Thinning sucks. It sucks in hair and it sucks in gardening.
First of all, it's completely antithetical to the process of growing and nurturing things. You don't raise four kids, keep them warm and give them plenty of light and water only to pick just the strongest one to send to kindergarten. (Or do you? I don't know, I'm not a parent).
Second, it's nerve-wracking. Which is really the best seedling in the group? The tallest, the stoutest, the one with the most leaves? What if the one you pick has some hidden flaw that's not yet perceptible? What if you keep the evil twin and discard the one who would have taken care of you when you're old?
Nevertheless, crowded seedlings won't flourish, and since seed isn't perfect you always have to sow more than you plant to keep. So you really have no alternative but to thin. In fact, it's such an unbearable necessity there's even a tomato called Sophie's Choice. (I'm assuming, of course, the name is the work of a frustrated, green-thumbed movie buff and not just a seed saver named Sophie).
I sowed two tomato seeds in each pod of my tray. Once they had at least two sets of true leaves (the first two to come up don't stick around for long, they're just there to get things started... sort of like nature's fluffer) it was time to thin them.
"But we ALL love you and want to be friends!"
You can pull the whole seedling right out, but you run the risk of dislodging the keeper, so I opted to just cut my victims off at the soil line.
It takes a steady hand.
We're growing 6 different kinds of tomatoes; after the thinning we're left with 4 of each kind. We'll probably only plant 1-2 out in the garden, so this is just the first culling. Fortunately, by the time we're next ready to reduce our number of plants, they'll be big enough to pawn off on our friends... no need for any wet work.
"Where'd the rest of our friends go?"
In the past I've tried moving the thinned seedlings to other pots, but at this age, they just seem too tender to make the move. It's like with Mrs. Brisby's son Timothy in "The Secret Of NIMH"... you have to move the whole house because he's just too weak to make the trip on his... I'm giving up on this analogy right now.
Depending on how you look at things, there is one happy outcome of having to thin tomato seedlings. The tiny plants smell and taste delicious, making them perfect for tossing into salads. So you don't have to simply chuck them in the trash... you can eat them. Murder, and then eat them. Just like all the best people.
Veggie dinner featuring tomato seedlings in the salad.
When life hands you murder, make murderade.
All our seedlings have now been thinned and things are humming along indoors. Here's a quick update on where the garden is. My roommate Corey finished building our two-part vegetable bin.
After that, I ordered 100 30-lb bags of Great Gardens compost, made by LICompost on Long Island, and 28 bags of gravel. Corey and my husband Sean carried all the bags from our street to the backyard and did all the heavy lifting for the 3-step process below (apparently, I owe them dinner forever for this):
Step 1: I lined the inside with landscape fabric
This will help keep roots in check and slow the inevitable rotting process of the wooden bin. We should get 5-10 years out of this thing with the help of the fabric.
Step 2: We added 3 inches of gravel for drainage
The gravel makes it easy for water to escape through the bottom of the planter.
Step 3: We filled the bin to the top with compost
We want to be able to amend the planting medium in here every year, rather than discarding and replacing it, so compost was the best choice. Plus, plants love it.
This left us a few inches shy of the top, so I'll probably have to do another smaller order of compost and several bags of mulch to help retain water. But basically, at this point, we're ready to plant.
Even with nothing really growing yet this already my favorite place to work.
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