Thinning Vegetables and Herbs in the Garden

February 4, 2019
Thinning Lettuce
Celeste Longacre

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Thinning the vegetable and herb crops, I think, is one of the hardest jobs in the garden.

Once the plants germinate, it’s lovely to look at the hundreds of carrots or beets or lettuces. It’s easy to think, “Wow, I’m going to have hundreds of everything!” The only problem is, if you don’t thin them out and give everybody space to grow, you’ll end up with hundreds of teensy, tiny crops that won’t give you much good eating. So, thin we must.

I do like to thin slowly. You never know when some insect will come along and decide to eat a few (or more than a few) of what you have planted. So, I do it in stages. The important thing is to give everybody some room to grow. Even with the best Sun, water and soil amendments, the crops are not going to get big in size if they don’t have enough room.

Here’s some basil before and after thinning.

Unthinned basil

Thinned basil

 Here’s some lettuce before and after thinning.

Unthinned lettuce

Thinned lettuce

Here’s some kale before and after thinning.

Unthinned kale

Thinned kale

Here’s some beets before and after thinning.

Unthinned beets

Thinned beets

Throughout the summer, I keep thinning. Soon, the thinnings are big enough to eat and they are going into my kitchen and dinners instead of to the chickens. Carrots and beets were on the menu today.

Some of the purslane is also harvestable. Yum!

Harvestable purslane

Picked purslane

And, just for the fun of it. I saw a couple of chickens taking a dust bath and decided to take their picture. They do this as a way to clean themselves and remain mite-free.

Chickens dust bath

About This Blog

Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens. Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer and gardens by the Moon. Her new book, “Celeste’s Garden Delights,” is now available! Celeste Longacre does a lot of teaching out of her home and garden in the summer. Visit her web site at for details.

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Again, fascinated by the

Again, fascinated by the purslane....didn't know the name of this pretty "weed" and kicking myself for not having read this article yesterday as I filled BUCKET with purslane and dumped it in the compost. Shucks. Good thing is, it WILL come back!
The PICTURES of "not thinned" and "thinned" were very helpful. Question: Have you had any luck with transplanting the little "babies?"

Hi Celeste, Great article and

Hi Celeste,
Great article and info. I'm also on the purslane, and wondering what is the best "harvestable" purslane? Small and tender, or larger, meatier leaves? I'm using some leftover spaghetti sauce to make a casserole with some new summer squash, eggplant, and think I'm going to throw some purslane into the mix.

Good morning Celeste, I have

Good morning Celeste,
I have plenty of purslane in my garden and am glad to hear that it is edible. Can you give me some suggesions as to how it can be prepared? Is it eaten raw in salads or should it be cooked? If cooked, I would appreciate some preparation suggestions. If eaten raw, do you eat the whole thing? or just the leaves?
Thank you for your assistance.

Hi Carol, I like it best

Hi Carol,
I like it best either steamed and served up with butter and a bit of salt or juiced. I eat everything but the roots. I generally pick it before it flowers, so I'm not sure how the flowers or seeds taste. You can also eat it raw in salads. It has a mild flavor. Another way to serve it would be to steam it, then add butter and grated cheese. Parmesan or cheddar is quite nice. I don't eat the roots.

So, what is the deal with

So, what is the deal with Purslane? Isn't that one of the weeds growing in my garden? How do you use it, and what does it taste like?

Hi Lorika, Yes, it is a weed

Hi Lorika,
Yes, it is a weed that grows profusely in many gardens. I like it either steamed and served with butter and a bit of salt or juiced. It doesn't have a strong flavor, but, rather, a mild one.


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