How To Thin Out Plants In Your Garden |

Planting Seeds

A lot of individuals think that it is really difficult to start your plants from seeds, but it really is quite easy. In my post Planting Seeds Has Never Been So Easy, I go into detail on how easy this really is!

Once you plant your seeds however, your seedlings might look something like this.

How To Thin Out Plants In Your Garden |

A critical mistake that many new gardeners make is to leave their seedling like this rather then thinning them out.  It is so important to thin your plants out and let me tell you why. 

Why You Should Thin Your Plants Out

So what exactly do I mean by thinning out and why is it so important?  Lets dive into this.  Thinning out means just that.  You remove plants, or thin them out so that there are fewer plants.

Look at the picture below.  In this picture you can see the square at the bottom of the picture has a lot less plants, this square has been thinned out.

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Thinning out your plants is very important.  Take a look again at the photo above.  

If you leave the plants as is (square at top), the plants all fight for the nutrients.  Each plant gets a little nutrients but not enough to thrive on and this creates a weak and unhealthy plant.

Now in the square below that square at the top, you can see that the plants have been thinned out.  When you thin out the plants, the individual plants can get all the necessary nutrients because there are less plants fighting for the nutrients.  This in return creates a strong and healthy plant!

Could You Be Thinning Seedlings Wrong?

Many people make a critical error when thinning their seedlings.

Lets take a look at a few pictures.  In this picture below, you can see that I am thinning the seedlings by pulling out the small plant.

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As you can see in the picture below, I have gotten the roots out so that the plants will no longer continue to grow.  But here is where many go wrong.

When you pull the individual plants out by the roots, you are also messing with the root system in the soil and disturbing the roots of the plant you are wanting to save.

This can make the plant that you are leaving in the garden weak and can create a unhealthy environment for the plant.

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The Proper Way To Thin A Plant

The proper way to thin a plant is actually very simple.  Simply get a pair of scissors and at the very base of the seedling (right next to the soil), clip the seedling and remove.  

The seedling will no longer grow.  By doing this, you are leaving the root system undisturbed and this will help in creating the healthy plant you desire.

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How Much Space To Leave In Between Plants

Once you are complete, the seedlings will look like the picture below.  I have allowed  about an inch between each plant.  Depending on the plant you are growing, this may vary.  Be sure to look at the back of the seed packet to see what it says to thin your seedling out to.

I will most likely have to thin this out one more time as the seedlings continues to grow.  In the past I have thinned this lettuce out to 4 plants per one square foot.

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What Your Garden Should Look Like After You Thin The Seedlings

Here is what your garden should look like after the seedlings are all thinned out.  Quite a difference for sure.  By doing this, you are creating and environment for your plants to thrive in.

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Update {1 Month After Planting From Seed}

Just thought I would share what my garden looks like at about 3 weeks after I took these photos in this post.

It AMAZES me how quickly lettuce grows and how truly easy it is to grow it.


You can clearly see that thinning the seeds really helped in creating a healthy plant.  

Take the extra time to thin your seeds.  Its worth it!


Share Your Thoughts 

So lets hear it?  Do you thin your seedling out?


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13 Responses to How To Thin Seedlings For A Healthier Plant

  1. Andrea says:

    My grandma had a system where many plants were started inside in a small block of soil, then separated as baby seedlings and planted in separate small pots inside, then transferred to the garden later. Every seedling could grow into a full plant that way. Only a few kinds of plants were planted straight into the garden.

  2. Halle Cottis says:

    Interesting Andrea. I usually do not plant seeds this way, I usually only plant what I need. So for 4 plants, I might plant 12 seeds (3 per plant). I did it this way to complete this post because I know many out there still spread the seeds right in the soil and thin them out. 1 packet of lettuce seeds can last years, if done right.

  3. Corinne says:

    So helpful. Thank you! I am excited about your new site. Congratulations!

  4. Sarah Traub says:

    In actually dig up a clump of plants rinse the roots heavily with water then gently separate and replant. This is my first year of planting a garden but this has worked great my plants are super healthy.

  5. Marc Stoudmann says:

    Thanks, very useful – I sowed my seeds yesterday, so definitely something to look out for in the coming days.

  6. abbs says:

    Hi Thanks for that information,
    I have just started planting veggies and my soil is not so good,
    it is difficult to space the seeds and so i end up with a mass of them clumped together
    and I have been pulling them out as you said but now I will try the cutting method
    you post has been very helpful
    thanks you

  7. Tina Gionet says:

    Good article Halle, was wondering how to do this without disturbing the roots. Glad for your new site as well! Keep up the good work, you are so inspiring! T

  8. rubyroxs says:

    Thank you for this easy step by step to about thinning.  I always wondered how to do it correctly! and the pictures helped as well.  I am growing lettuce and this will help.  

    Thank you,

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