Snipping extras, just can't do it

lucillleFebruary 6, 2014

I started my vegetable seeds and have them in pots now. Half were started in a large flat and then transplanted, half were started in the pots, so each pot has 2 plants. I wanted to see if there was any difference in the transplanted ones and was planning to use the best seedling.
I can't bring myself to snip a perfectly good plant and am going to plant them both together and just make sure there are plenty of nutrients and water.

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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Good luck. Proper thinning is crucial to success.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 6:56AM
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Maybe so, but I've bought double seedlings in a pot at Home Depot which have done well and produced well.
To me, what is crucial is the water and nutrients for each plant, they would have to be increased to take care of two plants.
I'll try to remember to update this thread at the end of the season.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 7:24AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

There is no advantage to keeping the plants close to each other. Sure, the two seedlings in the same pot you bought last year grew fine but did they produce twice as much as a single plant? I highly doubt it. What's the point in keeping them together if they are only going to produce half their potential?

You don't have to snip one, you can separate them. Separating the seedlings now will benefit both of them later on down the road. If you've got too many plants after separating, give some away to family and/or friends.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:05AM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Concur with Rodney... you should be able to separate the plants and re-pot them. I find that saturating the soil helps in separation...

A local nursery uses this method as their SOP... They sprinkle seeds into flats then re-pot the seedlings into cups.after they begin to get their true leaves.

This post was edited by grandad on Thu, Feb 6, 14 at 18:40

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:10AM
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I'm certainly not advocating one way or another, but in the interests of valid choice and information for us, can you please cite where you have seen that each of two plants grown together drop productivity by a full 50%?

I've recently become interested in square foot gardening, some veggies can be planted 4 or 6 to a square foot, implying that intensive gardening can maintain production. (Of course, some veggies need more than one square, so it seems to depend on the veggie).

There must be studies on the amount of room needed per seedling and the drop off rate of production as they are planted closer, so I await your cite for your 50% drop off rate quote.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:10AM
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syntria(8a - South DFW Area)

Well even in SFG there is still spacing, while two seedlings are probably coming up from the same hole.

Could be wrong, but I would think it would make both plants weaker and more suspectable to problems--weaker root systems, crowding each other for full light but I'm no expert. :)

I have some tomatillo's that I haven't been able to bring myself to separate. They seem so happy together. Maybe today will be the day I do it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:18AM
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To a certain extent, it depends on the plant. Two cabbages growing an inch apart won't give you one decent head of cabbage.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Good point, ltilton.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:25AM
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tdscpa(z5 NWKS)

I refuse to thin. Waste of labor in my opinion. I plant at the final spacing recommended. If they don't germinate on time, I replant the skips. Saves time by not thinning (plus back-ache) and money on wasted seed.

The slightly later plants will catch up, or still be fine at total harvest time, or provide an extended harvest.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 3:55AM
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Growing something 60-120 days only to get a non-ideal harvest or have the plant(s) succumb to disease/competition pressure would bother me more.

If you multi-seed trays/plugs/ground/etc then thinning comes with the territory..."humanizing" seedlings is something all gardeners have to get over at some point unless they want to change the way they produce seedlings for transplant so they can continue to do so.

It feels good to grow something.

It feels great to grow something that is given the best chance to produce your ideal harvest...especially when it delivers.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:45AM
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I agree with granddad, in my case I scatter cabbage, chard, collard, lacinato, and other seeds on trays of soil (no cells). To plant,I soak the tray and pull out seedlings in chunks of a few, with some soil attached. I plant my matrix and water well. In a few weeks, the snippings are going to be culled and eaten, leaving the best plant per hole. Who wants to eat 500 small collards anyway? Also, if I were to plant every tomato seed that sprouts, I would have 100 tomato plants instead of 25. Seed is so cheap, you happily spend an extra dollar to make sure you will fill the bed completely. I do have trouble only with carrots, it is more difficult to judge your thinning with direct seeded vegetables.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 10:17AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Just for clarification, what size pots are these seedlings in? Since you are talking about seedlings I assumed you meant 3-4 inch pots, in which case the seedling would only be a couple inches apart at most.

I'll admit my above assumption could be faulty. However, the fact remains that if you overcrowd your plants they are not going to produce their full potential. Not only will they be competing for water and nutrients but they will also be competing for sunlight and leaf space. Overcrowding also increases the likelihood of pests and diseases, diseases especially. Two plants grown close together will never produce the same as two plants spaced properly apart. Don't have any links, just personal experience. Proper spacing depends on the plant and yes, you can grow things closer than what the seed packet says.

