Friday, 5 April 2019

A chilli update

This year I sowed my chillis on February 17th (I always choose the nearest convenient day to Valentine's day, 14th Feb). The first ones germinated 5 days later, and I was initially very pleased with such a quick result. However, after the first rush germination rates were less good than usual. I sowed 22 pots, each with 2 seeds in, and 8 of them were No Shows. I have reached the conclusion that many of the seeds I used were too old. I normally reckon that chilli seeds will remain viable for at least 4 or 5 years, and I suppose that many of mine must have passed that point - especially some of the ones that I have received from friends, because I have no way of knowing when those ones were produced. I think I'm going to be brave and throw away ALL my chilli seeds, and make a new start next year! (NB: This is subject to confirmation. I may chicken out...)

Looking on the bright side though, the seeds that did germinate have made some very nice little plants:

In most cases it was a case of All or Nothing, and where any of the seeds germinated, they both did. Although I had intended to pinch-out the weaker seedling in such cases, I haven't done so. I've transplanted each one to a separate pot. This means that although I have fewer varieties of chilli than I had hoped for, I still have a good number of plants. At the last count it was 21.

The quality of my chilli plants is better this year, due in large part to the absence of aphids. I have to admit that this is because this time I have not over-Wintered any of last year's chilli plants indoors. I have six in the garage (though I'm not sure whether any of them are going to spring back into life), but none of them came inside. I'm fairly sure that in previous years aphids or aphid eggs have been harboured in the soil of over-Wintered plants, emerging to invade the succulent growth on the new generation of young plants - and in turn causing me to counter-attack with sprays of dish-washing soap etc, which is not really beneficial for the plants!

Anyway, some of the plants are about 8 inches / 20cm tall now, and for the past week or so I have been taking them outside to the big coldframe for a few hours a day to gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions. Saturday was a glorious sunny, warm day, and the chillis had an hour or so in the direct sunlight at one stage.

The 'A' team

This acclimatisation thing (aka "hardening-off") is another area where I (re-)learned a stark lesson last year. Acclimatisation must be done gradually - over a period of at least a couple of weeks. Last year I made the mistake of putting my little chilli plants in the full sun one day when they were still very small, and left them there too long. As a result they got scorched - the leaves lost their glossy surface and many of them went pale and papery. In the end the plants survived, but it was a close-run thing! This year I am being a lot more cautious.

In my usual fashion I have set aside a few of my chilli plants as a 'B' team and am treating them differently, just as a sort of insurance policy. If the main group (the 'A' team) goes in the sunshine, the 'B' team stays in the shade etc. This means that if one lot gets damaged, the others will not. I hope that both will be fine, but it's sometimes better to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, if you know what I mean!

'B' team

In a couple of weeks' time most of these chilli plants will be strong enough to be able to live in my little plastic greenhouses for most of the day. I will put the wire shelves back in and then the chillis will have the upper decks, above the tubs of potatoes down below.


  1. Try putting up sticky traps to trap the greenfly it's quite effective if you use the bright yellow ones as they actually fly into them thinking its a flower

    1. This year I have no problem with aphids! Actually, the majority of them don't fly at all. The damage is done mainly by the non-flying nymphs. Yellow sticky traps are quite effective against Whitefly, especially in contained spaces, like greenhouses.

  2. When I lived in the UK I had LOTS of sage, I used to propagate it by laying a healthy stem on the ground (still attached to the parent plant) and pegging it down to the soil with a piece of bent wire or by putting a heavy-ish stone over it, making sure there was good soil contact. I sometimes put a little earth over part of it too, this worked 99% of the time for me and once the roots were formed in a nice clump I just severed the stem from the parent and moved it to where I wanted it. It’s not the quickest way to propagate but I found it pretty failsafe.
    Love your blog ��

    1. Hi Dorinda; Thanks for your kind words. I sometimes use the method you describe for propagating Sage, but as you say, it can take quite a long time. The other day I was pruning my Sage bushes and rather than compost all the prunings, I am trying to root a few of them.


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