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I planted 2 cilantro seeds in the same bed a few weeks ago... now I've got 3 distinct seedlings coming up in close proximity. I want to grow the cilantro for culinary use and planted multiple seeds assuming I'd eventually have to thin them.

Is now the time to choose two of these to thin out? One of them (all the way in the back) is starting to develop it's first cilantro-looking leaf.... so maybe keep that one and get rid of the other two?

And to thin, I just get a scissor and cut the seedling a little above the soil?

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  • Let me get this straight: You planted two or three individual seeds. You want to keep one. Are you planning to harvest anything for your kitchen or is this simply an experiment? – Stephie Aug 4 '15 at 20:48
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I would suggest not thinning them yet either. As @michelle suggested, wait at least until the true leaves appear. You can thin by harvesting once a second set of true leaves develop. (In the time since you posted the question, they may have matured enough to do so). Also, while selling herbs at a market, the farmer I worked for recommended leaving a few plants together (~5) to make them less vulnerable to wind/damage. If one gets damaged or eaten, there is still more plants remaining.

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I seed the stuff thick, and never thin. Always seem to get a good crop. My current batch is on its fourth harvest now. I chop it to about 50mm (2") with scissors. Looks like it's getting ready to bolt/flower this time. Freeze the chopped excess spread out on a cookie tray then jar frozen chunks to preserve flavor.

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Yes you should thin out 2 of the 3, by gently pulling the seedling out. (Snipping them off would not be the way to go, it may encourage bushier plant to emerge.)

From WikiHow

Prevent overcrowding. Stop the cilantro plants from becoming overcrowded by thinning the seedlings when the cilantro is 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) tall. Pull out the smaller plants and leave the strongest ones to grow larger, allowing 8 to 10 inches (20.3 to 25.4 cm) between each plant. The smaller plants can be used in cooking and eaten.[4]

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    I think expecting a seedling that was cut below the cotyledons to grow back - and even bushier than before - is overly optimistic... – Stephie Aug 4 '15 at 19:34
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Personally, I would leave them a little longer. Things can and do go wrong with seedlings this small. When you have several true leaves on each plant (so leaves that look like cilantro, not the cotyledons like the one you are pinching in the photo), then choose the strongest and thin the others out. I would absolutely snip them off with a scissors to thin. That will cause the least damage to the one you choose to keep.


ETA - One benefit of waiting a little longer is that you can use the plants you thin out. You won't get a ton of cilantro this way, of course, but it is still nice to use.

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