I too do square foot gardening. The spacings that are given are the absolute bare minimum. Things like tomatoes, brussels sprouts, and zucchini, which supposedly only need one square foot, very quickly outgrow that. The spacings for melons and cucumbers are extremely close as well even though they are trellised.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 11:30AM
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There were a few responses hinting at the type of plant and that is very important iMO. Also the stage of harvest is important. If you were planting lettuce or other greens for harvest as baby greens than thicker seeding is the way to go. Also certain potted herbs always look more appealing in threesomes in a pot. When it comes to anything in the tomato, pepper or cole crop category I most definately agree to get some separation but the spacing is arbitrary, much dependent on other management practices. I've had crop specialists tell me my greenhouse tomato spacing was too close (20" w/i row) but it has worked well for me over many years with my heavy suckering practice. Sometimes you just need to try different things and adapt to what you feel comfortable with.
In some ways I am in a similar situation now having started far to many tomato seedlings for my initial greenhouse planting and also having many other seedlings emerge as a result of older seed germination tests. I hate, as much as any grower, to allow the young plants to die knowing the seed cost and production potential but the time to make that critical decisioin is at this stage, before growing costs begin to expand greatly.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 12:19PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I started my heirloom tomatoes in 3 inch pots, with several seeds per pot. The germination rate was 90% or so. Not bad for seeds I harvested myself from last year. I thinned to two plants each, about 1.5 inch apart when they were tiny. When they were all 3 inches tall and all looking strong, I was reluctant to kill one in each pot, so I carefully sliced the soil between them with a sharp knife, and used a big spoon to transplant each half of the pot into new 3-inch pots. The plants didn't even wilt. They seemed unaware of the devastation I wreaked on their birth-pots. I now have twice as many tomatoed pots, with one plant each. But I figure that if I planted the two tomatoes next to each other in the ground 1.5 inch apart, they'd together be as productive as one plant in the same place. They'd behave like two stems from one plant. I'm sure that's not true for many other veggies, however.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Just apologize first and snip fast.
Everyone will be happier.

I also hate thinning, but have seen the scrawny plants non-thinning produces.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Bmosers quote:
"Sometimes you just need to try different things and adapt to what you feel comfortable with"

I appreciate the time each and every one of you gave to me by posting. I'm going to try it this way, this year.
And most of you have seen me visiting GW for many years. I'll report back in the fall, and will graciously accept the 'I told you so's' if I get poor harvests.

Sometimes people just have to get stuff out of their system, and that's the way it is for me. It doesn't make me appreciate you any the less :)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 3:34PM
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"Birth pots". That made me laugh. Cute !

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:37PM
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For Brassicas, I clump them together, then I take them at a certain stage and appropriately space them later. For example, I just scattered Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower seeds. When they had a few proper leafs, and they were a certain height, I transplanted them to their final spot.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:54PM
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Lettuce grown for heads are one of the worst crops for crowding. They never do well, sometimes get slimy, and bolt early.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:11PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I hate killing anything. I always put two seeds in each pot I seed up. I just space them far enough apart so I can separate them. It has worked fine so far.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 7:23PM
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"They never do well, sometimes get slimy, and bolt early."

Sounds like one of my ex husbands.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 8:26PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Sniping, thinning ... depends on what plants are you talking about. !
You can grow a lot of veggies in clumps and thin them as you go along and eat them as you do: like onions, lettuce, chard, parsley, cilantro, basil, and many more. But if you want to grow, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumber , beans.. you HAVE TO thin them IF they are too close.

Alternatively, you can SEPARATE them and replant them at proper spacing, IF you have space. That is what I often do.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 9:11PM
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No one HAS to do anything, they just deal with the consequences.

I would like cites from studies that say that two plants grown a few inches apart (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) will drop productivity by a full 50% or more even when given adequate nutrients and water.

I'm going to grow the seedlings that are a few inches apart together and frankly, I do not think I'm going to see a full 50% drop.
If in fact I do get such a precipitous drop I'll certainly own up to it at the end of the season. We'll see.

This post was edited by lucille on Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 8:15

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:19AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I suspect there are cites from studies, but it comes down to common sense (which may, I suppose, be wrong!) You might try planting three or four plants together, and see if you get a vastly bigger crop.

Seed packets have clear directions for thinning, and if you could do just as well without thinning, you'd think it would be in the interest of the seed companies to tell consumers that. After all, that would just sell more seeds, because people could plant them more densely in a given plot.

I will say that one advantage of multiple plants is insurance. But the price is likely to be productivity.

Will look forward to hear about your findings.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:09AM
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lucille LOL about the husbands!

So, will you do some plants singly and some as twins? I'll be very interested to hear about your comparison study.

I've done the doubles thing with tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage, with poor results. BUT I'm not much for fertilizing or watering, so your results may end up quite different.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:39AM
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Dan, My common sense tells me that if a plant has enough light, water and food, it will produce.
There may be various kinds of competition for instance, competition for light with more leaves. But enough to halve production?

Elisa, only some of the peppers have singles. All of the tomatoes are multiples. It is not really a valid experiment anyway since half were transplanted out of a flat into the pot, and half direct seeded into the 4 inch pot.
But since I'm retired I will have time to baby the plants as far as making sure they get what food and water they need.

