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  • lukeathompson

Hatchlings and Ladybirds

2nd March. They’re up! (Or some of them are.)


I love the ways chilli seedlings hatch. It’s like very slow motion of someone rising from sleep, gradually straightening up. The stem shows first, the nape of the neck, backing out of the soil, and then the head rises.


Three out of four chilli types are showing. Here’s how they’re doing:


  • The first Rocoto started to show on the 20th February - 16 days after sowing. By this morning 6 out of 9 have hatched. That’s okay, I guess, but a little lower than hoped. I don’t expect we’ll see any more of those. So that’s 16 days for hatching.

  • The Orange Habanero went in on the 13th February and the first hatched on the 25th, twelve days later. The second hatched on the 29th. There have been no more since. I’m still hopeful we’ll see more. Two out of nine would be terrible.

  • The Cayennetta went in on the 16th and we’d seen nothing until yesterday, when one started to show. By evening seven of them were coming. They’ve decided to come up all at once, merging within twenty-four hours of one another. I’m enjoying these already. That’s 14 days.

  • The Ring of Fire went in with the Cayennetta and so far there’s nothing. I’ve been growing this type for more than ten years but never recorded the process (partly why I’m writing this blog), but I have it in my head they take around three weeks, so we’ll be patient.


Even at this stage the chillies are behaving differently, the Rocoto waking one at a time over a week, the Cayennetta leaping out as a family all at once, the Habanero emerging reluctantly and sporadically, and the Ring of Fire still snoozing.

In these pictures you can see the seed leaves - the cotyledon. This is the first pair of leaves that emerge with the seedling, saying 'et voila'. When the first true leaves emerge we'll start thinking about what we do next, but for now they just need to be kept warm - around 20C - so they’ll stay in the living room. I need to resist the temptation to prod around the soil looking for struggling hatchlings and I need to be careful not to over water. At this stage I just want to help them out by doing something, but they're best left alone.


I’m also enjoying seeing the bugs and other beasties emerging around the seedlings and out in the greenhouse. This week I’ve been enjoying the ladybirds pouring out of the woodwork, so thought I might end this post with John Clare's light little poem ‘Clock-a-clay’. I know I’m meant to dislike these beautiful monsters - the Harlequins - but it’s difficult not to love ladybirds.




In the cowslip pips I lie,

Hidden from the buzzing fly,

While green grass beneath me lies,

pearled with dew like fishes’ eyes,

Here I lie, a clock-a-clay,

Waiting for the time o’ day.


While the forest quakes surprise,

And the wild wind sobs and sighs,

My home rocks as like to fall,

On its pillar green and tall;

When the pattering rain drives by

Clock-a-clay keeps warm and dry.


Day by day and night by night,

All the week I hide from sight;

In the cowslip pips I lie,

In the rain still warm and dry;

Day and night, and night and day,

Red, black-spotted clock-a-clay.


My home shakes in wind and showers,

Pale green pillar topped with flowers,

Bending at the wild wind’s breath,

Till I touch the grass beneath;

Here I live, lone clock-a-clay,

Watching for the time of day.

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