Gardening with Lone: Thinning your vegetables

Gardening with Lone: Thinning your vegetables

Thinning is the process of removing selected plants if they are too close together. Many of the common plants grown in our Northern gardens, like carrots, turnips, Swiss chard, beets and romaine lettuce (sown from seed), require thinning as they need space to grow into big, fat juicy plants!

Carrots
During the first thinning of carrots (at about an inch in height), leave the strongest plant and only one per every half finger’s width. The thinning process with carrots can be done over several times, but it’s very important to thin properly during the first thinning as this sets them up for successful growing through to the fall. With carrots, doing a second thinning towards late June or early July to make sure each carrot has enough space is a good thing. By the time they are a small finger’s thickness you can start picking every second one for some delectable munching. Go easy in the beginning so it leaves at least half of your carrots to grow to full size by the first week in September.

Beets
Beets need thinning as soon as they have developed the crown leaves. Thin to a finger’s width. When beets are the size of a small egg, thin again, taking every second one. You can then have a feast of baby beets and beet greens. Leave half to grow to full potential, spaced at about 10 cm between each plant.

Lettuce
Romaine lettuce, if planted from seed, needs to be thinned to create about 10cm between each plant. If carefully lifted out from under the root, the thinned out plant can be replanted somewhere else in the garden where there is space. This only works if done very gently. Swiss chard is thinned and replanted in the same way as romaine lettuce.

Turnips
Turnips need thinning when crown leaves have developed. Thin to 10 cm between each plant.

Hilling potatoes
Ideally, potatoes would have been planted in a furrow (or depression) and as the stems grow to about a foot in height, put the soil up around the stems. This will allow the plant to send out more “umbilical cords” for setting some more potatoes.

Boosting Plants
Throughout the growing season, some plants need an extra boost. Compost tea is a fantastic “meal” for any plant as it sends the nutrients, microbes and minerals quickly down deep to where the roots can absorb them. Liquid kelp and fish fertilizers also work well. Broccoli, for instance, benefits from a boost after the first cutting of the biggest crown so it can send out nice strong side shoots for continuous production through to fall. All coles (brassicas), like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, don’t mind raw fertilizer, such as liquid fish fertilizer. Beware that carrots do not like raw fertilizers, so if you find your carrots are not growing and they need a boost, make a “tea” out of well-rotted compost.

To make compost tea, simply put some compost in a bucket or empty garbage can. Fill with ¼ compost and ¾ water. If you don’t have your own well-rotted compost, you can use composted sheep manure or any other compost that can be bought in bags. Stir well, and stir again after an hour. Let this “brew” for a day or two. Pour some of this “brew” into your watering can and water your plants. They will like it!

Lone Sorensen is the founder of Northern Roots and has lived and grown food in Yellowknife for 27 years.

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