April has been a relatively quite month in the Chile garden. After planting most seeds indoors in early March, aside from regularly checking the soil to make sure it hasn't dried out, I've more of less just let the seeds (and seedlings) get on with it. After all I have the rest of the garden to tidy up, a herb rockery to replant and some vegetables patches to dig over.
Germination went more as less as I expected with most of the five domesticated species (particularly the annuums) germinating in just over a week. Some of the more challenging chinense & wild species which normally require slightly higher soil temperatures and long germination times have taken a little longer although after 4 weeks I have at least 2 or 3 seedlings out of 6 seeds I planted for most varieties.
The extremely rare Capsicum Galapagonense and Capsicum Flexuosum, which I knew would be a challenge, have proved to be just that. Both are proving elusive so far. In hindsight I should have pre soaked the seeds overnight to soften the outer casing in an attempt to speed up germination. I'll give them a few more weeks yet though before I admit defeat. The equally (if not more) tricky Naga Morich have taken me by surprise though - but more on that later.
When seeds germinate, light becomes critical. As soon as the majority of my seeds germinated, I moved them off the electric blanket and onto nearby windowsills or into the Chile house. You will see just how light dependent seedlings are when you return from work and find all your little darlings on the kitchen windowsill frantically leaning towards the light outside. If you find your seedlings leaning too much or becoming tall and spindly, you know they are not getting enough light and you should move them to a brighter location. Don't worry if your seedlings are already tall and spindly. They can be rescued later by replanting up to the top set of leaves.
One of the drawbacks of mass planting seeds in large seed trays and germinating them in warm places where natural light levels are low (like an airing cupboard), is that it is always a fine balancing act on deciding when to move a half germinated tray into the light. You may have a few days leeway but it you leave it too long the seedlings that have germinated will soon become pale and very leggy - not a good start! If you do mass plant, plant up varieties of the same species (i.e. a tray of Annuums and a tray of Chinense), which have similar germination times. If you are lucky you may fine rough germination times on the back of the seed packet.
The temperatures outside here in Darlington, in the North East of England are still a little cold although the sun on occasions has proved quite intense during the day. The max/min thermometer in the Chile house has seen daytime temperatures ranging from as cold as -3oC to as high as 45oC within a 24-hour period.
In days of bright sun, I have opened the greenhouse vents a little to prevent the temperature climbing too high. I've tried to keep the temperature range between 65 - 90of - perfect for Chile growing. I also remove the plastic propagator covers during the day, as good airflow around seedlings is important for healthy growth. Remember that seedlings are delicate little things. Do not place them in strong drafts or in direct sunlight. You want to grow your seedlings gently not cook them!