Novice Gardener - Should I thin out seedlings?

by Oralia
(Orland Park IL)

I shook my packet of lettuce seeds all over the top of a large pot and added a sprinkling of organic potting soil on top of them. All of them sprouted. There must be over a hundred seedlings with two leaves each everywhere.

Am I suppose to pick out EACH fragile stem and place it in its own small pot or can I add several stems? I was thinking of using 8 oz styrofoam cups with holes on the bottom.

What should I do now? I live near Chicago and the ground is still very cold. We just had what I hope is our last frost.

Comments for Novice Gardener - Should I thin out seedlings?

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May 15, 2009
Thinning and transplanting seedlings
by: Megan

If your seedling haven't grown too big, definitely carefully pull out some of the crowded small lettuce plants out. If it disturbs the soil and other plants, then snip off the heads of some seedlings, enough to create a bit of space around each plant.

If your seedlings are big enough, but really crowded, snip off some plants and use them in salads. If you want to transplant them all and don't have a patch of garden, 8oz pots are very small and you will constantly have to add nutrients and water, as the roots of even one lettuce plant will fill up the pot. Two plants to a pot is OK, but only if you use much bigger pots. Transplanting seedlings is best done when there are at least 4 leaves on the plants.

Depending on the variety of lettuce, you need roughly 15cm (6") space between each plant. Many people do sow closer so they get an early few meals of the young seedlings when they do thinning out.

If plants don't get enough space, they can grow stunted by having to compete for light, nutrients, water and root space.

A packet of seeds will last many gardeners a couple of seasons at least, sowing at 6 weeks to 2 monthly intervals from spring to winter.

May 15, 2009
Lettuce Inquiry
by: Oralia

Thank you, Megan. I separated the seedlings to one per cup a month ago and they don't seem to be growing too rapidly. By now I expected many more leaves. The stem has grown taller but there are still two larger leaves on each one. Is this normal.
This is the first time I try lettuce and I'm not sure what to expect. Other things like tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers and squash are now about 5 inches tall and ready to go out in the garden....still waiting for better temps, though.

May 25, 2009
Thinning and transplanting seedlings
by: Megan

If your transplanted seedlings are still not growing quickly, it's most likely because of either:
  • They are slow to recover after transplanting due to shock of maybe drying out or not enough soil on roots

  • They are transplanted too deep or conversely the roots are not secure enough

  • They are in a cold or draughty place

  • The soil is too poor

  • Not enough water, or too much or erratic watering

  • They don't get enough sun or good light

Apr 24, 2012
Lettuce Seedlings NEW
by: Andrea

We just thin them out and throw them away - they don't survive very well if you transplant them so young. Also, you usually have a TON of seedlings, so you won't miss them when they're thinned.

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