How to pinch out sweet peas with Pots & Trowels

Sowing your sweet peas in the autumn helps to produce sturdy plants with strong root systems that can then be overwintered in a very cool glasshouse or cold frame, so that come spring they can be planted out to get that little bit of a head start – versus spring sowing sweet peas – to get a few early flowers.

If you sowed your sweet peas from seed earlier this autumn, your now established seedlings will most likely be starting to get a little leggy, which means it’s time to pinch them out. The idea of pinching out sweet peas is to encourage more bushy growth that will, in turn, produce more flowers. The flowers will only grow from the single stem if you leave them to grow as they are, whereas pinching out the top growth will encourage multiple stems to grow, which means more beautiful blooms.

In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shows exactly what to need to do. You can watch the video below, or keep reading for all the tips you need. Spend a few minutes now pinching out the growing tips and your sweet peas will be stronger, bushier and will produce loads of lovely flowers next season.

Or, if you’re waiting for the next growing season, then check out our previous blog on how to sow sweet peas indoors in spring for all the guidance you need to sow these ever-popular flowers.

Here’s all you need to do to pinch out sweet peas:

  • Count up three sets of leaves on your sweet pea seedling.
  • Using your fingernail, pinch off the growing tip above the third set of leaves.

And that’s it! It’s really that simple.

This stops them getting too tall and leggy, and also means that each of the little leaf joints will start to produce a new shoot come springtime, creating lovely bushy plants for when you plant them out.

Top tip! Get some twiggy stems – if you’ve been pruning in the garden recently then cuttings from that are perfect – and push them in randomly among your sweet pea seedlings to provide some support. The stems will stop them flopping over and encourage them to grow upwards rather than sideways.

Keep your tray or pots of seedlings in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, or in a sheltered position outside (south facing is ideal), as you want to keep them cold but you don’t want them to freeze solid. If they get too much heat from a warm windowsill or similar, they will just keep growing and growing over winter which will create weak plants for spring planting.

Keep the compost just moist – not too wet – to prevent the roots from rotting off. If it feels a bit dry, or when you pick the tray or pot up it feels very light, then that’s an indication that they need a drink.

Come back in March and Martin will show you what to do next with your flourishing plants!

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