This week we decided to start the chillies, peppers, and aubergines. Although these are tender plants, to be planted out in early May, the seed needs to be sown early. We sowed these at the start of February last year, so they are a little later this time around, but any time in February should suffice. One can sow right through March and into April, but chillies and peppers take several weeks to germinate and can be slow to take off; aubergines are even worse in this regard, and some recommend sowing these as early as January.
Heat is needed for these seeds to germinate. They may germinate at room temperature, but will be more successful, and quicker, if a heated propagator is used to provide a temperature of 25–30°C. We have a couple of vitopod heated propagators, currently located in our polytunnel, which provide a suitable environment. For some years now, we have been soaking the chilli and pepper seeds overnight before sowing. Whether this has a marked effect on germination would require a more scientific experiment to ascertain, but it may well do. More importantly, though, it can be helpful after germination, in that chillies and peppers often emerge with the seed casing still attached to the seed leaves. This seems to be less problematic when the seed is soaked before sowing.
For sweet peppers we once again chose our favourite of the large peppers, the yellow and red Quadrato d’Asti, and two thin sorts that we have not grown before, Friggitello and Dulce di Bergamo. In appearance, the latter is somewhat like the Lombardo peppers we have grown before; much thinner than a bull’s horn type, they can be especially productive, so it will be interesting to see how this sort fares. For the chillies, we have a somewhat reduced range this year: cayenne, serrano, hot wax, gorria, and goat horn. We have grown lots of Hungarian hot wax before, and particularly like them pickled whilst still pale green. If left to ripen these turn to a pale red, but this year we have a yellow hot wax pepper, ripening from pale green to golden yellow. Goat horn is a new variety for us this year. For the aubergines we chose Black Beauty, an old sort that produces classic purple-black fruits of good size and quality, which has done well for us in the past.