Thinning Tomato Seedlings: The Right Time For Doing It

I did a really painful thing yesterday… I thinned my seedlings.

What’s the big deal, you ask? See this beautiful tomato plant I have growing? Notice there are three stalks growing out of one pot. Unfortunately, this pot is only big enough for one. Somebody has got to go.

thinning seedlings (Medium)

When you plant seeds, you are supposed to pot 2-3 seeds in each hole, just in case one seed doesn’t germinate. But sometimes all of the seeds germinate, and you are left with a crowded pot.

Then comes a painful decision… who gets to stay? Once the seedlings have grown their second set of “true” leaves, it’s time to thin them out. I was SO tempted to uproot the smallest two and try my best to give them a second chance in their own little pots. But *supposedly* that is a big NO NO. You are supposed to cut the smallest two seedlings at the soil line. If you pull them up, you risk disrupting the roots of the one you want to keep, and then they all may die.

So, I did it. I apologized to the little ones who gave it their best, and I made their executions as quick as possible. Jada begged me, “No, mommy! Please don’t kill the tomato plants!” But I had to do it. I told her, it was better to have one healthy plant than three dead ones. Ah, the heartache that comes in life!

Actually, don’t tell anybody, but I did uproot two too-good-looking-to-kill seedlings, and gave them new homes. I had to at least try it! I put them outside in the cold frame, since I’m out of room under the grow lights. I checked on them today and they are pretty wilted. We’ll see if they survive.

Now my pots have one plant each. Boy, that hurt my feelings to do!

If you know of a way to save the extra little seedlings instead of snipping them off, please tell me!!

5 thoughts on “Thinning Tomato Seedlings: The Right Time For Doing It”

  1. The thing about tomatoes is that you can grow the tops sometimes. I have trimmed branches off tomatoes and thrown them into a pile and new plants will grow up from the stem. All the little hairs along the stem have a potential of becoming roots. I have also had leaning plants where the stem touches or lays on the ground and develops roots along the stem becoming their own second plant. If it makes you feel any better you try to pot some of the cut off plants in a little water and see if they develop roots along the stem.

    This might be an interesting project for Jada to see if she can get a new plant started. If she’s successful she could plant them in her own little garden. Good science lesson on propagation.

    Hope you have a wonderful day.
    Your plants look wonderful and healthy… great work!

    Mrs. D

    We’re supposed to get lots on warm weather this weekend. These are the days I am tempted to go down and start planting. Guess I’ll sooth those anxious feelings by getting in the flower bed and cleaning things up a little. You see, winter really is not over for us yet. We may still get snow and wicked freezing temperatures which will kill any seedlings trying to make their way up. Only a few miles away the forsynthia is blooming. We are at a higher elevation, so ours have not started yet.

  2. this is very interesting…I didn’t know you needed to do that. I think I might try it the way Ashley C said she does it. I read the book “How to Grow More Vegetables” recently and they transplant many of the veggies…I don’t remember having to do this w/the tomatoes…I’ll have to go re-read it and see what they suggested for them.
    Can’t wait to see how things are coming along! I was going to post a picture of my “babies” tonight! =)I’m so excited! (Actually, I just remembered that I’m going to plant some more tonight…I’m trying out “HTGMV” suggestion of planting w/the New Moon or Full Moon based on the short, long or extra-long germintation cycles. Kind of a long thing to explain, but it mostly has to do w/the cycles of the moon giving light longer and gravitational pull on the roots during different times of the month helping w/growing during the night and also w/transplanting during a time that the roots don’t grow much and right before they have a growth spurt…pretty interesting stuff! I figured it was worth a try but not too terrible if I don’t do it perfectly! =) The buggers will still grow any ol’day! =)
    You would enjoy the book…add it to your list! (oh I read Seed to Seed to and love it!)

  3. I can’t ever do it so I only plant one seed per hole! Of course I occasionally end up with an empty spot but I don’t ever feel like I’m getting rid of a perfectly good plant. And I don’t start a whole lot from seed. A greenhouse is in the plans for this year, though, so I may have to toughen up!

  4. Im at that point with my tomatoes as well and they all seemed to decide to sprout multiples >.< I was in FFA in highschool though and took nursery classes and we separated them all the time with no issue. Its best to do it though while theyre fairly young and not too intertwined. We started the seedlings in a big tray (in rows) and when they were wee sprouts we gave them their own homes in one of the 6pack squares. Then from there we grew them until they were running out of rootspace and sold them. I think I am going to attempt to separate mine, maybe snip the weaklings though. I have about 48 of the little buggers and I only needed like 6 haha so if most dont make it, its really not an issue. I think I might give them to neighbors though who otherwise would be unwilling to garden. Its my little way of paying it forward 😉 good luck with your garden!

  5. I soooo understand your feelings. I’m kind hearted myself. But I’ve learned – the hard way – focus your energy on the strongest ones. It’s a hard lesson. It’s not fun. But that’s the nature of nature. It’s a hard lesson. But one worth learning. (((hugs)))


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