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Yep, you should have divided these basil seedlings ages ago… but it’s still not to late if you know what to do!

When you start your own seeds, you often find yourself in a situation where they become too crowded and start to become spindly due to a lack of space. Of course, the solution seems simple enough: just divide them and plant them up in individual pots or plant a larger container at a more adequate spacing.

Sometimes however, especially if you’ve let this go on a bit too long, the roots of the seedlings become so entangled that separating them without damaging the roots is not easy to do. What can you do in such a case?

Fortunately, here’s a trick that works without fail: soak the roots before you divide. Here’s how it works:

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When you’ve swished off enough soil, the seedlings will be easy to pull apart. Photo: potagerdurable.com

Remove the clump of seedlings from their pot and place their rootball in a bowl of water. Now, swish the roots back and forth a bit and you’ll find the soil mix will slide right off. Swish them a bit more until there is little soil left. Now pull delicately on a seedling and you’ll see that it will separate from its companions like magic.

All you have left to do is to repot it and its brethren into their new pots using fresh potting mix!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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