If ever a variety deserved its name it was 'Little Gem'. It is one of the best known and most popular lettuces in Europe where it is also known as Sucrine, which means sugar in French, referring to Little Gems buttery texture and excellent flavour.
A compact semi-cos type and one of the earliest varieties to mature, Little Gem produces small compact plants which are packed with a solid, crisp and crunchy heart and little outside leaf.
With great colour and shape and a high level of uniformity Little Gem has maintained its position for trueness to type. It is quick to mature and resistant to root aphid, will tolerate hot weather and resist bolting.
Little Gem is normally grown at high density to give a top quality product with excellent sweet flavour. Very useful for cloches, an early spring sowing will provide a really early crop.
Suited to sowing March to July outdoors, they are easy to grow in the smallest of gardens or even in pots on a balcony or patio. Sow little and often to ensure a continuous supply.
Little Gem is a popular choice, and no wonder, with a sweet flavour, juicy, crisp and crunchy…. Little Gem's crunch is in the whole thing!
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Lettuce 'Little Gem' has been of consistently high quality for over 20 years. This classic small lettuce has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGMs) in 1990, 1999 and 2007.
- Recommended by N.A.I.B
Recommended by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany from which it has also received an Accreditation.
Prepare the site:
Lettuce doesn't do well in very acidic soils, and some say the pH shouldn't be lower than 6.5. A rich soil is excellent for lettuce, but the crop will also do well in average garden soil. The best crops are grown in soil that is deeply enriched with well-rotted manure and is well-fertilized before planting, especially with high nitrogen--leaf-stimulating--fertilisers such as 10-8-4, cottonseed meal, or blood meal.
Lettuce is about 95 percent water. It develops rapidly if the growing season is cool and moist. It can grow from seed to salad in about one month in many regions, and only a little longer in others.
Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable, with an ideal temperature of 10 to 16°C (50 to 60°C); it does poorly in hot weather, and is tolerant to some frost and light freezes. Cos is more heat tolerant than most.
Never sow a whole row at once, a small row about 60cm (2ft) long is adequate for most households. For a continuous crop, sow short rows every two weeks.
Sowing: Under protection: Feb to Mar (Plant out April) Outside: Mar to Aug
The perfect temperature for germination is 4 to 16°C (40 to 60°F) rates decline above 20°C (68°F). The perfect temperature for growth is 16 to 18°C (60 to 65°F)
Sow at a seed depth of 6 to 12mm (¼ to ½in) Seed will germinate in 7 to 14 days.
Sow seeds in short rows about 30cm (12in) apart. To do this, make a shallow trench with a cane about 15mm (¾ in) deep. Space the rows 20cm (8in) apart. Tip a small amount of seed into your hand, take a pinch and spread thinly along the trench. Cover with soil, label and water. If birds are a problem in your garden, spread netting to prevent them eating the seed.
When the seedlings are about 2cm (1in) tall, thin them out to give them space to grow, 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in). Make successional sowings at 14 day intervals.
A mulch of grass clippings, salt hay, clean straw, or the like, will keep the weeds out and the growing soil moist and cool. Watering is essential if rainfall is scant. The plants need almost constantly moist ground. This is particularly important when the lettuces are one or two weeks away from harvesting, as dry soil now will cause the plants to put their energy into producing flowers.
The key to tender and tasty lettuce is rapid growth, however lettuce has a relatively shallow and compact root system that doesn't absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil very efficiently, which can slow the growth. To encourage fast growth, add plenty of finished compost before planting and again as a side-dressing a week or so after seedlings appear or transplants are planted. Give supplemental feedings of compost tea every few weeks until harvest.
Aphids can be a problem. Wash off minor infestations before the plants are eaten. If there is a heavy population grow nasturtiums near the lettuce, or use an organic solution.
Harvesting: 60 days to maturity. May to October
Lettuce can grow from seed to salad in about one month in many regions, and only a little longer in others. It takes around 60 days to maturity. Harvest as soon as they are big enough for the salad bowl. The harvest is over when a central stem starts to form. This is the signal that the plant is getting ready to bolt and the leaves will be bitter. Harvest all lettuce in early morning for the maximum carotene and best taste and refrigerate immediately.
Avoid following radicchio, endive, escarole or artichoke.
Everything, but especially carrot, garlic, onion, and radish.
There are many types of lettuce and many varieties within the basic types. These described below are only some of the more common types
Also known as the Iceberg lettuce, this is a very popular lettuce worldwide. It has a white, crisp densely packed heart. It should be light green and have a springy firm feel. A great lettuce if you plan to use the whole lettuce all at once. The leaves soon lose their crispness in the fridge.
A delicious lettuce with a tender buttery taste. It has an open loose leaf head and compact, crisp hearts. This popular lettuce is no 'supermarket' variety, but rather a proper lettuce with an exquisite flavour unavailable from anywhere but from your own vegetable patch.
This hardy lettuce, originating from the Mediterranean island of Cos, also known as Romaine lettuce, has tall light green leaves with pointed tips, slightly savoyed leaves and a pronounced ribbed structure. The cos lettuce should have a lovely crunchy texture and a light sweet flavour. It is the lettuce of choice for Caesar salads.
- Loose Leaf
Also known as 'leaf' or 'Continental' lettuce, these lettuces do not form heads, rather a mass of loose leafs which can be picked individually as required. They are represented by a great variety of leaves, thick leaves, thin leaves, flat or curled, red or green. The foliage of the leaf lettuce can be an attractive addition to the vegetable garden and the flavour very pleasant.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 2,250 Seeds Common Name Romaine, Cos, Semi-Cos
Family Asteraceae Genus Lactuca Species sativa var longifolia Cultivar Little Gem Hardiness Hardy Annual Germination 7 to 14 days at 4 to 16°C (40 to 60°F) germination rates decline above 20°C (68°F) Notes Little Gem is deemed to be a Semi-Cos by some suppliers