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February 6, 2019
Definition: The removal of weaker plants or trees to decrease competition for resources (space, sunlight, nutrients, water) and allow for a more healthy and vigorous growth.
In the Forest Garden: Although it may seem counterproductive to remove plants from the soil, it is a necessary practice in agroforestry and Forest Gardens. Initially, trees are planted in close proximity to one another, but as they grow they encroach on one another and ultimately begin competing for important resources like space (both above and below ground), sunlight, water, and nutrients. By removing the weaker, less promising trees when things get too crowded, farmers give the remaining plants a chance to thrive more than either would have if left to compete for resources. We most commonly see farmers use thinning in living fences, like the one seen here.
Farmers begin thinning as early as the germination phase. If more than one seedling sprouts in the same planting hole, the surplus growth is removed. Farmers planting timber trees often wait up to six years or until the canopy is filled out before thinning out the weaker trees.
Thinning vs. Pruning: Certain agricultural approaches consider thinning to include removing weaker branches or underperforming fruits to encourage more vigorous and healthy growth, but the Forest Garden Approach refers to this practice as pruning. We’ll be sure to feature pruning as a Word of the Week in the future, but you can jump over to the Forest Garden Training Center to learn more today.