How hot is too hot?

Germination was erratic with some chillies last year. What were the factors? It’s hard to tell as the chillies can’t tell us. Temperature is cited as a key factor. This year we will be attempting germination as follows:

  • Chitting, not in soil or vermiculite. This way it is really obvious what is going on with the seeds.
  • Keeping a consistent temperature, night and day.
  • A high enough temperature for the Chinense type chillies. These all seem to prefer a hot kickstart. It looks like a balmy 27 degrees might suit most chillies.
  • Not excluding light. Airing cupboards are a no no according to some folk.
  • Be patient. With some chillies listed as taking up to 6 weeks to germinate it it a waiting game.
  • Maybe a soak the seeds in some warm strong tea, to act as a chemical scarifyer.

Other charted information for future reference and in preparation for the pot stocktake and greenhouse reorganisation in February.

Chilli
Latin group
No of days to germinate
Suggested germination temp
Days to maturity
Height of plant
Pot size required
Cherry BombAnnuum10-21 days21oC80 days60-75cm3L
EspeletteAnnuum14-21 days24-35oC80-90 days50cm-1.5m3L/7.5L

Cow Horn

Annuum10-21 days24-29oC75 after potting on1m (tall)5L

Guajilo

Annuum10-21 days24-32oC85 days1.5m (yep, big)7.5L
Habanero Primero RedChinense11 days-5 weeks32-35oC45-60cm3L

Aleppo

Annuum21-30 days21-29oC80 days to red from potting on1.2m7.5L
7 Pot Bubblegum
Chinense21 days22 oC90 days1.1m7.5L
JalapenoAnnuum10-14 days18-27oC75 days from seed1.5m7.5L
PoblanoAnnuum6-12 days21oC75 days from potting on1m7.5L
Pimientos de PadronAnnuum14 days24-32oC55-68 days2m7.5L, then the ground?
Golden Greek Pepperoncini
Annuum7-21 days29oC bottom heat85-95 days1m5L
Sweet BananaAnnuum12 days18 oC75 days40-60cm3L
Trinidad PerfumeAnnuum5-7 days 14-28 days elsewhere21-24oC80-85 days 71-80cm5L
Madame JeanetteChinense12-21 days22-28 oC90-100 days85cm5L
Orange HabaneroChinense11 days-5 weeks24-32oC120 days from potting on70cm x 70cm3L
Mustard HabaneroChinense11 days-5 weeks24-32oC100 days75cm3L

Pots Galore

It’s been a while. Busy times, you know. A quick status update shows that the February planted seeds are now in 9cm pots, they have 4-5 pairs of true leaves and are being fed ‘Chilli Focus’ plant food once a week (10mls to 1L). The March chitters are in their coir pots. Most have at least one pair of true leaves.

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So what happened in the chitting experiment? Jalapeno, Bulgarian Carrot, Aji Limon, Prairie Fire and Pretty Purple were all stars. Pretty much 100% success rate with the chitting within two weeks. Somewhat confusing results from the other candidates. Scotch Bonnet gave a 50% show. Fresno sent us three germinated offerings. Serrano & Long Slim Cayenne a couple each. Still NONE from Tobago Seasoning and Go Chu. None whatsoever. Disappointing to say the least.

The conditions were a little varied but surely one or two of each seed type should have germinated? We did take a holiday to Cornwall. The seeds were kept warm in the boxes at the back of an Aga the size & colour of a fire engine. They were also kept in the light. One Serrano showed his head in that week but then a few more of the harder types followed suit. Maybe light exposure is also a factor for some chilli types?

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There was also a brief foray into chemical assistance to germination. Some seed cases are tough and can be helped to soften using a couple of techniques: presoaking before chitting and using tea to soak them in. The tannins in the tea helps soften the seed case to allow more moisture in and then the root to break out. Not sure if I am committed enough to try diluted bird poo as a chemical aid. Might try scarification though.

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One tiny glimmer of hope remains in the fact that lots of books, seed packets and website claim that chilli seeds can take up to 5 weeks to germinate. All remaining seeds are basking in warm sunlight during the day and in the airing cupboard at night. If any of the Tobago Seasoning or Go Chu germinate they will be the most precious plants EVER. Definitely ones to overwinter. Come on now, play nice and give me couple of the plants I really want

No surprise there then

Five days in the in the airing cupboard and the chitting results are less than surprising. Chitting means that it is really obvious when they have germinated and Aji Limon, Big Bomb and Jalapeno are all growing little roots. Top of the class again. 10 x each have been transferred to modules of seed compost, ready to send up a shoot. They are being kept in a bright, warm area, and compulsively checked every ten minutes for signs of greenery.

