Sunday, 15 May 2011

Removing side shoots and tendrils from exhibition sweet peas.

These sweet peas have had their tendrils removed 
If you remove the tendrils and the side shoots of sweet peas, you get large stemmed flowers.  I cut the tendrils off with a pair of scissors and rub out the side shoots with my finger and thumb.  The tendrils and side shoots do not grow back.  Each leaf has its own tendril that will have to be removed.  New side shoots will grow int he axil of each leaf and new ones will grow from ground level.  If you leave the tendrils on they entwine themselves around the stems of the flowers and make them contort.

This is fine if you are just growing them for the house.  However, if you are growing for exhibition then you don't really want this to happen.  Removing their natural means of climbing causes them to flop about all over the place unless you tie them up.  I use wire because it is the most convenient way of doing it.

The problem with wire is that it can squash or even break the stem.  The convenience of using wire outweighs the disadvantages but to alleviate the disadvantages even more, I only tie around leaves.  If you break a leaf the plant will grow another.  If you break the stem then you have to wait until a side shoot is big enough to take over the main stem role.

If you think about it you will realise that the sweet pea is supported by its leaves when it climbs using its tendrils.  So the leaves and the leaf stalks  must be strong enough to bear the weight of the plant as it is climbing. I would suggest that this is a good way of tying up sweet peas.

I was going to feed all the sweet peas with dilute comfrey liquid but they are growing so quickly and healthily that I didn't think that they needed any further mollycoddling.  I hoed down each of the rows mainly to slow water evaporation and prevent the soil from drying out.    If you can keep the soil surface friable and loose it will keep the soil damp lower down.

Have a look at:

I find the hoe and the swoe most useful tools.  If used properly then you can remove a lot of weed seedlings relatively quickly by severing them from their roots.  While it can be used against bigger plants it is best to use it to remove small weed seedlings.  If you do it on a hot day the weed seedlings shrivel and die quickly.  I skim through the soil as shallowly as I can because going deeper will not necessarily cut off the roots.  I tend to use a Dutch hoe because they are strong enough to go through the toughest ground.  I sharpen my hoe so that it cuts through the soil easily.  I always try to hoe forwards standing in an adjacent row so that I do not tread on where I have just hoed.

I like to hoe regularly and always hoe where there does not seem to be any weeds.  This causes the just germinated weed seeds to be disturbed and die.

Apart from this, I find hoeing a very therapeutic activity because hoes are just the right for leaning on.

I planted another row of lettuce using comfrey liquid to water them in.  I would like to put some nematode worms around them but, as they have not arrived from Unwins, I do not have that option.

I have just enough space here for a row of celeriac and a couple more rows of leeks.  The only other space  on the allotment is between the peas and the climbing French beans.  I am hoping to put the dwarf French beans in here if I can nurture them to grow a little more.

Mick gave me some heirloom sweet peas so I planted these to make a column using canes and plastic netting.

I watered them in with comfrey liquid.  Only one oca plant seems to be growing at the moment.  I will continue to wait and see whether the other five are going to grow.

I didn't hoe up the potatoes again.  They seem to be making quite a good canopy over the soil and this will shade out all but the most persistent weeds.  A quick going over with the onion hoe will clear off any weeds that do grow.


  1. Taking out those tendrils is a hugely time-consuming task, but well worth it.

    1. If you are just growing for cut flowers for the house, I would say it was not worth it Andy. I would grow the very scented varieties and let them climb up netting or a pyramid of branch poles. ( A little more aesthetic than canes)