About 3 weeks ago, I thinned my seed trays to provide better growing conditions for my broccoli, cabbage, and chard sprouts. At the time, my children couldn’t believe I was ‘killing my baby plants’, and they sure didn’t buy my explanation that thinning the crop was necessary for the greater good of the garden. Well, my kids LOVE experiments, so we decided to conduct one on our Spring crop of veggies.
We wanted to test the theory that thinning was indeed better for plant growth and development. Here is what we did.
One cabbage seed cell was left overcrowded, one was thinned to 2 sprouts, and the last was thinned to 1 sprout.
We did the same for 3 broccoli seed cells and 3 chard seed cells.
We watered and fed all the seedlings at the same time and treated them to the same light and temperature conditions. The only thing we altered was the number of seedlings per seed cell. Three weeks later, we were ready to harden off the sprouts, and decided it was time to measure the plants before they were transplanted into the garden.
What a difference in size there was! The difference in plant height, leaf size, and stem thickness was clear as day between the sprouts that were thinned and the sprouts that were left as is. Even the seed cells with 2 sprouts were noticeably smaller than the cells with just 1 plant.
The cabbages that had been thinned were more than 2 inches taller than their puny crowded siblings.
The broccoli that had been left as is, were runts compared to the stocky broccoli that had been thinned.
Even the chard had similar results.
This is one of the many reasons why I love science. My kiddos and I conducted one easy, little experiment (I was already thinning my plants anyway) and they have now learned a lifetime lesson about the effect overcrowding has on a plant’s development. Better yet, I don’t even think they realize they learned anything, they were just having fun and spending time with their mom. And really, isn’t that what being a mom is all about? I think so. 😉