Bradford5
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Reasons for sowing seed that will only be thined later?

I'm curious to understand the reason(s) for sowing more seeds than will be allowed to fully grow, but thinned out instead. There must be some reason(s) that so many seed packets suggest doing that. Anyone know why?
Thanks so much!
Michelle R. Bradford

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A lot of advice/directions for home gardeners are taken from commercial farming. A farmer wants to maximize land usage so it is more profitable to waste seeds (thin seedlings) to get the optimal production from the land. I also suppose that in the old days the seeds were not as reliable, and possibly the soil was not either.


The seed companies are not going to alter the directions, because they will sell more seeds that way.


Same thing with fertilizer directions. Generally, if you follow the box package directions ther is no way that you can underfertilize.

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rootsy
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I can HONESTLY say that I do not know a SINGLE (me included) "Commercial" farmer who wishes to waste anything. Seed isn't cheap. In fact we go great lengths and spend a lot of $ to ensure that our planters don't skip, double, triple, etc.

Thinning also requires manpower and labor is not cheap. So now you have to pay someone to remove seedlings. If you were to just toss "a lot" of seed in the ground you'd end up with poor yield do to over crowding and that also defeats the purpose.

Farming is a business just like any other. In a climate where your marketable good's value is dictated by someone else you do everything in your power to maximize your yield and profit margin.

Why do seed packets say to sow more than you need? The most logical reason being so that germination of one or more is ensured and on a small scale it is easier for the gardener to just pluck the extras out of the ground.

I detest thinning anything.

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GardenRN
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I'm thinking it may pertain more to the novice. Someone who is new to gardening will probably not offer the seeds optimal growing conditions. therefore not all of the seeds are likely to germinate. People forget to keep them moist, they use bad soil, forget to water after seedlings sprout, bad temps etc. So, they are likely to lose a lot of seeds/seedlings. SO if they plant 20 seeds where they want ten plants, they are more likely to get the results they wanted. Then the new gardener says "oh those seeds were so great, let me buy that same brand next year!" and the seed co. looks good.

But if the rookie plants ten, and only wants ten, but only is successful with 4 or 5 plants, they will never blame themselves for their gardening methods.....so it must be the seed company's fault for selling them crappy seeds.

I plant the seeds generously and find reasons every year to justify overcrowding. Which seems to be the rule of thumb around here based on other threads. lol :lol:
Jeff

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Two reasons:

Have you ever tried to sow one lettuce, carrot or mustard seed at a time, especially if you have a 20' row? For the small cost of wasted seeds and time spent thinning, it is still far more efficient sprinkling the seeds.

Two, some plants have bad germination rates. I get fantastic results with tomatoes, peppers and chard; mediocre with peas, horrible with lettuce. I don't like empty cells in my nursery trays.

Mike

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I stand corrected, I was thinking more about the time before mechanization when a lot of weeding work was done by hand.


Do county extension agents/bulletins give the same advice as is on seed packs?

DoubleDogFarm
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You also have take into account that some seeds are little berry clusters, like beets. You get more than one plant from each fruit "seed".


You also don't have to waste your thinnings, transplant them somewhere else.

Eric

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applestar
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It all goes back to a simple Murphy's Law for Gardeners:

If you sow exactly the same number of seeds for the number of plants you need, only 1/2 will come up or something will happen to the seedlings.

and the Corollary:

If you sow twice or three times or 4 times as many number of seeds as the number of plants you want, they will ALL germinate and crowd each other to their detriment, so you'll HAVE to thin them or else you'll have to prick them out and pot them up or transplant them, and then nothing bad whatsoever will happen to the seedlings so that you'll run out of garden space to plant them all.

:wink:

Bradford5
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Thanks so much to everyone who posted a reply and gave more ideas to consider to help settle my curiosity. :) I appreciate the thoughts and info!

Does anyone know if letting the excess seeds germinate closely together provides some kind of extra structural support to them in that delicate beginning phase maybe? That was the only possible beneficial reason I had thought of, but I don't know...It's just so exciting to me to see seeds sprout, and then so unfortunate to think of ending any of their little lives early! (Guess I'm an emotional gardener though.) :wink: But if their is some beneficial purpose to it, I think I could do it that way.

Well thanks again you guys! :P
Michelle R. Bradford

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I guess it depends on the plant. Lettue I always sow to many and even add other seeds in the mixso I know something will come up! Usually they seem to thin therself in lettuce or onions. Onion sets i pu alot since I thin the early ones for salads. lettuce will be much more tende for a few weeks when it is planted close.
+++
Seeds planted in boxes in the green house are easilly thined. If i plant a plan two foot square and put a 100 seeds and may get suprised if 1/2 come up! I have had boxes where only 10 of 200 came up!
+++ Another reason is saving the seeds for the next year may make them less viable!
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Tiny seeds depends on the wind sometimes or even a hard rain may wash them away!. Birds seem to get the corn when it first comes up!
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Row planting like for lettuce or carrots seems to do better when they are crowded! Wide row planting is much different as is raised bed planting bad for crowding!
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Crowding sometiimes gives shadding to the plants and they are more tender like with lettuce and radish less hot!
+++ The world of gardening has so many variables and luck that is what makes it so interesting and fun! The more you know and try makes it even better! Last is the good taste that you get with the fresh produce you grow!
Last edited by Bobberman on Thu Apr 07, 2011 4:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

bangstrom
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Thinned beets can be cooked like spinach using the entire plant roots and tops together. I had a Korean neighbor who planted thick and thinned. She saved the thinned plants and pickled them in soy sauce. Thinning was just an early harvest.

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Yes, beet tops and thinnings are delicious. Beets and Swiss chard are of the same family.

If you want especially wonderful beet tops, I recommend Early Wonder Tall Top. :wink:

Eric

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I always plant too many seeds on purpose. Today I sarted my garden at my moms house which is 5 blocks from where I live. My other main garden is 50 miles from me and that is where my green house is now!
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My soil is excellent here but has some grass mixed in so I dig it and pull out the grass roots! I put in 4 beds 3 in the garden and one raised bed. The raised bed I dug out the soil about a foot down and put it on a pile. I put a 6 inch layer of the pine shavings that were giving off steam all over the 12 by 2 bed! I covered it with 6 inches of the soil I had on the pile then planted onions and covered them. Now I added more seeds on top of the onions which is lettuce, radish and some broccoli seeds! . I raked the top lightly and tamped it down.
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I did all four beds basically the same except no pine under the garden beds and cabbage in one mixed and kolarabbi in one but all with lettuce and onions!! I plant alot in the bed and thin later. When I thin I just plant the plants in a different area so I have a jump on doing the whole garden with plants already up! My radish are really tender mixed with the lettuce. I usually add carrots also but its a little early for them! To me the only way to plant is a variety at one time and thinning is part of it!! I give alot of stuff away especially my early lettuce!
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

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