By now you should have lovely healthy sweet pea plants, standing proudly in the spring sunshine in your greenhouse, cold frame or windowsill, but what do you do with them now?
You might think that’s a bit of a silly question, with the answer surely being; sit back and enjoy your young plants, watering them until it’s time to plant them outside.
Well, there is actually one more important job you need to do; pinching them out.
Put quite simply, you are ‘pinching out’, or removing part of the centre stem of the plant.
Now, I completely understand this sounds like a crazy thing to do; why would remove part of your healthy, thriving plant?!
In fact, rather than butchering the plant (which is what it feels like you’re doing the first time you do it!), you’re actually helping the plant immensely.
When you remove part of the centre stem, you’re stimulating the plant to produce lots of lovely side shoots. So rather than your plant growing one single stem, it will now produce several, meaning it will be a lot less tall and floppy and will now be sturdy and bushy.
You will find that seasoned sweet pea growers who actually grow plants to produce flowers for garden shows and events won’t pinch their plants, preferring to grow their flowers on one centre stem. The reason for this is that they don’t want their plants to waste its energy producing lots more stems and additional flowers, actually preferring to encourage less flowers which should be more of a show quality. To the average gardener, like you and me, we want to encourage as many stems and flowers as possible so we can enjoy lots of fragrant bunches of flowers all season long.
So, how do we actually pinch our sweet pea plants?
When your plants are around 10cm tall, using your thumb and forefinger (or a pair of scissors), literally pinch off the centre stem just above a set of leaves. If your plants are a little bigger, remove the stem further up the plant. If your plants are a lot taller and the section of plant you’re removing is quite large, place the section you’ve removed in water and place your cuttings on a sunny windowsill to produce roots and hey presto; more free sweet pea plants!
I completely understand it can take a little courage to treat a healthy plant like this, but I promise you will reap the benefits from this further down the line.
Remember, the more stems the plants produces, the more flowers you will be enjoying in a few weeks time!