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How to Thin Seedlings

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Thinning seedlings is a necessary part of gardening if you want happy, healthy plants; who wouldn't? Basically thinning seedlings is getting rid of some in order for others to thrive. Thinning your seedlings may seem like a daunting task, you've planted seeds, nurtured them, and watched them grow, and now you have to thin them out. We have come up with a few tips to help you navigate the task at hand.

Select the Strongest Seedlings

When it comes to deciding what seedling to keep and which to thin you want to look for the strongest, healthiest and most compact seedlings, these are the ones you want to keep. You want to have one remaining seedling per pot. If some of the seedlings look equally healthy, thin at random, but remember your end goal is one per pot. If you are thinning plants growing in the garden you want to thin following the spacing directions located on your seed packet so that plants have adequate room to grow.

Keep in mind that the tallest seedling is not necessarily the healthiest. Seedlings will grow tall and weak (known as "leggy" in the gardening world) if they do not receive enough light. These seedlings will typically be leaning over and have very long stems. Avoid selecting these seedlings for keeping if possible.

How to Thin Seedlings

Once you have determined which seedlings you are going to keep, you simply cut out the rest. We recommend using a small pair of snips or scissors to do the job. Normal garden shears are far too large for the task and you will risk damaging the seedlings that you wish to keep.  Simply cut out seedlings where the stem meets the soil.  Do not pull seedling out of the pot, you risk damaging the delicate roots of the seedling that you are keeping. 


"Always disinfect your snips/scissors before use. You want to eliminate any chance of contaminating entering the soil and possibly harming your seedlings."


Follow these tips, and you'll be thinning seedlings like a pro in no time!

Good Luck, Have Fun and Get Gardening!

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