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Thinning Vegetable Seedlings

Some vegetables and herbs like lettuce, carrots, collards, basil, and radish have very small seeds. It is difficult to plant these seeds so there is space between emerging plants for proper development. These plants will often need thinning after they mature. Thinning allows for adequate space for leaf and root development during the growing season.  Crowded vegetables will compete with each other for water, nutrients, and sunlight and never produce quality plants. Here are the tips for thinning seedlings:

  1. When plants are about 1 to 2 inches tall or have two sets of ‘true’ leaves’, it is time to thin out any crowded plants.
  2. Look up the proper spacing between plants and thin out appropriately.  Use the chart in the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide to determine spacing for specific fruits and vegetables.
  3. You may pull out seedlings with your hands or forceps to make space or use small scissors to cut off seedlings at the ground level.
Thinning Carrots

Using scissors to cut unwanted seedlings prevents you from dislodging the root system of plants that will be left to mature. Photo by Beth Bolles, Escambia County Extension UF/IFAS

It will initially look like you have lots of room in the garden but realize plants will quickly grow to utilize available space.  Some young seedlings like those of radish or lettuce can added to dishes and eaten as sprouts.

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