← GO BACK TO GROW GUIDES



If, like most gardeners, you want to make sure to have good, full rows of plants, you will probably want to thin at least some of your vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

What is "thinning"?

You prepare for thinning by planting seeds more densely (meaning closer together) than you actually want your plants to grow. After the plants emerge from the soil, let them grow for a little while (a week or two, for most crops), then pull up some of the plants such that the remaining plants (the biggest, healthiest looking ones) are approximately the distance apart recommended.

Why thin?

While you may think you don’t want to waste seeds, seeds are generally inexpensive. It’s much better to plant seeds thickly and need to thin the resulting plants than to plant seeds far apart and find that too few of them have germinated to give you the crop you want.

Seeds also must literally push their way out of the soil. If you plant them close together, they help each other with this sometimes very difficult task.

In some cases, the plants that you pull out while you’re thinning can be transplanted elsewhere if desired. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and their relatives fit in this category, as do a variety of other plants.

In other cases, the plants you pull out should just be added to the compost pile. Beets, carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, melons, and squash are among the plants that cannot be pulled out and planted elsewhere.

If you plant seeds densely, it is very important to make sure that you do thin the plants out. If you don’t, the plants will be too close together and will compete with each other for light, water, and nutrients. They will stay small and will not produce much of what you want (leaf, fruit, root, etc.).

A variation on thinning is the planting of plants in a small, dense seedbed. If, for example, you want to create warm growing conditions for basil seedlings, you can plant 50 or 100 seeds very close together (say, in a square 60 cm/24 in on a side), then cover them with a cold frame (see season extension techniques) or a floating row cover. When the plants are about 10 cm (4 in) tall, you can dig them all up and transplant them into rows so they are about 60 cm (24 in) apart. Once they’re that big, they can live without the extra heat.

Something similar is also commonly done for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, and related plants. For these plants, the purpose of the cover is not extra heat but protection from flea beetles (see pests). The flea beetles can eat the very small seedlings to death, but not the larger transplants.


 
Click here to view Planting & Spacing Cheat Sheet

 

Featured Blog Posts & Articles

View all
Why Won't My Root Veggies Grow?

Why Won't My Root Veggies Grow?

You’ve put in all the work, planted your root veggies with care and all season you’ve been eyeing their gorgeous leafy green tops and waited with a...
Seed Planting & Spacing Guide (printable)

Seed Planting & Spacing Guide (printable)

← GO BACK TO GROW GUIDES Here is a cheat sheet you can save to reference all of the planting and spacing specs for each of your seeds. Click on the...
38 Edible Flowers To Plant In Your Garden

38 Edible Flowers To Plant In Your Garden

Try growing these 38 edible flowers!  Not only will you help provide nectar for friendly pollinators in your garden, but you'll have fragrant, an...
Thinning your Seedlings

Thinning your Seedlings

For detailed plant spacing info please visit:  https://www.seedsnow.com/pages/grow-guide-table-of-contents   If, like most gardeners, you want to...
Coffee Grounds in the Garden

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

  Most vegetables tend to grow better in soil that falls near a neutral or near-neutral soil pH.  Some of your most favorite vegetables and herb...
Composting DO's and DON'Ts

Composting DO's and DON'Ts

Want to learn how to compost but confused as to what's appropriate to add and what's not?  Avoid adding items from the DON'T list, and start incor...
Pepper Scoville Heat Scale

Pepper Scoville Heat Scale

The Scoville scale is a measurement of the spicy heat of chili peppers.  Here is a heat index for all your hot peppers.
Kill Slugs with Beer 🍺

Kill Slugs with Beer 🍺

One of the simplest ways to get rid of slugs is to pour them a beer. Literally.  Make sure to not waste a yummy and delicious beer on these nast...
Popular Medicinal Herbs for Tea Making ☕

Popular Medicinal Herbs for Tea Making ☕

These 15 herbs will make a wonderful addition to your collection of "tea making supplies"!  Start curing your ailments naturally by growing ...

WIN FREE SEEDS

Enter for a chance to win free seeds!

BECOME A BRAND AMBASSADOR

Get paid weekly. Earn 25% COMMISSION per conversion!

Learn more