How to thin out salad leaves

Discover how to thin salad leaves for a bigger, healthier crop, with the help of this step-by-step guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
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To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do To do in May

Do To do in June

Do To do in July

Do To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do not To do in November

Do not To do in December

Salad seeds are small, and best sown in rows outdoors. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, you’ll need to ‘thin’ them, reducing crowding in the row.

How to grow salad leaves

Thinning your plants gives them space to grow to larger leaves and dense hearts. It also reduces competition between the plants for resources and improves air circulation. Aim to thin leaves when the soil is damp, as they’ll be easier to pull. Do it regularly until they reach the spacings recommended on the seed packet.

Find out how to thin salad seeds by following our simple steps, below.

Thinning your plants gives them space to grow to larger leaves and dense hearts.

You Will Need

  • Hosepipe, or watering can with a fine rose
  • Salad seedlings

Total time:

Step 1

After you’ve sown your seeds and they’ve germinated, they may be crowded, uneven and competing for resources. When large enough to handle, you will need to thin them.


Step 2

Carefully pull out the seedlings with as little disturbance to the others as possible. Pull up the weaker ones at regular spacings. This is best done when the soil is damp.


Step 3

Check the seedlings that are left, firming them in if they’ve been disturbed and have become loose. If there are any large gaps, replant spare seedlings into them.


Step 4

Water the remaining seedlings gently, using a light spray from a hose or watering can with a rose, so you don’t wash away soil from the row and dislodge any seedlings.


Make the most of your pulled seedlings

Seedlings that are pulled out don’t have to be discarded – transplant them to fill any gaps in the row, or rinse and enjoy in a salad or as a garnish.