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thinning seeds in seed starter mix  RSS feed

 
Adam Buchler
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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This year I started a lot of seeds in seed trays with an organic seed starter mix. each tray holds 8 trays of 6 cells. In each individual cell I planted anywhere from 2 to 4 seeds. My question is about the actual thinning process. Can I actually "pluck" 4 seedlings out of one cell and transplant all four bareroot seedlings into my garden or am I supposed to pluck 3 to discard and then transplant the last one with seed start mix from the cell it grew in? Might sound like a dumb question but almost all of my seeds germinated and I have space so it seems like a waste to pluck 3 out of 4 and only transplant 1. I am worried that plucking them out with no "soil" around the roots will lead to a failed transplant.
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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What are you growing? I've had plenty of luck transplanting seedlings from overcrowded cells, but I usually "pot up" - I start with what you've described, usually in late February/early March. Then, around the beginning of April, once my seedlings have their first set of true leaves (the second set of leaves, which will look like the leaves you recognize from this particular plant), I'll wet them down well and separate them into individual pots or cells, and let them keep growing until it's time to plant them out (here in Maine, that's the middle-end of May). I've had good luck doing this with nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, etc) and brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc). I feel like tomatoes particularly need their own pot eventually to get nice and big and sturdy to get a start on the season. Cabbages and broccolis I've sometimes just separated out and planted into the ground with good results. Onions I plant all crowded, then just plant out - they do fine.

So I guess my answer is, just go for it! Give those transplants some compost tea when you transplant, and they'll probably do just fine! I don't think they need the soil you planted them in to survive...
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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I will say, though, that I don't "pluck" my seedlings (not that I think that's what you really meant!). Wet down the cells really well. Remove from the plastic, then gently break up the root ball, trying to extricate as much of the roots with each seedling as possible.
 
Adam Buchler
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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I have tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, pac choy, collards, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels, broccoli bob. So you're saying I can just water them down and pluck each individual seedling out bare roots and either transplant into a pot, individual cell, or right into my garden? And I can generally do this once they have their first true leaves(they already do)?
 
Adam Buchler
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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Jessica Gorton wrote:I will say, though, that I don't "pluck" my seedlings (not that I think that's what you really meant!). Wet down the cells really well. Remove from the plastic, then gently break up the root ball, trying to extricate as much of the roots with each seedling as possible.

Yes lol maybe pluck was too strong a word lol
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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I'm gonna say yes. Definitely it works it you're potting up; I'm pretty sure you'll be fine doing it directly into the garden. I know that I for one hate to waste any plant that I've started - I even hate thinning carrots (though I've started to get over that). Mine have done fine doing it this way!
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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I think Jessica has this one covered completely. I just wanted to add that 'pluck' is indeed far to strong a word unless you are looking to thin down to one plant and to hell with the rest. "Crumble" might be my would of choice, with the addition of the adjective 'gently'. I suppose I would say, 'Cautiously but confidently coax the soil from the cell into your hands and crumble the moist media gently to separate out the roots'.

You should have plenty of luck. If they all die you've done something wrong
 
Landon Sunrich
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Location: Western Washington
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And water them in thoroughly!
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Adam, if I understand correctly, you are asking if you can pull the tiny seedlings out by the roots and replant them. Likely not. That process is likely to be too traumatic for them to survive.

But, as others have been saying, if you pop out the plug of medium from the tray and carefully tease it apart so your tiny seedlings are separated from one another but keeping as much of the medium as possible with the roots of each seedling and plant those, you are much more likely to have success with your transplants.

Personally, I would be inclined to ignore the spacing requirements on the package and go ahead and plant each plug, with its multiple seedlings. Space the plugs according to the recommendations on the package, and let the seedlings sort it out amongst themselves as to which will and which will not make it.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5726
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I think your question has been answered but since I was transplanting cayenne peppers today for market I took a couple pictures. I am late transplanting them...they are larger than when I usually pot them.
I do all of my seed starts in wooden flats in a mix of leaf mold, compost and this year perlite instead of sand. I find having the soil somewhat dry...not soggy...helps to separate the roots for transplant...I use a kitchen fork to work a section of them up and then gently pull apart. if they are too wet they are heavy and the roots stick together more. Then I pot into soil that is already soaked....same in the garden, I tend to prewater the hole besides watering after setting the plant.
Sorry about the big pictures, I haven't understood how to make them smaller.
transplants 001.jpg
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transplants 002.jpg
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