Thinning Seedlings

ONE of the most important things in the cultivation of plants from seed is to mako sure that the seedlings have sufficient room in which to develop. The majority of seeds grow a pair of leaves first that are quite different from the later leaves. These are actually the cotyledons from the inside of the seed, which are raised up as the plant begins to grow to form the first leaves. Later, leaves of the mature type begin to show, and immediately the second pair of leaves has been formed the plants are ready for transplanting or for thinning.

Some seedlings can be moved without danger if they are lifted carefully with a fork or trowel and replanted singly six, nine or twelve inches apart, according to the- size of the mature plants. Other seed lings, for instance Shirley poppies, are too tender to stand transplanting in this manner, and the only way to allow the plants sufficient room to grow is to pull out the majority of the seedlings, leaving only one every few inches. Later, still more seedlings will be removed so that each plant has ample room to develop properly. ,

The novice is often tempted to leave his annuals crowded together. Ho may think that he will obtain more flowers if he has more plants, but actually this is not the case. One good-sized annual plant, say a marigold, given a foot square of space, will produce far more flowers, on longer stems, better in shape and qualit 7, than will half , a dozen plants crowded into the samo space.

How to transplant. Beginners in gardening sometimes ask the difference between pricking out and transplanting. Pricking out is the term used by gardeners for moving tiny seedlings from the seed-bed to boxes, pots or to nursery beds. These seedlings are the ones winch are only just showing the first pair of true leaves. The operation is generally done with the help of a small wooden label with a V-shaped piece cut out at one end. This makes a handy tool for lifting individual seedlings without risking damage to the tender stems.

The seedling is lifted in the V-shaped cleft, and a small hole sufficient to tako the roots without doubling them up is made in the soil of the nursery bed with a stick about the size of a pencil. The seedling is then held in position in the hole, while the soil is levered against the roots with the small stick.

The term transplanting is more often used in connection with the moving of larger seedlings from the nursery bed to their permanent place in the borders. It is equally important in this case that the necks of the seedlings should not be damaged. If the seedlings have already been pricked out in the early stages, it is generally possible to move not only the plant, but also a ball of soil from the nursery bed. A trowel is the best tool to lift the plants from the bed so that the ball of soil is left intact round the roots. Plants moved without root disturbance will be much more healthy and become established more quickly than those roughly handled.

Should pricking out or transplantang be done during dry weather, the soil both of the original seed-bed, and of the border to receive the plants, should be watered an hour or two before the move takes place. Assuming that this is done carefully and that the seed-bed and nursery bed are made of fairly light open soil, transplanting will be easy and safe.

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