The worst that can happen in this adventure is that I get less tomatoes and I get to hear all of y'all say 'I told you so:)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:49PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I look forward to hearing what happens. But as I said, the argument isn't clearly extensible. If you get double the production with two plants next to each other, why not get ten times more production with ten plants close to each other? A farmer could make a fortune by just putting two seeds in each hole instead of one. Or maybe five! They're going to be competing for food, water, and light. In splitting my tomatoes up, it's already very clear that, once split, they're growing a lot faster than they were when they were together. Of course, that wasn't a double-blind experiment.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Dan, you are absolutely right, OK? And all the others who are getting ready to tell me how right you are, you are right too.
There now. :)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 2:11PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Well, I think it's worth a try. Of course, what farmers can't do is to nurture individual plants. So it may be that by giving them a lot of attention and nutrition, you'd get each of two closely planted plants to produce well. By the same token, I guess, if you nurtured a single plant instead of two, you'd get twice as much out of it than you would have!

My recipe for tomatoes is -- three seeds spaced well apart in the 4-inch pot. If all germinate, then trim one, and eventually separate the remaining two. If only two come up, then no trimming needed.Of course, you end up with a lot more pots than you might have otherwise! Look for friends.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:06PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

I don't think anyone here is going to gloat or say "I told you so." if your garden doesn't go as you want. It's obvious from the responses that we all want you to be as successful as possible. And I don't recall anyone saying that you CAN'T do it your way. I'd say that most of us have seen the poor results of plants that haven't been thinned, which is why we've given strong advice and aired our opinions on why it's important to.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:25PM
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I know someone who regularly plants two tomatoes per stake, I think about 6" apart. However, the doubles are then spaced about 4 ft apart. They have been doing this for years and are very happy with it. I think they must do a lot of pruning.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 5:10PM
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As long as the tomato plants have ample nutrition and plenty of room to sprawl, the only thing you will give up by planting two together is fruit size. In field trials that look at tomato plant spacing, that is the killer. You can increase plant density to 12 inches between plants in wide rows, but there is a price to pay. Here is a typical bottom line from a trial:

"Average fruit weights were 10.3 oz in the 12 in spacing, 10.9 oz in the 18â³ spacing, and 11.4 oz in the 24â³ spacing."

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 7:57AM
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I also had an aversion to thinning. It was hard to pluck out my little seeds that I had watched grow up! But, at the same time, I wanted them to be successful. Think of it as 15 people living in a house. Is it going to be comfortable? No. I can handle giving them more water and nutrients, but there is something to be said for SPACE. I once planted my tomato plants way too close together. It was disaster. I had a tangle-y, mangle-y bunch of vines and leaves that ate themselves up with disease. The inner sides of the tomatoes were just dying. The leaves wilted and turned yellow because they couldn't get enough light. Not one tomato to be had. Not even any flowers. Very sad. Sadder than plucking out the extra seedling.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:29PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

The simile of overcrowded plants with overcrowded humans is amusing, because the strategy for fixing the situation is quite different. If I lived in a tiny house with 15 people, I too would have an aversion to killing a bunch of them off. I'd try to transplant a lot of them elsewhere, and hope for the best!

But yes, space counts. At least humans don't have roots, and their mouths don't overlap.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:47PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Over crowding happens in the nature all the time in the woods, in the prairies. The stronger survives and the weaker dies. But it you want to plant a forest, you would not do it as it happens in the nature, BECAUSE you do it more intelligently for better outcome and productivity. And that is what a gardener doe, GROWING BY DESIGN and order.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 7:00PM
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Seysonn, there actually seem to be some differing experiences posted here by different people.
I think one should respect those differences, rather than command what a gardener must do.
We are all gardeners, here.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 7:13PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

lucille - if you want to see whether spacing affects your yield you will also need to have a control. i.e. you would need to thin one batch and not another. Otherwise you can't tell if you lost yield through not thinning.

I thin but I don't do it by snipping and discarding. Sometimes I snip and eat the snippings. Sometimes I separate clumps and transplant the thinnings. In the latter
case some plants will get root damage but it just slows them down a bit. This is fine because it means the harvest is staggered. I don't want a whole sowing of lettuce to be ready at once.

Also, of course, sowing thinly in the first place will eliminate some thinning.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:19AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Seysonn, there actually seem to be some differing experiences posted here by different people.

@ lucille,

That is right. There are different views. I am also expressing my opinion, based my experience, knowledge and understanding. So there is no offense here. In the end of the day one does what she/he wants to do. The discussion is not creating any mandate for anybody.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 3:50PM
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38 responses already! Well, lucille, if nothing else you have given us zone 5 ers (and colder) something interesting to read while the snow flies outside. :)

and you've inspired me to do some side by side comparisons of doubles and singles.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 9:24AM
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