One of the most under-performed chores in a vegetable garden is that of thinning crowded seedlings from seed crops.
And yet, this simple task is truly one of the most important of all. Especially when it comes to growing healthier plants, and producing a bigger harvest!
Why Thinning Seed Crops Is So Important
Thinning over-populated seedlings is vital to give remaining plants the space and nutrients they need.
When too many plants remain in the soil, they begin to compete with one another for valuable resources. Resources such as water, light, and the minerals and nutrients they need to develop.
But even more importantly, thinning gives remaining plants space to grow and mature to their full size. And that triggers not only a bigger harvest, but one that isn’t damaged from overcrowding.
Leaving too many plants in the ground can actually ruin crops such as carrots and radishes. As the vegetables develop underground, the crowded plants often grow together into a twisted, tangled mess.
One that is not only difficult to harvest, but often too damaged to use.
How and When To Thin Seed Crops
For many gardeners, thinning is simply too difficult on their psyche to perform. After spending so much time and energy getting seeds to germinate, they have trouble “killing” off something that is growing.
But as you can see from above, it is more than necessary!
Knowing when to thin young seedlings is the biggest key of all to success. Waiting too late makes the chore much more difficult, as the roots of the seedling start to grow together.
It is best to thin seed crops early, within a few days of sprouting. In loose soil, most tender seedlings can be easily popped from the earth.
For pulling seedlings, it is best to first lightly mist the soil. This allows for the removal of seedlings without disturbing the soil for the remaining plants.
In place of pulling, many prefer to use scissors or pruning snips to easily snip off seedlings selected for removal. This keeps the soil around remaining plants completely unharmed. (Product link : Pruning Snips)
Allowing Proper Spacing – Thinning Seed Crops
The final key to success when thinning seed crops is knowing how much spacing to leave between your plants. It will vary based on the crop, and whether the plants produce their harvest from the soil, or from the foliage of the plant.
The best way to find out this vital information is right on the back of your seed packet. Nearly all seed packets print spacing requirements on the back of the packaging.
If you happened to throw your packages out after planting, you can often find the information on the seed company’s website as well.
As a general rule of thumb, for most soil harvested crops like carrots and radishes, final spacing should be at 1 to 2 inches apart to allow enough space for good growth.
For corn, beans, etc., spacing is usually 4 to 6 inches between plants. (See: How To Grow Purple Green Beans)
So get out there in that garden and thin those seed crops! Your remaining plants will thank you with a bigger and better harvest.
This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.