Pinching out the Sweet Peas

The Sweet Peas need some tough love in the form of ‘pinching out’, and the Tulip ‘Triumph’ flowers are about to open.

It’s been about 2.5 weeks since I sowed my Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ seeds, and about 10 days since I sowed my Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds. Out of 12 seeds of each, I have 9 Royal Mixed, and 7 Cupani that have germinated. There could be more on their way, but those early Royal Mixed are now several inches long.

Sweet Pea 'Royal Mixed' need pinching out
Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ need slowing down.

I say long, because they’re long, not tall. The longest being 22cm, and this means I need to do something to help stop these getting too straggly. These Sweet Peas need ‘pinching out’.

When a Sweet Pea hits on something good, it goes up and up and up, or would do if these were planted against some wire, or sticks, but as they’re still too little to go outside, I need to stop them getting too straggly. By ‘pinching out’ the top growth buds, it will encourage the plant to throw out side shoots, therefore making a stronger, bushier plant.

The 'pinched out' Sweet Pea 'Royal Mixed' growth tips.
Some of the ‘pinched out’ Sweet Pea ‘Royal Mixed’ growth tips.

This will slow them down a bit, result in stronger plants, and also encourage more stems. More stems means more buds, and then more flowers.

This is a fairly common practice, and one that I’ve done in previous years. However, if you’re new to this, or new to growing Sweet Peas, then check out this handy little guide from Thompson and Morgan.

Elsewhere in the garden, the Tulips continue to bloom in a range of lilacs, peach, and now red and deep purple – with my Tulip ‘Triumph’ bulbs blooming for the first time – after I set them on 20th December last year.

Tulip 'Triumph' purple flowers
The dark crimson Tulip ‘Triump’ flowers are almost open.

The windowsills are still creaking with pots and trays, but we’re now back down to one propagator only.

It’s lovely and sunny this weekend, and as I type this I can hear the birds singing (and rowing under my eaves), and someone is mowing their lawn somewhere down the road.

As ever, happy gardening, and thanks for reading.

Andrew

The Sweet Peas feel a pinch of success

The Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seedlings are growing so well that it’s time to pinch out the buds to help the seedlings become strong and more resistant to pests.

If your sweet peas are anything like mine, they are growing very happily on the windowsill at the moment. In fact, a bit too well. It’s time to be brutal with them.

I sowed my Unwins Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds in my propagator back in January, and by now they would be climbing several feet up anything they could find if given the chance. But I’ve been doing them a favour – i’ve been nipping the buds out.

This might seem a bit destructive but by doing so, you’re not only going to avoid having sweet peas up your curtains, but you’re also going to encourage the remaining plant to bulk up – grow sturdy and strong – which is what your plants will need if they face the real risk of a flock of marauding aphids like mine did last year.

To do this, wait for about 4 tiers of leaves, and then pinch out the stem growth after the second set of lower leaves. This will mean that growth will be encouraged from low down on the plant – helping it to grow stronger – stem-wise and root wise. A stronger stem means it’s a stronger plant, and better roots means that the plant will be able to better at finding nutrients in the soil.

A Sweet Pea 'Cupani' flower
Last year’s Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ produced few flowers after battling with aphids.

It’s almost time for sweet peas to go start going outside – but as we’ve had some pretty hard frosts here in the last few days – i’ve held them back. It’s best to do a gradual acclimatisation, so i’ll be putting them out during the day, and bringing them back in at night for the next week or so just so that the shock doesn’t kill them before planting them out.

Fortunately, I have already seen some Ladybirds (Ladybugs) in the garden, and hopefully the Nasturtiums that I planted last week will bring the Hoverflies back – both of which will enjoy munching on aphids.

For more about Sweet Pea varieties and how to grow them, check out the National Sweet Pea Society.