A Little off the Top

A friend of mine recently asked me a question about when it was best to start thinning vegetable seedlings; and, I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea. I really hadn’t put much thought into my burgeoning seedlings, which are now outgrowing their terrarium-esque container (We had to move the kiwi vines to a new spot-they were getting just a tad too tall). So, I’ve done a little bit of research, and am here to share what I’ve learned about the simple, yet heart-wrenching, process of thinning one’s plants.

First, here are a few reasons why thinning your plot is better for you and the plants.

1. Less plants in one area allows greater root growth for the plants you leave in the ground.

2. More nutrients and water is allotted per plant, meaning a healthier, more bountiful crop.

3. Several early diseases can be prevented because of greater air circulation around your seedlings (just like us, a crowded plant is an unhappy plant).

Now, onto the dreaded task of parting with a few of your young plants…

1. Make sure the plants you plan on thinning have two to three fully formed leaves and are between two and three inches tall-Less than two (leaves or inches), and the plants aren’t ready to be thinned.

2. Before you pull anything, water the soil in which your seeds are planted so that the ground is moist, but not soaked-this will make the process easier on you and the plants.

3. Thin your seedlings in the evening to allow the remaining plants time to recover before being put into direct sunlight.

4. Once you’ve accomplished the first three steps, it’s time to start thinning. For most fruit-bearing plants, gently pulling the seedlings from the dirt is the best technique (feel free to use a spoon to dig ’em out and replant these little guys somewhere else if you have room. Or, you could dice them up and leave them outside for the local critters to munch on-no sense letting a good plant go entirely to waste!)

5. For root vegetables like carrots, onions, and radishes, pulling the plants all haphazard like can play havoc on the roots (read: the edible part) of the plants left behind. To combat this, take a pair of scissors and snip off the plants at the soil level. This will discourage further growth, granting more space for the rest of your garden.

And that’s how it’s done! Now, a moment of silence for all of the seedlings that have been thinned…

*Deep breath* Well! Since it’s night time in my neck of the woods, I’m going to go do a little trimming in my own garden patch.
Good luck with your  thinning ventures, and happy gardening!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Delightful post! Love that you’ve done your research and are now passing your new found knowledge on to others. Especially enjoyed your moment of silence… refreshing.


  2. Posted by Katie on March 25, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for doing the research for me! I have been looking at my tomato sprouts thinking, “hm, maybe I can just let them go and they will be ok and I will have even more tomatoes!” I should probably face the fact that I am going to lose some.


    • You’re quite welcome! Thank you for providing the inspiration to do said research!
      It’s definitely been tough pulling out my superfluous kiwis (I haven’t had the heart to thin our jalapeños or leeks yet)…but you just have to keep telling yourself that it’s what’s best for the plants. However, if you can transplant your extra tomatoes somewhere else, everyone would be happy!


  3. I like that moment of breath for all the thinned seedlings. Brings a smile to my face and those seedlings deserve a moment for sure. It is so hard to thin out seedlings but a necessary evil sometimes. Great advice on the scissors. !


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