The Garden Lady: The art of thinning gracefully

Hooray for the break in the heat and only days away from Fall 2012! I hope this wonderful weather has inspired you to get out and plant some Fall fruits and vegetables. For some gardens, carrot, spinach, lettuce, radish and many other seeds were planted a couple of weeks ago. I visited a garden this week whose seedlings, or sprouts, were in much need of a thinning.

Why and how do we thin out our crops? We thin out the weaker plants in order for the more established, or stronger plants, to grow into healthier produce. In every square foot, there are only so many nutrients available to be taken up by the plants. They are competing for those nutrients. I used to dislike thinning until I realized I could produce a better quality plant by thinning out the weak ones.

How do I thin seedlings? I look at a patch of seedlings and think about it in the square-foot planting method. For example, with carrots, I can plant 12 per square foot and that is plenty of space for them to thrive. As I look at the patch, I know I want to find the strongest 12 seedlings to keep in the soil, and the rest have got to go. I gently pull them out, as not to disturb a neighboring one I want to keep.

What do we do with the seedlings after we pull them out? You have a couple of options. One option is to throw them in a salad and enjoy. Option 2 is to put them in the compost pile. So thinning is a win for the plants and you get salad or compost in return.

Happy Gardening and Happy Fall 2012!


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