Root vegetables are some of my favorite garden goodies to grow during our cool season. They aren’t as picky about the amount of sun needed so they can be tucked in areas that are too shady for fruit producing plants. However, many new gardeners have trouble with root vegetables because they forget one key task…thinning. Let’s look at why this is crucial and how to properly thin root vegetables.
Root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, and parsnips, are almost always sown directly in the garden. The roots are easily damaged by transplanting so you can end up with weirdly shaped roots if you’re not too careful. The seeds for these plants are often very tiny so it’s hard to only plant the number of seeds that you need. Gardening with kids will mean even more seeds being spread all over the place which is exactly what happened with the patch of carrots in the pictures below! Even if you’re very careful, you will most likely end up with far too many seedlings growing close together. In order for these roots to reach the proper size, they will need to be thinned to the correct spacing.
A Quick Note About Gardening with Kids
Gardening with kids rarely results in picture perfect plantings. That’s okay! It’s far more important to have them out in the garden than to have perfect pictures. The pictures in this post are of a carrot patch that my 6 and 9 year old planted. You’ll notice that there are some bare areas. Uneven distribution of seed is completely normal when gardening with kids – and even adults. After they thinned the area, they spread more seed to fill in the bare areas.
Why Thin Root Vegetables?
Thinning is the process where you remove extra seedlings so that the remaining plants will have enough space to grow to maturity. You can find the proper spacing on the seed packets. It can be incredibly tedious to plant one tiny carrot seed every three inches. It’s pretty much impossible if your young kids are helping! It can also be tedious to thin a heavily seeded area. Try to be mindful of how much seed you use so that you don’t have to thin as much. However, chances are good that you will have to thin in order to maximize your harvest.
How to Thin Root Vegetables
Use a pair of scissors or small pruners to cut the top of the plant off at the soil. NEVER pull the seedlings up as that can cause the roots of nearby plants to become twisted. Snipping off the top at the soil level when the seedling is young will stop its growth. You want to thin the area when the seedlings are tiny…the sooner the better. If you wait too long, the roots will be strong enough to send up new tops. If that happens, just cut them back again. They’ll eventually die.
Yes, I know it’s difficult to cut off all the baby carrots and radishes! However, if you don’t properly thin the root vegetables, they’ll be too crowded and won’t reach their full potential. You’ll end up with tiny roots.
Thinning Other Seedlings
If you start your own seedling transplants, you’ll also want to thin those seedlings if too many seeds germinate in the area. I prefer to start my seedlings in soil blocks. Check out how to make soil blocks and why they produce healthier seedlings. I use 2-3 seeds per block depending on how old the seed is that I’m using. If more than one germinates, I’ll have too many growing in a soil block. Choose the weakest seedling and cut it off at the soil level. The strongest will now have the room it needs to grow.
Root veggies are a quick and easy way to get kids involved in the garden. They love to pull up the plants and finally see what has been growing in the ground! Thinning these crops is a step you can’t skip it you want the plants to have room to fully develop.
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[…] that gardening with kids rarely results in picture perfect gardens. Seeds won’t get distributed evenly. Plants won’t be planted in perfectly straight lines. That’s […]