AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Thinning the Herb DATE: 4/29/2009 02:18:00 AM ----- BODY:
Less is more. Especially when it comes to planting lettuces and leafy greens.

Every year, I make the same mistake, though, when planting the arugula, mizuna and tatsoi. I plant hundreds of seeds when I should be planting dozens. The tiny seeds fool me into thinking I need more, and sprinkle as many as 50 seeds per inch. To give you a little perspective, I used a 1/2 teaspoon measure for the arugula seeds in this photo:


When they begin to sprout into a bushy shag of leaves, I start trimming.
The roots crave room to grow, and when they’re crowded, the plants’ growth is stunted. Last year, I ruthlessly thinned the lettuces to one sprout per 1 or 2 inches. And I was reward with large, prolific plants. For some reason this year, I still planted the seeds too densely. So this morning I headed out to the garden to start snipping away.

This is not a particularly pleasant task. With sharp scissors, I cut the stem below all the leafy sprouts. I carefully leave the strongest sprout. With stems growing within millimeters of each other, I must be careful to not accidentally cut too much, nor to disturb the roots of the remaining plants.

The plants I thinned last week are already rewarding me for the breathing room. I should have my first garden salad within a week.

If you’re good, like Susy at Chiot’s Run, you will save all the sprouts for a small salad.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:4/29/2009 12:32:00 PM That is quite tedious but I love your lettuce dedication. Sometimes we are required to sweat the small stuff! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:4/29/2009 07:46:00 PM lol. the one time i tried growing salad greens, i must have planted millions of seeds. learned my lesson ;) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Claudia DATE:4/29/2009 09:47:00 PM I've been staring at my tiny arugula and hate to throw out a live plant! So, one must be ruthless????? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Grace DATE:4/30/2009 07:37:00 AM this is the fifth gardening post i've seen today, and i'm almost ready to cry. not only do i have the brownest thumb of all brown thumbs, but i don't even have any land on which to try! i suppose i'll just live vicariously through you. do keep us updated. :) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:4/30/2009 06:52:00 PM noble pig -- I will be rewarded in just a few days!

Heather -- I have a friend that was shocked, SHOCKED when I told her each teeny seed would produce a head of lettuce.

Claudia -- ruthless, I say!

Grace - I bet you could grow some herbs in a sunny window in a pot? Thyme and basil are pretty straightforward. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:4/30/2009 08:40:00 PM I guess this is how microgreens came into being! There must be something wonderful to do with all of those snippings, for all the work it takes to thin them out. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener DATE:5/03/2009 04:47:00 PM I purposefully start too many of the arugula, tatsoi, spinach etc and plant them close 0 maybe not as close as you. And I wait a little longer than you and snip every other plant. And then again a few days later. And again. Thinning are eaten!!! no need to waste food. That way, I start to eat from the garden a lot earlier than if I had to wait for mature plants. It's a better use of my garden space (but yes, it is more labor intensive. Goes together!) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:5/04/2009 07:28:00 AM Lydia -- That makes a lot of sense! Maybe I should start selling micro-greens.

Sylvie -- I still need to plant a little thinner -- even for your approach -- which sounds much more civilized. ----- --------