The Q&A Archives: Thinning Vegetable Seedlings

Question: I started various seeds indoors in small containers. I put 3 or 4 seeds in each container, thinking they wouldn't all come up. Now it looks like all the plants are coming up and I have too many in each one. How do I separate them for transplanting without destroying them? Should I worry about it at all or should I pinch-off all but one in each container?

Answer: Congratulations on your 100 per-cent germination success! If you're very careful, you can prick the seedlings out with a fork and place them each in a pot of their own. Handle the plants by the leaves, not the stems. If you crush a leaf, a new one will grow. If you crush the stem, the plant will die. If you'd rather not risk injuring your seedlings, you can take a pair of scissors and snip off all but the healthiest looking seedling. Snip the stem just above the soil and the roots will die out ina few days. The remaining seedling will grow much faster without competition from other plants.

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