Forgive me for I have thinned

Buttercup squash, a closeup of 2 plants prior to thinning.
Buttercup squash before thinning. The plant on the right will be removed, sadly.

It has been one to two weeks since I transplanted several varieties of winter squash seedlings to the in-ground clay planters that I dug for them.  It’s time for what I consider to be the most odious task required in gardening:  thinning out the plants.  It feels so unfair, choosing who will live and who will die, when all the seedlings have grown to be so healthy and robust.

I’ve tried various tactics in the past to avoid this step, such as only planting a small number of seedlings with a lot of space between them so that thinning would not be necessary.  When I do this, invariably something happens to my small group: they are eaten by animals or bugs, or I clumsily step on some of them, or they simply fail to thrive. Thus, grudgingly, I have come to accept thinning as a necessity.  To make the task more palatable, I thank each plant that I have to pull up, telling it I’m grateful that it has lived and been of service, making the world a greener place.  I thank it for supporting its fellow plants.

At this point, I should be saying that I put the plant in my compost pile so it can become food for the next generation, but I don’t.  Here I must confess one of my failings as an amateur gardener: I can’t make myself follow through on composting.  Yes, I bought a compost bin, a Soil Saver, last year; yes, I tried to compost my vegetable garden last year, chopping up a bunch of my purple-hull pea vines when they were through producing and putting them in the bin along with layers of brown; yes, I read that the carbon-to-nitrogen mix should be 25:1 or 30:1.  What happens is, I can’t remember to keep it wet, and I’m not strong enough to turn over the pile.  Therefore, senior moments plus a lack of upper-body strength have resulted in me wasting a lot of beautiful plant debris.

Hopefully, now that I’ve confessed, I’ll forgive myself and solutions will begin to present themselves; so that in the future, I can do something constructive with my thinned-out plants and not feel so sorry for them.

Here’s the latest slideshow on the winter squash project:

  • Young Waltham Butternut squash 12 days after transplant.
    Young Waltham Butternut squash prior to being thinned out. There are 11 plants in a 4-foot by 1-foot area, which is too many. I will be thinning these by half, though it saddens me to do so.