Ever had a hard time thinning or “culling” those extra seedlings that spring up from over-sowing or volunteering? It’s very common, in my garden, to find seedlings that are way too tightly packed together. Even though I know it is the absolute right thing to do, I can’t tell you how it pains me to remove these sweet little gems from my garden.
The other day I was working in a bed of lettuce that I had sown a few weeks prior – one that I sowed an over-abundance of seed in to ensure better germination rates. It was now time for the weeding and thinning to take place.
I like to let my seedlings grow a couple of sets of true leaves before starting the thinning process. Crickets and grasshoppers around our homestead love those first little, tender leaves and often chew them right off, leaving nothing but the stem and roots, essentially killing the plant, but they don’t tend to bother them once they get larger. So, rather than thin early and risk losing what’s left to these pests, I leave them to grow until they are large enough that the pests won’t bother them and then begin the thinning.
As I started the process of locating the lettuce among the weeds, to my happy surprise, I also noticed that there were a ton of carrot seedlings scattered about – no doubt from seeds that had dropped off and germinated earlier in the year from a carrot plant that I’d let go to seed for the purpose of seed saving…
If it were spring or summer, I’d thin any unwanted plants by gently pulling them up or cutting them off at the soil line and then toss them aside. But now that it’s fall, and the days are shorter, the weather is cooler, and the ground is staying saturated longer, I’ve decided to try and salvage as many seedlings as possible. I know it’s a risk with the carrots because transplanting can cause the roots to fork, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take to save these dainty little volunteers!
Digging up a clump of soil – plants, weeds, and all – I take care to pry the weeds away, and then I gently divide the seedlings…
Although I try not to disturb the roots, I find that in this cooler weather the plants don’t mind having their roots exposed as much.
Then, using a hand trowel, I pry open up a small area of soil, slip the transplants into place (evenly spacing them out as I go), and give them a good watering to get them off to a good start in their new homes.
What a joy it is to have a few more beds of lettuce and carrots growing, now. It makes me very happy!
So, if you’re like me, and you absolutely can’t bear to sacrifice all of those perfect, albeit not so well placed, vegetable seedlings that you’ve sown or have volunteered, and if it’s the right time of year, you might just want to consider taking the time to transplant them into another area of the garden where they’ll have adequate space for proper growth, ensuring happier, healthier plants. Knowing that you’ve save those little beauties, I’m sure you’ll feel a lot happier, too! 🙂