Thinning Seedlings

I think that one of the least favorite parts of seed starting for everyone is the process of thinning seedlings. I hate it too! For that reason, I try very hard to only plant one seed per pot. I even plant extra pots “just in case” so that I don’t have to thin or transplant lots of seedlings. Of course, unless you are perfectly dexterous every time with tiny seeds, there are times when you end up with more seeds than you want in one spot.

If you have a couple seedlings in one pot, but on opposite sides, it isn’t the end of the world. They will usually be easy to divide later on if you want to. The hard part is when you have more than one seedling growing from essentially the same spot, like you can see here. When that happens, it is usually best and easier to just snip the two weaker seedlings off right at the soil level.

I KNOW that it is so tempting to just let them be. If you do that, you are ultimately compromising the ability of each individual plant to grow. If you just can’t bear to kill the other seedlings, then you can try to divide and transplant them. The key to this is to do it at this stage, when the seedlings are just starting to put on their first set of true leaves. They have large enough roots to handle it, but not so large that you will cause major damage when you separate the seedlings.

After thinning and a little bit of transplanting this afternoon, I have over 150 tomato seedlings growing in my office! Most of them are the heirlooms we’re going to try out this year, and I can already see differences in plant vigor as the seeds germinate.

So…I know it is hard, but if you have started seeds already, make sure you thin or transplant your extra seedlings soon! Can you believe that in only 2 weeks I will start moving these little guys outside to harden off?

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on April 9, 2014, in Planting Time, Techniques to Try and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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