Seeds are much cheaper than buying seedlings for your garden, but starting veggies from seeds takes a little extra work. You will most likely need to thin out the plants once they start to sprout so you get the correct spacing for your plants. This is especially true for veggies with small seeds, such as lettuce and carrots. It is difficult to control the placement of the seeds, so you might end up with some too close together. Here are tips for handling the thinning of your garden plants.
When to Thin
It’s best to thin as the seedlings start to emerge from the ground. Once you can see the sprouts, you can tell how many plants you need to thin. By pulling the extra plants early, you give the remaining plants enough room to grow properly. If you wait too long, the plants become crowded and won’t grow as well.
The next thing you need to know is how much space to leave between plants. The specific spacing varies based on what you’re growing. Lettuce can be fairly close together, for example, but watermelons need a lot more space between the plants. Check the seed packet to determine the ideal spacing for the specific vegetables you’re growing. Use this as a guide to determine how many plants to thin and where you should thin from. If the plant needs 6 inches, for example, pick one plant to keep. Measure about 6 inches to determine the next plant to keep. Thin any seedlings that grew between those two keeper plants.
Choosing Seedlings to Pull
Spacing is just one way to decide which seedlings to keep and which to pull. You want to leave the strongest, healthiest plants behind to grow so they can thrive. Pull any small or weak-looking plants first. If you still need to pull more, choose the plants the look the least healthy while keeping in mind the spacing.
You’re ready to start pulling, but how do you actually get rid of the plants you don’t want to keep? If you’re careful, you can gently pull the plants out of the ground. This method works best if the seedlings are spaced far enough apart. If they are very close, you might disturb the roots or pull up extra plants that you didn’t want to remove. You can also snip the plants off at the ground level using scissors. This won’t disturb any of the roots. For plants close together, such as lettuce, another option is to run a rake across the area. The tines on the rake will pull up some of the lettuce while leaving the rest to grow.
Don’t leave the thinned plants lying in the garden. The old plant debris can attract pests or cause disease. Remove the tiny plants from the garden. You can toss them in a compost pile or in the trash. You can also eat some thinned plants. For example, you can use tiny lettuce leaves or little carrots that you pull.