Tom Thumb Lettuce
Seed Count: Approx. 500 seeds
Days to Maturity: 65 Days
Description: The Tom Thumb is an interesting heirloom variety of butterhead lettuce that dates back to the 1800s. It's perfect for a large personal salad, since it makes cute miniature, compact heads, even in hot weather. It has bright green, slightly crumpled, outer leaves that wrap around a creamy yellow center. It boasts a crisp texture, with a delicate, sweet, buttery flavor, and grows 5-7 inch heads. Since it is so small, it matures faster than other heading lettuce types, making it great for areas that have short cool seasons, like I do. Tom Thumb is also pretty bolt resistant, and allows for longer harvests. It's great for small space gardens, container gardens, or just squeezing it into whatever small gaps you may have available in your garden beds.
How To Grow
Sowing: Butterhead lettuces grows well in cool weather, so the first crop can be direct sown when the soil temperature reaches at least 35 degrees. Direct sow the seed in rich soil and full sun, spreading them as thinly as possible in rows 1-2' apart. When the seedlings begin to grow, thin them to 8-12" apart. Succession crops can be grown for fresh lettuce all season in areas with cool summers or warm winters; this is accomplished by planting a new crop every 2 weeks.
Growing: Since lettuce has very shallow roots, it needs adequate moisture in order to stay tender and sweet, so keep the soil evenly moist. Applying mulch helps conserve moisture and control weeds. For companion planting benefits, grow lettuce with onions, cucumbers, or carrots. The crisper the lettuce head, the less heat tolerant they will be. However, lettuces can tolerate cold, but should be protected from the wind. If leaves begin to wilt, plants need more water. Hand weed as necessary, but be careful with their shallow roots.
Harvesting: Lettuce retains its crisp sweetness when harvested early in the morning. Most types of lettuce will produce a second or even third crop after being cut, if the weather stays cool. Leaves can be gathered all season until the main stem of the plant starts to grow, at which time the leaves will grow bitter. To harvest the entire plant, cut it right above the surface of the soil. Lettuce will bolt when weather is too hot. To avoid selecting negative traits, gather seed from the plants that are slow to bolt. After the stalk flowers and produces pods, the pods will turn light brown and split open; in order to prevent seed loss, shake the head of the stalk into a bag every day. Store for up to 3 years.