try T&M’s Gigantomo, the largest variety of beefsteak tomato. Each fruit weighs up to 1.3kg and measures 20cm across, so the plant needs serious scaffolding.
Ethnobotanist James Wong adds two citrus plants to his range of global goodies for Suttons: caviar lime — which tastes of lime and grapefruit, its innards resembling translucent fish roe, making it ideal for dolloping on fish dishes — and yuzu, a superfood championed by Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater. Used for dressings and drizzles in smart restaurants, it resembles a mandarin-shaped lemon and tastes like a cross between the two.
Foodie pioneers might also like to try Dobies’ new Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. It looks darling, small, rounded and scarlet, but don’t be deceived: the Scorpion, rated off the heat-measuring Scoville Scale at Volcanic Plus, is the hottest recorded chilli pepper.
Aubergines are having a moment in the sun. From Dobies comes the Meatball, recommended as a meat substitute due to its dense, meaty, seedless flesh, while Suttons’ Pinstripe is the showcase aubergine for pots and raised beds. It’s a dwarf variety that is surprisingly prolific and has the prettiest fruits of pinky-purple streaked with white.
Space-saving gardeners will be keen to know they can grow aubergines and potatoes on the same plant — Thompson & Morgan’s Egg & Chips, the successor to last year’s Tomtato, a grafted plant that produces tomatoes above soil and potatoes below.
The two-for-one veg is here to stay, and can look rather attractive. Witness Dobies’ Traffic Light, a sweet pepper duo of scarlet and orange snack peppers on the same rootstock, as well as T&M’s chic black-and-white combo of Indigo Rose and White Cherry tomatoes.
Turbo plants are another major trend, in which the fruiting plant is grafted on to a super-strong rootstock, for vigorous growth and higher yields. To see what the fuss is about, try Suttons’ robust Orange Paruche, cherry tomatoes with the flavour of both lychees and passionfruit. Hopefully there’s a hint of tomato taste in there, too.