This past year, my over-Wintered chillis did better than usual, largely because I used a self-watering system marketed by Blumat to keep them evenly hydrated. I described it HERE.
Even with the aid of these devices, I still lost 3 of my 8 plants. To be fair, 2 of the 3 casualties were ones which had not had the benefit of the Blumat self-watering things (I only had six, as pictured above).
I have to admit that by the time Spring came around, even the surviving chilli plants didn't look great.
The plants didn't have a lot of leaves, and those that there were mostly had yellow edges and dry brown patches. I had had to trim off quite a few dead branches. Overall the plants were not in good shape. That photo was taken on 19th April, that's to say two months after I sowed the seeds for my other 2018 chillis.
It took a long time (and several doses of feed) for the over-Wintered plants to regain their vigour. The very cold spells we had in the Spring ("The Beast From The East" etc) didn't help. Luckily, from about May onwards the weather has been hot and sunny, perfect conditions for chillis. They are now good-quality plants. Only three of the five have fruits on them though, which means that it is unlikely that the others will produce any ripe fruit this year. Admittedly, they are both plants originally grown from seeds obtained in countries with very hot, humid climates - Panama and Mexico - so maybe even our 30C+ temperatures during July weren't sufficiently warm for their liking.
The other 3 plants have plenty of fruit on them, but I have noticed some differences, compared to normal. One of the plants is an Aji Limon, and this year its fruits are much bigger and fatter than previously:
|Aji Limon over-Wintered from 2017 - very fat pods|
This (below) is more like what I expect from Aji Limon. It's on the same plant.
|Aji Limon over-Wintered from 2017 - a more normal pod|
I have another Aji Limon plant, grown from seed sown this year, and its fruits are much slimmer, as is normal for this variety.
|Aji Limon grown from seed in 2018|
Curiously, the opposite has happened with Aji Benito. The over-Wintered plant has produced fruits which are a lot smaller and mostly a lot slimmer than it produced last year.
|Aji Benito over-Wintered from 2017|
An Aji Benito grown from seed this year has more normal fruits - wedge-shaped and very chunky.
|Aji Benito grown from seed in 2018|
In terms of fruiting, the over-Wintered Aji Limon and Aji Benito are probably a couple of weeks ahead of their equivalents grown from seed this year. The over-Wintered plants are also perhaps a little bigger than the 2018 ones, but not much, and the 2017 ones may yet catch up. The Aji Limons for instance are both in the region of 75cm tall, though the 2017 one is a bit bushier than the 2018 one. Here's a size comparison:
|Aji Limon 2017 plant (it's the one at the back, nearest the netting)|
|Aji Limon grown from seed this year.|
Since it is still only the first week of August and there is plenty of ripening-time left, I'm not sure that such a small difference is sufficient reward for all the TLC I have given those plants since last Autumn!
I can't complain about their colleague "Not Cheiro Roxa" though. It has really romped away and is now a very handsome plant, nicely shaped, with lovely dusky foliage and loads of gnarly / rugged fruits which will be bright red once they are ripe.
|"Not Cheiro roxa"|
|"Not Cheiro Roxa"|
My conclusion is that over-Wintering chillis can give an advantage in terms of earliness of harvest, but I don't think it is a big advantage, and it may be outweighed by the care requirements necessary to achieve it. Will I try over-Wintering some chillis again this year? I don't know. Maybe I will, maybe I won't... It depends how I feel at the time, I suppose!