“ Brand: Suttons / Type: Veg „
I'm in no way an expert when it comes to vegetable gardening, in fact I have very little experience and most amateur gardeners would put me to shame. Let's just say that I'm an enthusiastic beginner, who has just seen the light in as far as the joys of eating freshly grown produce is concerned. Among the many different vegetables that have graced my garden this year is the Tom Thumb Lettuce, which I must say has been one of my most successful projects.
I bought my seed from the local garden centre, paying less than £2 for over 1000 seeds. There were a couple of different brands of seeds available, Thompson & Morgan and Suttons, with the Suttons being significantly cheaper, so obviously I went with those. The actual seed packet was pretty much standard and contained all the information you might need. I will say though that even though they are exactly the same variety as the Thompson & Morgan it did give slightly different sowing times, stating that they should be sown between March and the end of May (rather than March and August).
Depending on the variety Lettuce can be incredibly easy to grow and from my experience even a complete novice will be able to produce a continuous crop of Tom Thumb. As with all lettuce Tom Thumb prefers a cooler climate and rich soil that will hold moisture. I planted my seed in a raised bed that had been enriched with manure the previous October. The seed itself should be thinly sown in a drill (line) about a centimetre deep, covered with soil and then watered. The seedlings start to poke through the soil after about a week and then can be thinned to about six inches apart. To be absolutely honest I didn't bother with the thinning process and still got excellent results. As with all lettuce, Tom Thumb can be quite thirsty and needs regular watering, which should be done daily during dry spells. Just water them in the morning, rather than the evening as evening watering can make them susceptible to rot.
The Tom Thumb reaches full maturity remarkably quickly, being ready to harvest in about a month. Once fully grown this butter head (round) lettuce is only about the size of a tennis ball, with crisp, fairly loose leaves surrounding a small, yet perfectly formed heart. Because they are so small, Tom Thumb are perfect for growing where space is limited (they can even be grown on a windowsill) and because they grow so fast, they're a brilliant first vegetable for children to grow. These are also the perfect size for a single person to eat at a meal, meaning that there's less waste and they can always be eaten at their freshest. Taste-wise they are crisp and sweet, and unlike some other round lettuce there's not a hint of bitterness.
To make sure there's always a lettuce or two available when we're in the mood for salad, I sow a few of the seeds each week and contrary to the instructions on the packet, they are still germinating now at the beginning of July and I plan to carry on sowing them for at least another month. I could have sown them all at once, but then I would have had far too many lettuces at once and once they are fully grown you only get about a week before they go to seed. As with any lettuce, Tom Thumb is susceptible to some pests, especially slugs and caterpillars, although I must say that mine have survived with only the occasional bite taken out of the outer leaves. To reduce the amount of damage caused by pests you can take a few precautions. A fine net will prevent butterflies from laying eggs, while surrounding the plants with egg shells will deter slugs.
Overall Tom Thumb is a rather nice tasting lettuce that is incredibly easy to grow. Without any expertise, I've managed to grow a continuous supply for the last six weeks and will hopefully still be doing so for weeks to come. As they are so small and quick to grow they are also brilliant for making use of any small plot of land between crops, or to grow while waiting for longer growing plants to mature. I now have these dotted all around the garden, at various stages of development, making use of all the odd crannies. Of all the various types of lettuce and salad greens I've grown this year, these are by far the favourite amongst the human devourers. My partner has informed me that he would give them five out of five as they taste really nice, visitors have all commented on how sweet and crunchy they are and even my fifteen month old son enjoys eating them.
I really can't recommend this variety of lettuce enough, both to new and seasoned gardeners. It's a variety that I will be growing next year and I am even planning on trying to grow them on my windowsill throughout the colder season in the hope that we'll be able to enjoy them throughout the winter. I also cannot recommended the Suttons brand of these seeds enough, I've had really good germination rates, having harvested several dozen heads, with several dozen more growing and used far less than half a pack. The seed packet itself tells me that I should use these seeds with the next eighteen months, so I'll also be growing these under glass from the end of February onwards as well as allowing my son to grow some in his garden.