Do you remember the newspaper seedling pots I made earlier this year? Well, against all odds, my seedlings are thriving in those pots and now they need to be thinned out. This post is testimony to the fact that you don't have to invest in lots of fancy gear to grow your own from seed. If you have a small garden as I do, you can save so much money by growing flowers and veg from seed. Today, I'm going to be thinning out seedlings and potting them on.
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Thinning out seedlings
Here are the seedlings which I planted a few weeks back. I planted four types of seeds with varying success.
The first seeds I planted were nasturtiums. I planted three seeds in each pot. So far, only four of those seeds have germinated and grown into strong and healthy plants. That's not so bad since I have four containers for the front porch and that's where each of these four plants will be heading. These nasturtiums are climbers and all I need to do with these today is to provide some support so that they don't break.
I want the supports to be long enough to hold the nasturtiums until it's time to plant them out into the summer containers. Luckily, I've saved some wooden plant supports from climbers I've bought in the past.
I'm just going to pop two or three of these sticks into the soil around the plants and tie them together at the top. You could also use sticks or twigs from the garden as supports.
Then I'm just tying the stems of the nasturtiums loosely to the supports. I'm using some wire and paper wraps to tie in the plants, but you can also buy garden ties that are specially made for tying in plants.
That's about it for the nasturtiums. I'm not going to give them any fertilizer since nasturtiums prefer poorer soil. When I plant them in my summer containers, I will fertilize the whole pot according to the needs of the rest of the plants.
Next to be sown were the Cleome. I haven't sown all of these yet. I've kept some back to sow directly into the ground once there is no more chance of frost. Only three have germinated so far so I hope I will have more luck by sowing them directly into the garden once it's warm enough.
Since one of the seeds has germinated in each of my newspaper pots, I'm not going to do anything with these today apart from water them. The seedlings are tiny and I can't imagine how they are going to grow into the beautiful tall flowers I've seen in other people's gardens – I suppose only time will tell and I will just have to be patient.
Gardening is all about patience and sitting it out for the long haul. Maybe that's why I haven't started plants from seeds before - I'm far too impatient!
This year, I thought I'd have a go at sowing snapdragons too! I've seen other people use them as fillers in the garden or at the front of flower beds. I was told that I would have to plant these under grow lights but I wanted to see how they would cope without all that rigmarole! I don't have any grow lights, neither do I own a greenhouse. I would love to get one at some point but I'm not sure we have the space for one in the garden – it would have to be quite small!
My makeshift seed starter tray is the base of an old hamster cage. I have some sheets of glass, saved from a glass cabinet and that's what I use to cover the seeds until they germinate.
Natural mould prevention
After a few weeks, I started to see some white mould growing on the soil at the top of the pots. I'm not a fan of using chemicals in my garden so wanted to see if I could get rid of the mould naturally.
Google to the rescue! I sprinkled cinnamon over the soil in each pot and the mould is completely gone. Wow! You never know if these natural remedies are going to work, sometimes it's a bit hit and miss.
This is one tip I'm going to remember, it worked so quickly and now my seedlings have been saved! I suppose I should be that surprised really since I know that Cinnamon has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. I just didn't think it would work as quickly as it did.
Back to the snapdragons. I've made the mistake of sowing too many seeds into my newspaper pots. If I start thinning out seedlings now, I won't have many plants left. I've decided what I'm going to do instead is to try to separate the seedlings whilst they are still quite small and pot them on into their own little pots.
What is 'Thinning out'?
Thinning out means removing most of the seedlings in the pot and leaving just one strong plant. Thinning out ensures that the one remaining seedling has plenty of space for its roots to expand. The roots need space so that they can transport all of the nutrients the plants need, to the green shoots growing above the soil.
Usually, you are only supposed to plant two or three seeds in a pot which means you still have more than enough plants after thinning them out.
Thinning out seedlings
To thin the plants, all you need to do is cut most of the plants down to soil level and leave just one strong plant to grow on. The other plants won't continue to grow once they have been cut down. My dad used to tell me that cutting was better than pulling out the weaker seedlings because with pulling there is a chance that the roots will be intermingled. If you pull a plant it might also pull up the one you want to keep.
How big should seedlings be before thinning out?
The usual time to start thinning out seedlings is once they have grown at least two true leaves. True leaves are the ones that grow after the initial seedling leaves. They look quite different to the seedling leaves.
What happens if you don't thin out seedlings?
Without thinning out, seedlings will compete with each other for space and nutrients. You may get lots of plants but they will probably all be small and have stunted growth.
How to transplant seedlings safely
What if you don't want to just waste all of those lovely seedlings though? I've heard that transplanting seedlings can be a tricky business. Despite this, I'm going to have a go at transplanting some of my seedlings into separate newspaper seedling pots today.
Can you replant seedlings?
Some veggies don't like to have their roots disturbed after planting. If you try to transplant these the root veg will usually 'fork'. That means that the root will split in two as it's growing. That's why you should only sow carrots directly into the ground and space them far enough apart from the beginning.
In my case, I've made a newbie mistake and sprinkled most of my snapdragon seeds into only two pots. That's why I'm going to risk separating the seedlings now whilst they are small instead of thinning them out when they grow bigger.
How to handle seedlings
If there's one thing I've learned from my Dad it's how to handle seedlings. He told me that you always have to handle them by the leaves or the roots. The stem of the seedlings are very delicate and can be easily bruised or crushed. I've seen some people use tweezers to hold the seedlings by the leaves. I tried that and couldn't get to grips with it. I was never sure if I was putting too much pressure on the leaves. I ended up using my fingers to hold the leaves instead and that has worked out quite well.
I'm not sure that separating the seedlings instead of thinning them is going to work but either way, I'll let you know how they turn out.
Next, I decided to sow some Marigolds. These were the first to germinate and have come on quite well placed in a sunny spot. They have already grown two sets of 'true' leaves and the stems look very strong.
Thinning out seedlings - Marigolds
I'm going to have a go at separating these too and will do that in the same way as I did the snapdragons. These marigolds are going to be easier to handle because the small plants are already quite sturdy.
I'm going to grab a cup of tea and then I'll get on with thinning out my marigold seedlings.
Thanks for dropping by the blog today. I hope you learned a little more about sustainable gardening and I wish you luck on your journey!
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