Transplanting, Instead of Culling, Makes Me a Much Happier Gardener

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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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! 🙂

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Leanne’s Golden Rule of Gardening

Nearly everyone is familiar with the Bible’s Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but what about a Gardening Golden Rule?  Is there any such thing?

I did a quick internet search, today, and quickly stumbled upon a few:  “leave the earth better than you found it”, “group plants together that have similar water needs”, and “never pass along a problem plant”.  These are all great gardening rules!

This morning, as I was starting some more seeds, indoors, I thought about my own Golden Rule of Gardening, which is this:  “All new varieties of seeds must be planted indoors, in individual seed pellets first, before ever attempting to plant them outdoors.”  (Okay, that’s really wordy, and I need to work on a condensed version)  So, why the rule?  Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seeded outdoors first and had no clue what I was looking at a week later when a mix of seedlings emerged from the soil.

So, one of my top priorities in gardening, now,  is to become familiar with what the different varieties of plants that I grow look like at the seedling stage.

The best way I’ve found to do that is by starting seeds indoors, in individual seed starting pellets.

(Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage seedlings)

My favorite medium for this is Jiffy Seed Starting Pellets.  I love the bottom-up watering system, which makes it much easier to control the moisture level and ensures that I won’t accidentally wash any small seeds or seedlings away.  By growing them indoors, I can check on the plants’ growth, daily, giving me a clear picture of seedling development.  (In the future, I’d like to take pictures at each stage and keep them in a photo album to create my own field guide for identifying all of  plants that I am growing on our property).

Once I am familiar with what the different seedlings look like, then I give myself permission to plant away outdoors!

Knowing what the seedlings look like helps me to judge whether the seeds I’ve planted have germinated,  eliminate any foreign weed seedlings that my be in the vicinity,  help identify plants to aid in the thinning out process, and also help identify any volunteers that may have sprung up in different places throughout the garden where wind  or animals may have planted them from the previous season.

That’s my Golden Rule of Gardening, and I’m sticking to it!

What about you?  Do you have a Gardening Golden Rule that you absolutely must abide by?