Thinning seedlings: don’t waste them, eat them!

I have an abundance of sunflower volunteers in my community garden bed (I left a sunflower seed head to sit over the winter on top of the soil and this is the happy result). I’m letting these little guys get a bit larger before I remove them. A good rinse, and I’ve got some delicious sunflower shoots to enjoy in a sandwich. You know how much organic sunflower shoots cost in the market! When you’re thinning your seedlings, don’t waste the ones that you can eat…I also have a bunch of dill volunteers that are destined for a potato salad this week. You can even eat the greens from carrots…and they’re particularly tasty when they are really small. (Some thinnings to avoid include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Check before you chow down!)

Using seed tape can help you avoid the process of thinning altogether, especially for small seeds, such as carrots. Do you use seed tape? Have you ever made your own seed tape? It’s as simple as grabbing a few squares of toilet paper and mixing an environmentally-friendly glue from flour and water. Janet Melrose and I give instructions how to do it in our book The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Seeds.

Another trick for sowing really small seeds: use the tip of a damp toothpick to carefully pick up the seed and deposit it into the growing medium.

Of course, sometimes you’re going to want to transplant the seedlings you thin – this potentially delicate procedure is called pricking out. You need to have a steady hand and be careful not to damage those fine root systems, but it’s a workable solution with no waste, and you can pot on those little plants and let them grow to maturity and harvest.

Yummmmmmm …


  1. I accidentally dropped half a handful of lettuce seeds all in one spot. That’s going to be interesting. Even though I tried to sort of rake out the pile they all came up looking more like a huge patch of thick clover. 🥬🥬🥬🥬

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