Regardless of the method used, sowing too many seeds is almost inevitable. During germination, we often find that the emerging seedlings are tightly packed and do not have enough room for their foliage to develop properly. They are then likely to choke, because the shared resources are insufficient. The simple solution consists of thinning them.

If you have accidentally sown too many seeds, you end up with an over packed area where the plants will not grow properly. Thinning seedlings is a must and is not a procedure reserved for experienced gardeners only. You just need some basic knowledge in gardening to succeed.

Why thin seedlings?

Young plants need light and air to start off well and for their growth. If you want a good crop in terms of both quality and quantity, it is essential for the plants not to be too tightly pressed against each other. Indeed, the nutrients in the soil will not be enough for the development of each seedling. This is why it is recommended to follow proper spacing instructions, and adapt them to each type of species in accordance with their specific needs. At about 2 inches (5 cm) high, the seedlings’ leaves touch each other and are pressed against each other. At this time, excess plants must be removed. Once the plants have emerged, regular weeding will prevent weeds from stifling them.

The different steps for thinning seedlings

Only seedlings in the ground need to be thinned because if you sow in pots or trays, transplanting them correctly automatically limits the number of plants in the available space. Wait three to four weeks after sowing to proceed to thinning. The operation consists of gently removing excess plants by hand, so essentially the less vigorous ones, in such a manner that the earth does not move too much and that the other plants are not destabilized.

Those that remain must then be spaced out about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) to continue their proper development so that they can provide a good harvest. To do this, use a suitable tool such as hoe, especially if you have sown over a wide area. Above all, after thinning, be sure to sprinkle with water, an essential step to help the earth to level off again, sealing any holes or air pockets around the remaining seedlings. Thus refreshed, they will grow better and produce a good harvest.

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Published in Seedlings by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011