Sunday 20 March 2016

A ruthless cull

Yes, I know that post title sounds a bit dramatic, but (despite the small scale) this is exactly what I have been doing today - culling. In this case it relates to my new chilli seedlings.


When sowing chillis I always put two seeds in each pot. In my mind, this doubles the chance of getting a viable plant! I am very aware that seeds - particularly chilli seeds - are not guaranteed to germinate, especially if they are quite old. Many of my chilli seeds are ones I have received from friends and fellow bloggers, and I have no idea how old they are.

Often, both seeds germinate (though sometimes at a different time). These two are "Puma" (seeds from Enrico in Italy). They are quite evenly matched, since both germinated on the same day.


On the other hand, these two of "Nigel's Outdoor" (seeds from Alex Taylor in Scotland) are very unevenly matched.

Nigel's Outdoor

One looks very good, but the other still has its seed-case attached. Chilli-growers call this "having its helmet on". Here's a view of a "Cayenne" seedling in a similar situation:


Usually the expanding cotyledons (seed leaves) will push the "helmet" off, but sometimes it may need a bit of help. One way to assist is to ease the seed-case off with a very fine pair of tweezers - being careful not to damage the seedling though! Another thing that can help is to mist the plant frequently with lukewarm water, which serves to soften the seed-case.

Despite one's best efforts, occasionally only one, or worse neither, of the seeds will germinate. If you get just one, that's OK, because it saves having to decide which seedling to keep and which to cull. This is "Cheiro Roxa". Only one seed germinated.

Cheiro Roxa

When you get two seedlings that are just as good as each other, you are faced with the choice of deciding which to keep and which has to go. These two Turkish Bell Pepper seedlings both look good to me. I would be happy with either.

Turkish Bell Pepper

As it happens, the one on the right went and the one on the left survived. Why? Well, the one on the right had slightly wrinkled leaves, whereas the one on the left had straight flat leaves. On such minor differences a plant's fate may be determined!

This weekend I sowed another batch of chilli seeds (so much for my plans not to go overboard with chilli plants this year!). The reason is that I received a batch of seeds from my daughter Fiona (the one who lives in France). They are seeds she acquired on a recent trip to Panama (her husband is from there). This is too good an opportunity to miss, so some of the seeds went into compost within hours of being received. Neither Fiona nor I have any idea what the names of these chillis are. Although she had the chilli fruits to see before removing the seeds, all I have to go on is this photo:

Chillis from Panama

Some of them look like Habaneros to me - both red and orange - and the long ones are a bit like Cayenne, but for the time being they are going to referred to as "Panama 1" to "Panama 6". Getting seeds like this is much more exciting than buying commercial seeds of well-known types. That's not to say that I dislike the commercially-grown ones, it's just that the element of uncertainty adds a little "Je ne sais quoi" to the whole chilli-growing experience!

Full details of which chilli varieties I'm growing this year can be found HERE.

P.S. If anyone wants to send me some chilli seeds (especially unknown / rare ones!) I'm always ready to do a swap, as long as customs regulations permit. Just let me know (details on the Contact page)!


  1. If none come up do you prick one of the ones out from the pot where two have germinated.

    1. No I don't do that. By the time I am satisfied that none are going to germinate, the spare seedlings from the other pots will be long gone.

  2. I had issues with helmets on several seedlings last year and subsequently found out that it may indicate that the seeds weren't planted deeply enough. I often worry about planting too deeply and so may have gone too far the other way. Unfortunately, my efforts at removing some of them weren't successful & I lost a few seedlings.

    What a beautiful assortment of chilies - looks like you will be having another interesting chili year (of the good kind, not of the contaminated compost kind!)

  3. I thinned my peppers out yesterday. Those chili seeds from Panama sound like they will quite the adventure. I can't wait to see how they turn out!


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