Germination problems

Whilst many of my posts are quite positive about the crops we manage to produce from our kitchen garden, sometimes things do go wrong. I recall one particularly bad experience when an entire bed of overwintering peas and beans was destroyed by bean seed fly larvae – a pest I had never even heard of and, thankfully, have not seen since. Such things do happen from time to time, but more normal is the loss of a small and entirely tolerable portion of a crop. This year, though, I am very disappointed to already report a bit of a disaster with our chilli, pepper, and aubergine seeds.

We sowed our first batch of seeds more than four weeks ago and placed them in a new heated propagator. A good portion would normally germinate within a couple of weeks, but from dozens of pots, each sown with several seeds, only four have germinated. A careful furtle around gave no sign of hope that we would be seeing any further seedlings appear. Whilst some varieties can take a while to germinate, I would have expected most to have made an appearance by now. This is very disappointing, as these crops benefit from an early sowing. It is also very difficult to pinpoint the problem. Most of the variables such as time of sowing, method, and soil, are identical to last year, and I am fairly confident that the moisture levels were appropriate. The only difference I can see is that these have been placed in a new heated propagator in the polytunnel instead of unheated propagators indoors. This, though, ought to offer a much better environment, with better temperature control and much improved light. Our tomatoes, sown a fortnight ago and placed in an identical propagator, have germinated well and seem very happy indeed with the conditions, with only a couple of slow sorts yet to appear, and most already producing sturdy young seedlings. We did, though, experience a power cut courtesy of the recent storms, which left the propagators unheated for two quite cold nights. I am not entirely convinced, but this factor is the only setback that I can think of that might have caused some problems with germination.

The tomatoes, sown under identical conditions, have germinated well
The tomatoes, sown under identical conditions, have germinated well

All is not lost, however. We ordered some replacement seed and sowed an entirely new batch today. We carefully washed out the pots and used new seed compost, just in case. It is certainly later than I would have liked, but they can be sown now, and if they germinate this time around, hopefully the much improved light conditions will help them grow away and we may recover the situation. Early sowings of these crops are important, especially with aubergines, which I find take a long time to develop, but it is also true that later sowings grow away faster under improved conditions and can catch up, and indeed even overtake, those made early in the year. I am confident that the chillies will have plenty of time to develop their fruit. I certainly hope this batch germinates quickly and consistently or I may be reduced to buying plants, which will be a disappointing experience as the range of varieties readily available is rather poor.

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