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Kitchen Gardening

Thinning Vegetable Seedlings

All of your seed planting efforts have come to fruition and you are finally witnessing your success as little seedlings pop through the soil and reach for the sky.

Photo by D.B.Blas under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

All of your seed planting efforts have come to fruition and you are finally witnessing your success as little seedlings pop through the soil and reach for the sky. They’re tiny things and still so fragile. You hover over them as if they were toddlers and with watering can in hand, whisper good morning as you gently shower them. And now…

I’m going to tell you to rip half of them out. I know – it just seems wrong. It goes against every plant-mother’s grain to perform such a hideous task. This is where you get to wear your grown-up gardener panties and do what you have to do. Gardening is not for the faint of heart, so get used to it.

In order for a gardener to yield the best and the biggest crops, the plants need to absorb as many valuable nutrients as possible and not have to fight for elbow room from its neighbor. Crops that compete with others just end up with less to offer the gardener both in the shape and size of the veggie as well as in yield.

I hope you kept the seed packets because they have some useful information on the back of them like just how closely each veggie should be grown. If not, break out a book or the internet and look each vegetable up.

The news isn’t bad for all of the seedlings. If you’re thinning lettuce or leafy crops, you can take a spoon or other handy object, gently lift out the guys that need to go, and transplant them elsewhere.

If you’re thinning out root crops such as radishes or carrots, however, they face a grim fate. That said, now isn’t the time to go all Rambo on me and start tearing at the offending seedlings like a wild thing. If you pull out seedlings all willy-nilly, you’re apt to damage the root of the guys next to him that drew the lucky card and get to stay.

The best way to thin seedlings (unless you’re transplanting some leafy guys) is to get a pair of small scissors and just cut off their heads. Well, in practice, you should aim closer to soil-level, but I was going for a visual here.

I know you’re looking for a way out; some planting loophole out of this dirty contract. Okay, I can toss you a nugget. If you’ve prepared your veggie bed exceptionally well and it’s loaded with lots of organic compost and composted manure, you can let the veggies get a little bit cozier.

Personally, I feel like I redeem myself for the havoc I wreak on my veggie seedlings when I throw them to my chicken babies.

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