Seed starting is in full swing here! I always sow extra seeds to ensure I have enough to germinate. If I’m lucky, I will all the plants I need plus some extras to share with friends and family. I like to start seeds in 4-inch pots with three or four seeds spaced apart in each pot. If most of the seeds germinate, I run into the issue of having to thin seedlings. Thinning so hard for me and I’ve heard that is also heart-wrenching for many of you. After nursing my seedlings for weeks, I simply can’t choose to save some and not others. So instead of snipping unwanted seedlings with shears, I choose to transplant healthy seedlings to individual pots.
Even though thinning tugs on my heart-strings, it is essential for healthy seedlings. Multiple plants growing in a small space doesn’t allow each plant proper space to grow. Plus crowding reduces air circulation and forces plants to compete for critical nutrients and water.
So how do you know when it’s time to thin your seedlings?
Seedlings can be thinned when you see the first set of true leaves. Seedlings develop true leaves at different rates, so check daily to see when they appear. Most plants will be about 2-3 inches tall when true leaves appear.
I started Chianti Hybrid Sunflower seeds on 19-Feb-2018. The seeds sprouted quickly and popped through the soil in just 3 days! Their first true leaves appeared in about two weeks. For more on recognizing true leaves, check out my previous post.
I prefer to thin seedlings by simply pulling out the extras. I water each pot liberally on the morning of ‘thinning day’ to help the fragile roots ease out of the soil. Sometimes the roots are entangled with neighboring seedlings, so I work slowly and meticulously to separate the roots without damaging them. However, if any seedlings break in the process (and some will!), don’t fret…..simply save them to eat in a salad or on a sandwich later.
Let me know if you have any questions about thinning your seedlings!