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Latest check: nothing green to report.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (airing cupboard) the rest of the chilli seeds are yet to show signs of life. The remaining seeds have swollen a little, some are slightly translucent now but no rootin’ tootin’ going on.

We are hopeful for Scotch Bonnet and Bulgarian Carrot to germinate next, followed by Prairie Fire & Pretty Purple. These were the next batch to germinate in the compost and so the seed has at least shown itself to be viable. They were also 80%-100% successful. We have limited capacity for fully grown chilli plants so it is already looking like the school Summer Fete will be benefitting from some rather excitingly named (if a little leggy) chilli plants.

Fresno only gave us 4/10 seedlings germinated in the compost. No sign of roots on its chitting seeds yet. It is a mystery as to why the other seeds did not spring to life with the normal addition of warmth and water. Not all were dodgy imported Korean seeds you know! Cayenne and Serrano are hardly unknown in the UK climate. Perhaps inconsistent heat? Maybe half a day of drought when we forgot to water before going out? Maybe the snow scared the life out of them? Hard to know as the remaining Round One seeds are still sitting in their modules, not doing anything, and certainly not letting on as to why they didn’t germinate.

Quick check…still no sign of leaf growth from the germinated chitted seeds.

Chitting Chitting Bang Bang

After somewhat disappointing results from our first attempts at chilli seed germination, the decision has been made to pay more attention to temperature and watering. South Devon Chilli Farm say that 27-32 degrees is optimum chilli germination range and so that is where we strive to be. They also state that surface watering and using warm water are ways to reduce the shock the seeds/seedlings might feel at this delicate stage in their lives. Heard and understood.

Finding a suitably warm (but not too hot) location is far trickier than one would think. On top of a radiator…too hot, 37 degrees or so. On the windowsill…too chilly, 22 degrees or there abouts. In the airing cupboard…too hot again when the heating is on. Back in the heated propagator? Not warm enough with the current weather conditions (snow and an Easterly wind that finds previously unknown gaps around the windows) What to do?

After copious temperature guaging with Old Faithful, the seeds are now, by day, chitting on a sunny, south facing windowsill, above a radiator, and in the bottom of the airing cupboard overnight. Let’s see where that gets us.

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The seeds have been placed into clean, plastic takeaway boxes. The boxes are lined with damp capillary matting. Lids down, one corner slightly askew. No soil involved so we can really see what is going on.

In the previous planting of seeds Aji Limon was the first seed to poke its head above the surface of the soil. Closely followed by Jalapeno. Wonder who will show their face first this time?

Really hoping for some germination from Serrano, Long Hot Cayenne, Tobago Seasoning and Go Chu as there was 0% success last attempt

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Potting on and Beyond

So, Round One of experimentation is done. The results are in. It turns out germinating chillies is not easy peesy lemon squeezy after all. A plug-in, non-temperature controllable, heated propagator is not a reliable enough piece of kit to germinate all types of chilli seed. Some loved it but some super sulked, like teenagers abed. In addition to an amateur range of equipment, snowy conditons outside (including daytime temperatures of -6) do not make for good windowsill conditions.

On the 18th February 2018, a mix of chilli seeds were planted into 1″ square root trainer modules. The compost of choice was John Innes Seed Compost with added perlite. Ten of each carefully selected chilli varieties were planted and placed, lovingly, into said heated bubble. Temperature unknown as Old Faithful, the Birdhouse thermometer, was nowhere to be found.

We waited with baited breath. Condensation appeared. It took an actual eternity for any shoot to show its tiny little self. Seedlings finally emerged on 23rd February. A frabjous day! Aji Limon were first up. Delicate green, slim leaves unfurled pretty quickly. Eight of them popped up within a couple of days. Next were the Jalapenos, Prairie Fire and Scotch Bonnet and Bulgarian Carrot (secretly they’re my favourite but don’t let on now). Fresno and Big Bomb made a later appearance. Fresno only sent three little darlings to the surface but Big Bomb’s module was littered with seedlings galore.

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A mega no show from Go Chu (darn it, this is the variety we are hoping to grow most of) Long Slim Cayenne, Serrano or Tobago Seasoning. Must try harder says their report card.

After a brief foray into the Airing Cupboard (like Narnia, only less snow and more pillowcases) we move swifty on to experimentation Round Two. We will be carefully controlling temperature for seed chitting. All seed varieties will be resown using this method, in the interest of fair testing. Meanwhile, outside the snow has started to fall again. Perhaps this round of chilli germination will yet again be thwarted by plummeting external termperatures.