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Let-us eat salad

Lettuce salads have been a headliner in my kitchen lately. This hot summer heat we’ve been having has kept me busy watering in the garden, but there’s been lots of harvesting taking place too. This also means I’ve had to replant lettuce seedlings (every few weeks) to continue my prolific supply.

The good thing is, even for the most novice of gardeners, you can’t go wrong planting a few lettuces. They’re simple to grow, quick to produce and take up relatively little room. 

I plant my lettuces all year round, but really ramp it up from August through to February. To ensure I don’t get bored of any one type, I like to constantly mix up the varieties I plant. Buttercrunch and cos are great for picking off their loose leaves as you need them. Drunken woman and great lakes are a larger, more classic-shaped lettuce, that I remember from my younger days. What I also remember is, back then you’d never consider picking a few leaves here and there. You’d always harvest the whole lettuce head at once. How the times have changed!

A new lettuce variety we’ve grown at the nursery this summer is tom thumb. It’s the perfect little lettuce to pop in between rows of other plants. It grows small heads (about the size of a baseball), which are ideal as a gourmet lettuce for one. Contrary to what I just said about picking leaves off your lettuces as you need them, tom thumb is harvested all at once.

Tom thumb has a lovely mild, sweet taste. But the reason it’s a great lettuce to grow at this time of year is it tolerates high temperatures very well, and resists bolting. And, being so small, makes it a great candidate to plant in a pot, or alongside other plants such as leeks or beetroot.

You can grab your tom thumb lettuce seedlings from our Awapuni Nurseries online shop and have them delivered direct to your door. We guarantee satisfaction, and if you’re not entirely happy with your plants when they arrive, we’ll replace them.

Once you’ve got your seedlings, look for a well-drained and sheltered place to plant them. I like to dig in some new compost and sheep pallets at this point too.  Then dig some little holes - 3cm deep and 15cm apart.

After this, simply water regularly and watch for slugs. Smaller pots need to be watered daily right now or, if you’ve planted in the ground test with your finger for dryness. If you get one knuckle deep and it’s dry, you’ll know its time to water.

And for the slugs – I recommend slug ‘beer bait’. That’s if you’ve got any spare beer in the house right now. It’s also a fun activity to do with the kids.

In around four to six weeks your tom thumbs should be ready to be harvested. I recommend suggest combining them with grated zucchini, basil, parmesan and your fav dressing for a fresh twist on your summer salad. Bon appetite.

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