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Thinning seedlings: what, why, and how

So, you've started your very own Planty Garden. It's all set up, your seeds are sown, and you're checking day and night to see if anything's come up.

Then one day, there they are:
Beautiful, tiny plants. Your first seedlings.

And every day you watch them grow.

Until you hear a ping in your pocket. And the app says: "Now it's time to thin them out. Ready?"

You keep reading: "Leave the biggest seedling in each bunch: Cut away the rest. Use scissors and show no mercy."

And then? You freak out:
Foto van @daddytalks: "This morning our first massacre in the rucula zone."
Photo by @daddytalks "This morning our first massacre in the arugola zone"

Sound familiar?

We all have mixed feelings about decapitating those sweet little plants.

But, we have to. 

What is thinning out exactly?

You never know in advance if every seed will grow into a plant. Some seeds just don't feel like it. So, you always sow a few extra in each hole.

But if they all come up, you have to thin them out. It just means removing extra plants.

Here, I'll give you an example:


You can fit 9 rucola in a square patch. All 9 will get enough nutrients and have room to grow.

When you sow them, you poke 9 holes and toss 2-4 seeds into each hole. Just to be on the safe side.
Lots of seedling bunches
If they all sprout, you'll get several plants in each hole. It's too crowded. So, you leave the best and remove the rest. You end up with 9 plants:
Ahh, that's better

Why do you have to thin them out?

A plant needs enough room to grow. If you leave all the seedlings, they'll start competing with each other for light and nutrients.

The result? None of them do well.

How do you thin them out?

It's best to use scissors: cut away the extra seedlings just above the soil mix.
Cut off the tops, don't pull them up
By cutting off the tops of extra seedlings - instead of pulling them up like weeds - you won't damage the remaining plants' tender roots.

"But Jelle, the app says that thinning out isn't necessary for some plants."

That's right.

Those are mostly vegetables with pickable leaves. Like purslane, spinach, and Asian salad mix. So, it doesn't matter if you leave a few plants per hole: you can harvest everything later on.
All the purslane seedlings can stay put
But if you leave 2 carrots, beets, or radishes in one hole, they won't grow. Or you'll get something funky:
Can't really untangle this pair of carrots
These types of vegetables have long, wide roots. It's extra important to thin them out. 

Carrots can be especially tricky: 
Is there 1 plant here or 2? Or 3?
So, make sure you stay on your game when you thin out your plants.

How do you know which growing things are seedlings?

Sometimes it can be tough to spot seedlings. Maybe it's a tiny weed? Also, most seedlings' first leaves look different than the leaves that come in later.

But if you sow our seeds and use our MM-Mix, you don't have to worry about that. The app shows what you're looking for every step of the way. 
The Planty Gardening app works with all of our seeds
If you use other seeds, it's not the end of the world when it comes to thinning. If you sowed them the right distance apart, you should be able to tell which are vegetables.

If something plant-like appears in a different spot, then it's either a random weed - and you won't see many of those - or you're just a sloppy sower 😉

In a nutshell

Thinning out just means removing extra seedlings. It's simple:
  • follow the app's advice
  • keep 1 seedling in each hole that you sowed
  • use scissors to cut away the extras
  • don't think about it: just do it 😅
Oh, and another tip: you can eat* your discarded seedlings. They're delicious on a cheese sandwich.

* Exceptions: the seedlings of tomato, cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, and sunflower are not edible.

Good luck and show no mercy!

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