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!
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.