Just a pinch... A phrase that is most often spoken in the kitchen, but is also totally relevant to encouraging serious growth in your garden. If you have never associated this phrase with gardening, that is more than okay. To be honest, pinching is a term that I have only recently learned in the past year. Just as you would add a pinch of something to better a recipe, adding pinching to your gardening routines will better your blooms.
Pinching sweet peas is not super labor-intensive, and will only take as long it takes you to snip off the second set of leaves from each plant. Which, I can assure you will hurt you more than it could ever hurt the plant. Growing a plant from a seed is such a fun experience. No matter your age or skill level, it is exciting to see little green sprouts emerge from the dirt, so the idea of pinching any part of the plant away can seem outrageous. However, the blooms that will come later in the season will be worth it.
If pinching is a new term to you, you should know that it is not some fancy gardening secret, and is quite commonly used for many plants to encourage strong growth. In addition to being a fairly quick task, it requires only items that you likely already have on hand; You will need a flat surface to use as a workspace, a pair of sharp pruning scissors, and, of course, some healthy baby sweet pea plants.
It is important to note that the sweet peas should have two full sets of leaves(that's four leaves total) before you pinch them. If not all of the sweet peas in the tray are ready to be pinched, make sure that you have some sort of a tagging method ready to use. A common household item, such as a toothpick, will work just fine to help you tag each cell.
Pinching the area between the two sets of leaves, also known as an internode, acts somewhat as a kickstart for the flower. The flower will start to grow upward much faster, producing more sets of leaves, and eventually some very beautiful blooms. Once all of your sweet peas have been pinched, they are ready to be transplanted into the ground. How soon you transplant them depends on what zone you are in, and when your last frost will occur. While sweet peas do love cooler temps, you want to make sure that they have developed a strong root system before exposing them to the mercy of mother nature.
Lastly, I would like to make a note of the experimental tags that I am using to distinguish which sweet pea plants have been pinched. If you take a closer look at the last picture, you can see that the leaves that I pinched off have been dipped in rooting powder, and set right back into the cell of the plant that they came from. This is something that was mentioned in a recent class, and the idea is to propagate the pinched piece. If this is successful(cross your fingers for me), I will have double the plants that I initially started with! Which, I am hoping will feel just as exciting when I am trying to squeeze them all into the patch... I will, of course, update you all on how this experiment goes for any of your future pinching endeavors.
Thanks for reading, and we look forward to sharing more info with you as we learn as we grow!
Flat Surface, Pruning Scissors, & Tags
Using a flat surface to work on, identify which sweet pea plants have two sets of leaves (four leaves total). These are the plants that are ready for you to pinch.
Using your pruning scissors, snip off the top set of leaves at the internode (the area of stem between the two sets of leaves).
Discard the top set and watch the plant's growth explode in the following weeks.
Transplant into the ground once all danger of a hard frost has passed.