The Q&A Archives: Crowed Vegetable And Herb Containers

Question: Hi, I planted some herbs (coriander,parsley,basil and chives)and lettuce in several 6" and 12" containers and I didn't know how many seeds I had to use per container (It's my first time), so I used from 15 to 20 in each one, they have all grown, but too close together and the containers are too small for all those plants, so I want to transplant them to bigger containers, but some of the plants are an inch tall already, I also have a shoestring budget and practically no garden, I just have a small deck where I was going to place the containers, but with all those plants I would probably need many containers. I really want to save them all!
First timer mistake! Please help!

Answer: The good news is that you had excellent success with your first attempt at starting seeds--not everyone does! Thinning plants is hard for many long-term gardeners, too, as we see something germinate and don't want to pull it out. However, you must thin or your plants won't thrive and may even die as they compete for light, water and nutrients. Crowded plants are also prone to various fungal diseases as they need good air circulation. The best way to thin is to snip the plants off at the base with a scissors. This doesn't disrupt nearby root systems. Since you want to transplant some of the seedlings, have your containers ready. Seedling roots are very sensitive and you don't want to let them sit out exposed to the air. Use a tiny implement (a plastic knife works great) and lift out a seedling, or a small section of dirt with several seedlings, depending on how close they are. Handle by the leaves, or be extremely careful if you must handle by the stem. If the stem is crushed, the plant can't survive, but if leaves are crushed, it can grow new ones. Plant the seedlings at the same level as they were growing--don't bury the stem deeper. Very gently water them so they don't become dislodged. Don't feel guilty if you have to thin out some of the seedlings. The remaining plants will greatly benefit! Good luck with your container garden!

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