I had a demo from a championship sweet pea grower (who also quite conveniently happens to be my neighbour!) the other day on how to pinch out sweet peas. There is nothing better than seeing something carried out in front of you to bring the words you have read to life. So I whizzed back to my greenhouse to check if mine were ready to be pinched out and sure enough, some of them were. My sweet peas were kindly planted for me by a young friend, and were planted on February 2nd.

Piers smiling planting sweet peas

There is still time to spring plant sweet pea seeds if you haven't already. They can also be planted in the autumn. 

Seeing as I found it easier to "see" this being done I thought I would post up some photos as its the closest I can get to showing you in person. We describe in the sweet pea growing page for members how to pinch out the sweet pea seedlings, so here are the photos to help our members and non-members alike. 


Sweet pea seedlings should have their central growing stem pinched out after two pairs of real leaves have formed. This helps to produce side shoot formation and therefore more flowers.

Sweet pea seedling 1


There are two sets of leaves either side of the main stem, plus a little growth beyond this, therefore this is a good point to pinch out. If there are two sets of leaves but either no additional growth or very limited additional growth then wait a day or two.

Sweet pea seedling 2

Using thumb nail and forefinger "pinch out" the central growing stem. Press your thumb nail against the pad of your forefinger to cut through the stem. Pinching out young seedlings can easily be done with your thumb nail as the stems are so soft. Youngsters could also use scissors if you think this will give them more control. Try both methods to see which works best for your group.


sweet pea seedling 3 sweet pea seedling 4


The central stem has now been removed. 

A top insider tip is that if you want even more flowers you can pinch out the side shoots again after they have developed some more! A championship grower would not do this however, as it results in more flowers of less quality. However seeing as even my neighbours "rejects" are often better than my top quality I think most of us could get away with it!!!

So let's see how all our sweet peas do this year. If you didn't spot the latest news the other day there is an offer by Mr Fothergill's for free sweet pea seeds, and of course our members have them included in their starter seeds collection.

Brian is braver than I was letting my son do watering duty of his sweet pea seedlings. I don't think any seedlings drowned on this occasion and a happy soggy boy resulted! As my seedlings will not be entering national shows later in the year I often let my boy loose on them! 

Brian  henry watering sweet peas

 Inspiring a new generation of growers.