Barely a month after sowing, the young shoots are already in full development, proudly erect, forming well bushy rows… too bushy by the way. Gardeners who still lack experience are the most frequently confronted with this task to which they devote a lot of time. Thinning seedlings can indeed be essential to avoid disappointment and let’s find out why. Let’s also see when to do it and how to go about it because it is a delicate task. Finally, let’s find out if it is possible to avoid this step.
Thinning of seedlings: what is the use?
Sowing seeds, whether in the pleasure garden or in the vegetable garden, is a very good solution to take advantage of a large selection of varieties at lower cost. But the novice gardener generally tends to squeeze your seeds too tight or at distribute them badly. This is particularly the case when he sows very small seeds. However, having a heavy hand is counter productive because the seedlings quickly run out of space to develop properly. The result is clear: the plants remain stunted, they are weakened and end up breaking.
Thinning, which therefore consists of remove excess seedlings, allows you to give more space to those you want to keep, so that they can gain strength and develop better. The young shoots are no longer clumped together and can thus breathe. In addition, since there is less competition, they have enough nutrients essential for their growth and survival, as well as water and light. Promote their development guarantees better harvests or lusher beds.
Thinning seedlings: when?
After sowing, the emergence of young shoots takes a few days to a few weeks. It all depends on several factors, namely the weather conditions but also the species and varieties. Thinning is done only when the seedlings count 3 or 4 sheets. No need to wait any longer, it brings no benefit.
It is important to thin the seedlings when the weather is not too hot. Ideally, experienced gardeners schedule this fundamental task either very early in the morning, or – even better – at the end of the day because the sunshine is moderate.
Thinning seedlings: knowing how to select seedlings
Thinning does not present any particular difficulties. On the other hand, it is necessary to observe the seedlings well before operating. The goal is to eliminate the most frailthose whose stems are soft, whose leaves are yellow or damaged. The selection must be made without scruple in order to keep only the most beautiful plants.
When performing this sorting, it is important that the gardener projects himself in time and imagines his vegetable or flowering plants once developed. As adults, they should be sufficiently spaced each other so as not to choke. Of course, the place to be reserved for each depends on the variety.
It is recommended to leave an interval equivalent to approximately 50% of adult plant heightwhich represents more or less an average of 6 cm between two carrot plants, 9 cm for leeks, 45 cm for cabbage. With regard to flowering plants, the same principle applies. Usually the distances to respect between the plants and between the rows are indicated on the packets of seeds. For example, Cosmos plants are spaced 40 to 60 cm apart depending on the variety grown. Each vegetable or each flower has a thinning distance own. It should be respected.
All the supernumerary seedlings removed during thinning can be integrated into the compost, used as mulch, or even why not transplanted to another place in the garden provided, again, that they are spaced sufficiently apart. This gives them a second chance…
And in the case of salads, for example, they can simply be tasted the same day since it is about young plants extremely tender, as is the case with Doucette (mâche). A pure delight! Spinach, beets, radishes, carrots are also consumable when very young and you should not deprive yourself of them because they are absolutely incomparable. In order not to lose them, it is quite possible to carry out the thinning in two stages, two or three weeks apart, in order to taste all the young shoots that we have decided to “unmarry”. .
Thinning seedlings: how to proceed?
Not very complicated to carry out, the thinning of the seedlings must however be carried out with a certain rigueur so as not to spoil the young shoots that you want to leave in the ground. The different steps to follow are as follows.
- Water the seedbeds, vegetable plots or frames sufficiently and in fine rain.
- Wait a good thirty minutes so that the water penetrates well.
- Grasp between two fingers or with tweezers the base of each shoot to be removed and pull it out.
- Take advantage of thinning to suppress weeds.
- Carry out a new watering in fine rain, moderate this time.
Some gardeners who are a little in a hurry thin out their seedlings with scissors… This is not the best solution because this process hardly spares the seedlings that you want to keep! This method should be avoided if you are new to gardening.
The new shoots from seedlings that have just been pulled out and which are admittedly a little stunted but very green can be transplanted to another place in the garden. It must be done in stride so that they do not dry out. Once transplanting is complete, care is taken to water them copiously but only with a watering can.
Thinning seedlings: how to avoid this chore?
If many seeds of different species have been sown, thinning can be time consuming. It is therefore better to anticipate in order to be exempted from it. It is therefore at the time of sowing that certain precautions must be taken.
Seeded ribbon and seed disc
Pour seed a small area of the gardenand that one begins the activity of gardening, one can opt (at least the first year) for seed tape. Whether you want to grow vegetables or flowers, it doesn’t matter, the principle is always the same: the seeds are placed on a ribbon made up of thin layers of biodegradable fibers, and the interval between the seeds is perfectly respected since it account is taken of the species and variety. This type of seed tape is cut with scissors to the desired length.
There are also pre-sown discs. But whether it is a seed tape or a seed disc, they are sold ready to be placed. No need to clarify!
If we are lucky enough to have a large vegetable garden, you can invest in a precision seeder. This device is perfect for sowing seeds of very small size as well as medium size. He avoid waste. Hand spreader, mini seeder, syringe seeder are other very useful sowing aids since they allow you not to have to thin your beds.
Sand or coffee grounds for small seeds
The very fine seedsimpossible to distribute well by hand, can simply be mixed with sand, which greatly facilitates sowing and, in this way, one can really limit the density of sowing. In the absence of sand, it is quite wise to resort to very dry coffee grounds to which the seeds to be sown are mixed. Once in the ground, it will gradually release nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are very useful in helping the young shoots to grow.
Combine seeds of different species
This is another solution for avoid thinning. It works well provided you opt for vegetables that reach maturity at staggered times, as is the case, for example, with radish and carrots. When the former are ready to harvest, the latter just starting to emerge have enough room to develop properly without the need for thinning.