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Other Names - Butterhead Lettuce…
This butterhead variety is one of the smallest lettuce varieties available. Tom Thumb can be sown close together making this variety ideal for small gardens where space is at a premium. It produces a small sweet flavoured juicy head and the leaves are soft and buttery. This variety is ideal for children and for growing in containers.
Suitable For - Vegetable plot, raised beds, container garden, limited space
Sowing Months - March - August
Harvest - May - October
Add a good amount of compost to the soil a few months before sowing or planting. Add lime if needed. A week before sowing rake the surface of the soil to produce a fine tilth and add some general purpose organic fertilizer.
|General Information||Sowing & Planting Information|
|Habit||Annual||Module Grown & Transplants|
|Type||Heritage variety||Distance between plants||20 cm|
|Position||Full sun, part shade during the hottest part of the day preferred||Distance between rows||20 cm|
|Average height||15 cm||Direct Sowing|
|Average spread||20 cm||Sowing distance between plants||0.5 cm|
|Hardiness||Hardy||Distance between rows||20 cm|
|Overwintering||No||Sowing depth||Surface / 2mm|
|Soil Ph||6.5 - 7.0||Germination temperature||8 to 18℃|
|Days to germination||7 - 14 days|
In 4 cm modules, sow 2 - 3 seeds onto the surface of well wetted compost. Lettuce seeds are very thin, cover the seeds lightly with a thin covering of vermiculite or if preferred leave the seeds uncovered. To help with moisture retention place in a clear polythene bag. Lettuce will struggle to germinate if the temperature is too high. Keep the modules out of direct sunlight until germination has started. This will help to prevent the compost from drying out especially if the seeds are uncovered. Once the seeds have germinated remove from the bag.
When the seedlings are big enough to handle thin to one strong seedling per module. Ensure the seedlings have access to as much daylight as possible, a windowsill or greenhouse is ideal. A few weeks later (depending on speed of growth, early sowings will grow slower) plant out into their final growing position.
Harden off over 7 - 10 days before planting out to reduce shock. Plant out at the distance suggested above. Firm the soil around each plant and water well. Cover early sowings with horticultural fleece until growth is strong.
Sow 1 seed every 0.5 cm at the depth and row distance suggested above. Lightly cover the seeds with fine soil and water well. Cover early sowings with horticultural fleece until growth is strong. Sow again if after 2 weeks there is no sign of the lettuce seedlings, the chances are slugs will have eaten the whole row. If this problem re occurs try starting the seedlings in a pest free environment, indoors in modules.
After 3 - 6 weeks of germination (depending on speed of growth) a choice can be made at this point regarding the direct sown lettuce plants. A decision can be made to cut the whole row with scissors or a sharp knife close to the ground and treat the lettuce as a baby leaf crop. The lettuce plants however after this severe cutting are unlikely to grow back well. If this technique is preferred it is advisable to sow short rows in succession to provide baby leaves every week throughout the season.
Or a less drastic alternative at this stage would be to thin the young plants to 20 cm apart and the thinning's can be eaten as baby leaf. The remaining plants can then be left to fully mature. Or if preferred rather than allowing the remaining plants to fully mature, after a few weeks the outer leaves can be regularly harvested as a cut and come again. The regular picking of the outer leaves can continue for 6 - 8 weeks or until the plant runs to seed.
Whichever technique is used the lettuce will need to be watered well every 7 - 10 days in dry weather. Water more frequently if leaves start to wilt in dry weather. Weed regularly to keep competing plants under control.
Lettuce grown to produce a heart or to fully mature are best sown little and often otherwise they will all mature at the same time. As soon as they mature they will then start to grow tall and run to seed. Sow a little seed fortnightly to keep a regular supply of mature lettuce heads maturing at different times in the garden.
To harvest the lettuce heads cut the lettuce stem close to the ground with a sharp knife. If there is no other lettuce available, leave the remaining root stump in the ground to sprout a few more lettuce leaves.
When harvesting lettuce as a 'cut and come again' over a long period, harvest the outer larger leaves first, leaving the small leaves in the middle of the plant to develop further for future pickings. Regular pickings will encourage the lettuce plant to produce even more leaves. However avoid over harvesting and always leave the plant with at least 5 - 6 leaves.
Remove slug damaged or rotting leaves whilst harvesting. Lettuce can store in the fridge in a polythene bag for 5 - 7 days.
To help avoid mould growth on the lettuce leaves during damp weather avoid growing lettuce plants too close to each other so that each plant has good air circulation.
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