seedling overcrowded mess, need advice

bluigirlMarch 11, 2010

I collected coleus seed and forget me not seed last year, and wasnt sure if they were viable. Well, they were. Now I have a rotisserie chicken pan full of coleus seedlings that look like a crowded clover patch. Im not sure what to do yet. Do I start to seperate them with tweezers and put them in six packs? They are about three weeks old with only one set of what i think are true leaves. Or do I wait? I want to save as many as posssible because I have almost an acre of semiwoodland front yard with several beds. Last year was my first year gardening and I fell in love. However it cost me about 3000.00 in trial and error and impulse buying at my local nursery. So I saved seed of what did beautifully. Same deal with the forgetme nots. Looks like big clover patch. What to do? I have more time than money, so I dont mind getting out the tweezers and painstakingly dividing. I just dont want to kill them. Any advice?

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oilpainter(3)

If you have them planted in loose seed starting mix, then just carefully work your hand under one end of the Coleus and tease a piece off. Then separate them into your six packs. You would be better to do it now than wait until their roots are firmly enmeshed. Don't use tweezers you are liable to break off the roots. If you have trouble getting them apart then soak the piece until they separate. The dirt will wash away and you can separate them without breaking any roots.

You can do the same with the forget-me-nots. Forget-me-nots can be planted out earlier than the rest of your plants. Light frosts won't kill them, but heavy frosts might when they are seedlings. Don't be surprised if you see some cropping up where they were planted last year. They will reseed themselves but they are slow growing.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 8:07AM
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calistoga_al

oilpainter has given good advice. I only will add,since you said you are first time gardener, DO NOT HANDLE SEEDLINGS BY THEIR STEMS. In your separation process use a leaf as your handle and you will not kill the seedling. Al

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 8:52AM
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keriann_lakegeneva(5B WI/IL border)

Oilpainter is right on as always : )

If breaking a few roots off scares you, you can soak the whole 'wad' of seedlings in water and the soil will jyust float off. They will look sad for the day, but come right back for you.

It is always better to have too many seedlings than not enough : )

Keriann~

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 11:52AM
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lindakay(zone 5)

The way I seperate them is by gathering up a little bunch of the dirt with the seedlings and then just drop it from about six or eight inches. They will fall apart. You have to be gentle. That works for me. If the roots are to tangled it won't seperate them but will loosen them.
Linda

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 8:51AM
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oilpainter(3)

lindakay:

Dropping them may work for you, but it is much better to soak the soil off. Dropping them may damage or break off part of the roots or break the stem. Once the stem is broken it's good bye plant.

Soaking releases the plant, even if the roots are firmly enmeshed and they come right back after a day or so of being transplanted

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 9:51AM
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lolaky(Z6KY)

I say BE RUTHLESS! If you don't get rid of some now, you will just crowd out everything... 1. you will compromise the health of all of them b/c they're competing for limited space/nutrients & 2. their roots will be too intertwined when you transplant & you will end up losing a good amount anyway. Use a tweezers or your fingernails to just pinch off the tops- you don't even need to pull up the root b/c they're not developed enough yet- the tops will probably do it. Leave @ 1-2" between each & you will be doing all of you a favor. Maybe if you have more seed you can sow another batch or pick up some packets @ the store if you feel you need more. I find I usually have too many seedlings than I have space & end up giving some away. After you do this let them grow on til they have 2 sets of true leaves (forget me nots will need it b-4 the coleus) & transplant. Be careful as to not disturb the roots of the FMN, for they don't like to be moved. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 10:46AM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

If you literally have a rotisserie chicken pan full of coleus seedlings then I would endorse the BE RUTHLESS suggestion.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 12:01PM
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keriann_lakegeneva(5B WI/IL border)

It would be fun to pot up the extras and do a 'May Day' gift to some of your neighbors who are gardeners!

What a nice suprise that would be : )

keriann~

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 1:57PM
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escape4george

As you can tell by the other responses, we've all overplanted seeds. It seems like the smaller the seed; the more viable they are and form a carpet of plants when they all sprout. I volunteer as a propagator at a local arboretum and have found that a couple of common eating forks is best for jiggling and teasing the plants apart.
I might also suggest you join a garden club or other similar group where you can trade or exchange plants.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 6:08PM
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biosparite(z9TX)

What I do with a large quantity of small seeds is use a plug tray with 200 cells. I first fill the plugs with my seed-starting mix (Miracle-Gro with 50% perlite) and then dump it out into a pile. I add around 200-400 small seeds to the soil, mix in the seeds homogeneously, and then put it all back into the cells. I keep the mix moist and have excellent germination. Usually I have one or two seedlings in each plug. I grow them on till time to transplant outside or into a larger-volume cellpack. If I have two or more seedlings in a cell, I either tease them apart or sacrifice all but the strongest one. Even if the seeds need light to sprout, at least some will end up at the surface of the plugs; ditto if they need darkness since some seeds will inevitably be covered. I collect my own wildseed around Houston and SE Texas so have lots to play with.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 5:50PM
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